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Elmont Online

Belmont/NYRA Blasted by Community


Eol has compiled in one place a number of articles and links to the recent Belmont Track Hearing held at the Elmont Public Library. Here we feature the article written by Ms Carla Cohen in the Franklin Square Bulletin.

A hearing in Elmont that will help decide the fate of Belmont Racetrack drew a crowd of over 250 at the Elmont Public Library on Monday. The New York State Senate Committee on Racing and Wagering held the forum to hear from community residents on their thoughts and ideas for the future of the Racetrack. There was complete unanimity in the comments of those who testified.

Senator Bill Larkin, Chairman of the Racing Committee, explained the presence of the committee in Elmont, which was an historic first for the State Legislature. “Senator Skelos wanted the hearing in the community where the change was going to take place. Assemblyman Tom Alfano also called me and said the people were angry and had a right to be heard. Tom and Dean were right, so here we are.”

Senators from around the state attended the hearing. Senators Dean Skelos and Kemp Hannon sat on the panel. Senators John Sabini, Jeff Klein, Craig Johnson and John Flanagan were on the dais.

The lead-off speaker was Assemblyman Tom Alfano who blasted NYRA’s claim of being a good neighbor. Alfano likened NYRA to the “Nightmare Next Door Neighbor” which drew cheers from the crowd. The Assemblyman walked committee members through all the different ways Belmont could and should assist the community, each ending with the phrase, “Belmont doesn’t do that.” Alfano asked the panel to essentially rip up the contract and assure the communities of revenue sharing, economic development, respect, participation and investment in the community and the track.

Senator Dean Skelos called the decision being made, “a once in a generation opportunity to restore BelmontPark as a racing destination.”

To applause from the audience, Alfano said, “Quite frankly Senators, I am very disturbed that Elmont and surrounding communities were not consulted in this process of franchising. That was wrong. If that weren’t enough, the contract was a slap in the face to Elmont, Franklin Square, Floral Park and western Nassau. We were essentially ignored. Does anybody here think that Saratoga would have been treated this way? We all know the answer is no. Why is there a different standard for us?”

Assemblyman Alfano also called for the Long Island Railroad Station at Belmont to be opened for general public use. In addition, he called for a percentage agreement from revenues at the track to be channeled to schools and local governments. “That way we can give the community meaningful tax relief by really cutting taxes.”

In an electrifying moment, State Senator John Sabini of Queens asked Alfano at the conclusion of his testimony why there was spill over crime and anger towards the track. Alfano quipped, “Senator, Belmont shouldn’t be the place for flea markets, parking lot shows and carnivals where we have police on stand-by because of crime, violence and gang activity. This is a world-class track that holds the Belmont Stakes. It’s about time we had economic development and job creation. Belmont is a racetrack.” The crowd burst into cheers.
Elmont Civic leaders, led by Sandra Smith, Joyce Stowe and Cheryl Lee lambasted Belmont for separating themselves from the community. Smith attacked Belmont’s claim that they work to bring millions to Belmont thereby pumping money into the local economy. Smith called out NYRA, saying, “When we read that claim in Newsday, the community got a good laugh. Senators, in the immortal words of Jerry McGuire, ‘show me the money.’ Joyce Stowe, Chair of the Community Coalition Council, added, “The community is rightfully angry about not being invited into the planning process.”

Franklin Square Board of Education Trustee and President of the SCHSD Board Jean Fichtl called on the committee to assure Nassau County that they would receive revenue from NYRA as well. Fichtl was joined by Board of Education Members Joe Armocida, Aubrey Phillips, Carol Parker Duncanson, Dave Fowler and Trish Rudd in encouraging the committee to start the process from scratch. Elmont Trustee Aubrey Phillips specifically pointed to a proposal for “an agreed percentage payment from VLT revenues for schools.”

Legislator John Ciotti asked the Senators to be mindful of the community. “Belmont ignores the community. They don’t listen to us.” Ciotti pointed to the appearance of the track as just one indicator of the respect NYRA has for the community. “Look at the outside. There is garbage, a fence that needs a paint job and lights that don’t work.” Ciotti spoke at great length about the efforts of Sustainable Long Island in helping to revitalize the community. “There was only one person missing at the table: NYRA and Belmont.”

Councilman Ed Ambrosino asked the committee to bring the community into the process and work to give the communities benefit from the track. “You’ve heard from the people today. The Town is looking towards economic development. Now, we need a partner with NYRA and Belmont.” Supervisor Kate Murray echoed Ambrosino’s comments.

Floral Park Village Trustee Jim Rhatigan thanked the committee for taking the dramatic step of thinking outside the box by coming to Nassau County to listen. “We have ideas and want to work with all of you. I am disturbed that we weren’t asked what our needs were and that a village like Floral Park was left out in the cold. Today showed that somebody cares, so let’s get to work.” Rhatigan is chairing a special committee to give recommendations to the state regarding changes to the franchise agreement. The committee is preparing for community forums that will seek public comment. Alfano applauded the move, stating, “Mayors Phil Guarnieri of Floral Park and Donna Sherrer of Bellerose Village and Trustee Rhatigan are doing what the administration in Albany should have done: listen to the people.”

Community leaders also spoke out on Video Lottery Terminals. East End Civic Leader Patrick Nicolosi supported VLTs and felt they could be the engine to revitalize the community. County Executive Tom Suozzi echoed Nicolosi’s statement. Locustwood-Gotham Civic Leader Ruth Jakab rejected VLTs, however, noting they didn’t promote Belmont’s family atmosphere.”

Other reports
Joe Rizza, Three Village Times
Brian Zanzonico, Franklin Square Elmont Herald
Karen Johnson,

Last Updated ( Saturday, 13 October 2007 01:47 )  

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