"The first call we received only said that 500 motorcycles were going to be on the Weehawken waterfront on a Sunday morning," Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner said. "When I first heard that, I was not comfortable with that at all. My first concern was 500 engines being revved up and heard by the residents that early on a Sunday."
But then Turner met with the organizer and realized what the event was all about.
"It is a very nice cause," Turner said. "In fact, it's one of the charities that we sponsor with our Weehawken and You Association. And the people were very nice people."
David Kaufman is a first officer with the Southern Cruiser Riding Club's New York Chapter. The Southern Cruisers is an international motorcycle club with 500 different chapters around the world and approximately 40,000 motorcycle enthusiast members.
For the last three years, the Southern Cruisers have held the Concrete Canyon Run, a fund-raising event for the children's hospital in which the motorcyclists ride through the streets of Manhattan with a police escort.
"We had the first one in 2003 just to see if we could pull it off," Kaufman said. "There was a lot of interest, because it's really a unique way to see New York City."
In past years, Kaufman convened the bikers in the parking lot of a Jersey City fast food restaurant, right outside of the Holland Tunnel. But as the event grew in size and participation, the parking lot near the Holland Tunnel wasn't going to work.
"We knew we had outgrown the old spot," Kaufman said. "We needed a new place that was near to Manhattan and near the tunnel. One of the signature pieces of the ride is the cooperation we get from Port Authority, who shuts down the tunnel for a while so we can go through."
So when Kaufman met with Port Authority officials to organize this year's Concrete Canyon Run, he looked out of the windows of the PA's headquarters in Weehawken and noticed the parking lot in the Hartz Mountain Industries' facility in Lincoln Harbor.
"Hartz Mountain stepped up and graciously donated their parking lot," Kaufman said.
Five months to live
So Sunday, 520 motorcyclists and 550 participants converged in Weehawken to begin the Concrete Canyon Run.
Raising funds for a charity is extremely important to Kaufman, because in 2002, he was diagnosed with leukemia and given five months to live.
"When I recovered, I decided that I was going to do whatever I could to help others with cancer," Kaufman said.
Before the event started, Kaufman presented Turner with an official leather vest from the Southern Cruisers and a plaque of appreciation.
"It was an honor for us to start the procession and it was an honor to receive the vest and the plaque," Turner said.
Kaufman said, "The town of Weehawken was great. Mayor Turner, Jeff Welz [the public safety director], Tom McGorty [the deputy police chief], they were all fabulous. They gave us the go-ahead to do it."
Radio station Q-104.3 FM, which supported the event, brought its entertainment truck to Weehawken to help start the event. The station also aired several promotional advertisements during the week prior to the event.
After the run was completed in Manhattan, all those who participated were invited back to a grand party in the parking lot of the Red Roof Inn in Secaucus, where the Southern Cruisers set up shop for the weekend.
"We booked the entire hotel," Kaufman said.
The Bob Polding Band, a popular group based out of New Jersey, donated their time and performed at the party.
Through registration fees and the sales of T-shirts, pins and patches, the Southern Cruisers were able to raise $17,600 for St. Jude's, bringing their three-year total to more than $32,000.
"This was a wonderful event and we raised more money than any other Southern Cruiser chapter," Kaufman said. "We were happy to start in Weehawken and we would be glad to do so again next year."
Maybe next year, they can get Turner on a chopper.