“In just a few days, the racing franchise will expire,” said Senator Skelos. “If Governor Spitzer turns his back on Elmont, we will miss a once-in-a-generation opportunity to revitalize Belmont Park, invest in our schools and create sustainable, long-term economic development. The Governor has a responsibility to listen to the community’s needs and act. Governor Spitzer must do the right thing and fight for the future of Belmont Park and the residents of the surrounding communities.”
“Today we stand united for our schools, job creation, businesses and neighborhoods,” said Assemblyman Alfano. “This decision shouldn’t be left to be decided in the middle of the night. We are asking the Governor today to get involved and help us now. We’ll partner with him, but he needs to step up and provide leadership. Up to this point, he’s been sitting in the grandstand. Governor Spitzer get in this race now for Elmont and Floral Park’s future.”
For several weeks, Governor Spitzer, the State Senate and State Assembly have held negotiations concerning the new franchise to operate the state’s three thoroughbred racetracks—Belmont Park, Saratoga and Aqueduct. The existing franchise expires on January 1st. According to published reports, “Spitzer’s negotiators have been pushing to delay talks about allowing VLTs at Belmont Park” until after the racing franchise is finalized. See Albany Times Union, “Racing board’s chief expects a deal,” December 25, 2007.
“This plan is a firm start for the fair treatment of the taxpayers and residents of Elmont, Floral Park, South Floral Park, as well as the other neighboring communities of Nassau, said Senator Hannon. “For too long the track was permitted to be treated as an isolated entity; hopefully now it will be a good neighbor, regain its place as a stellar tourist and racing attraction and contribute economically to the region.”
“New Yorkers should be seeing the revenues generated by VLT’s, especially when area schools stand to benefit,” said Assemblyman Bob Barra (R-14th Assembly District). “As the ranking Republican on the Racing and Wagering Committee, I join with Senator Skelos and Assemblyman Alfano in their efforts on behalf of communities that neighbor Belmont racetrack.”
On October 1st, the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee held a public hearing at Elmont Memorial Library to solicit testimony from the community regarding VLTs and the needs of Belmont Park. Following the hearing, Senator Skelos, Senator Kemp Hannon (R-6th District) and Assemblyman Alfano sent a letter to Governor Eliot Spitzer, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver expressing their support for VLTs at Belmont Park.
Senators Skelos and Hannon and Assemblyman Alfano conditioned their support on $20 million in annual state aid payments that would be apportioned between local school districts, the Nassau County Police Department’s Fifth Precinct and a newly created “Belmont Park Community Reinvestment Trust” to fund economic development and quality-of-life projects in the affected communities. Local residents sent hundreds of letters in support of this plan to Governor Spitzer.
At the press conference, Senator Skelos and Assemblyman Alfano were joined by Sandy Smith, chairperson of the Coalition for Sustainable Development, South Floral Park Deputy Mayor Sally Ponce, Elmont Fire Commissioner Ralph Esposito, Pat Nicolosi, president of the Elmont East End Civic Association, Joyce Stowe, chairperson of the Elmont Community Coalition Council, Tania Lawes, Elmont Library Board Trustee, Juana Thornhill President of Elmont Chapter of the AARP, Elmont VFW Commander Tom Bennet, Aubrey Phillips, Sewanhaka Central High School District Board Trustee, local small business owners, representatives from the parent-teachers association and Catrina Bowen, student vice-president of Elmont Memorial High School.