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Forget swimming pools and tennis courts. Entrepreneur Alan Wilzig’s Columbia County home has a backyard $8 million racetrack, known as the Wilzig Racing Manor, which is used for events and local fundraisers.
Forget swimming pools and tennis courts. Entrepreneur Alan Wilzig’s Columbia County home has a backyard $8 million racetrack, known as the Wilzig Racing Manor, which is used for events and local fundraisers.
Forget swimming pools and tennis courts. Entrepreneur Alan Wilzig’s Columbia County home has a backyard $8 million racetrack, known as the Wilzig Racing Manor, which is used for events and local fundraisers.
Most people want a swimming pool in their backyard, but Alan Wilzig isn’t most people. Some 15 years ago, the American entrepreneur and philanthropist had the wild idea to build a $8 million racetrack in the backyard of his 150-year-old Dutch Colonial-style Columbia County home.
Wilzig’s 275-acre estate has a 1.15-mile private racetrack, 40 feet wide and with 80 feet of elevation change. It has nine turns and, from above, looks a bit like a lobster claw. Building it cost Wilzig $7.5 million — plus another $500,000 in legal fees. According to him, it is just the fourth privately owned personal racetrack built to professional specifications in the world.
Wilzig had to fight activist groups who opposed the project, until he received all the appropriate permits from the town of Taghkanic.
“All of my contiguous neighbors were great supporters of mine, ironically given the circumstance and that there was noise or disturbance, they would be closest to it,” said Wilzig. “It’s extremely telling that they remain my friends and neighbors a decade later. They trusted me from the beginning — that I was a sensitive human being and wished to always be a great neighbor.”
Wilzig is the heir to a banking fortune who made even more money as CEO of the Trust Company of New Jersey bank, allowing him to fund this dream project himself. He told the Times Union back in 2009 that he’d be a good neighbor once the track is up and running. Residents at the time formed a group to fight his plans because they feared the constant noise of high-performance bikes, as well as crowds.
“People are living here for generations, and I showed up and proposed this,” said Wilzig, whose daughter attends Chatham High School. “Now, it’s my primary residence and so much has changed.”
Just last year, Hudson Valley residents formed a group to stop a drag racing strip in someone’s backyard in Plattekill in Ulster County for the same reason: noise complaints.
Wilzig believes he has met his promise of being a good neighbor. He said since the racetrack began operating over a decade ago, he hasn’t heard any complaints and the only neighbor who has moved away was a couple who got divorced. In fact, Wilzig says he tries to give back to the community with the racetrack, which he opens to the public one day a year as part of a charity event. The first five years of the event, the proceeds went to Camp Sundown, a summer camp for children with xeroderma pigmentosum, which holds all of its activities after sundown to ensure children with this condition are not injured by the ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
“It completely changed their existence,” said Wilzig. “We went from making enough money to having an extra one-week session for an extra six kids to paying their entire expenses for 12 months for the entire facility. It was super rewarding.”
After Camp Sundown reached financial stability, the fundraiser was then used to support other local organizations, including the High & Mighty Therapeutic Riding and Driving Center in Ghent, which Wilzig’s son attends. Other funds are donated to Racecars for a Cause in Western Massachusetts, which is veteran-run and supports veterans who wish to drive or work on a racetrack.  
“Were it not for the American allies that rescued [my father] from the Mauthausen Concentration Camp at age 19, none of us would be here,” said Wilzig.
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Wilzig only rides motorcycles on racetracks instead of on the street to manage his risk.
“Everyone I knew from here to London who got hurt on a motorcycle was always on the street, never on the track,” said Wilzig. “It was an easy decision to make and one that I’ve stuck to for the past 12 years.”
He’s done over 20,000 laps on his track since it was built. An eclectic array of riders make use of the track, at Wilzig’s invitation.
“I got really into the motorcycle culture because you can have a rich guy, like me … to our friends who are just local carpenters,” said Wilzig. “Everybody treats everybody the same. I’m not interested in the elitism thing. I prefer the shared interest, shared passion.”
Aside from his racetrack, Wilzig has a three-story steel-and-glass garage to house his collection of a dozen cars and 110 motorcycles. His collection doesn’t include any German cars or bikes and he does not allow them on his track. His father, Siggi — Wilzig calls him his hero — survived the Holocaust before arriving in the U.S. penniless in 1947. He went on to create an oil and banking empire worth $4 billion. A biography was published about him last year.
Cloey Callahan is a lifelong Hudson Valley resident who was born and raised in Brewster, lived in New Paltz for four years while she attended college, and now resides in Newburgh on Liberty Street. On a sunny day, she strolls through Newburgh enjoying the 19th-century architecture on her way to the Hudson River waterfront. You can reach her at cloey.callahan@hearst.com to say hi or with pitches.

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