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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Elmont Feeling Dissed

- NYRA, Belmont Park ripped as lousy neighbors read the headline in Newsday, referring to the Senate hearing held in Elmont on Monday.

In a hearing convened by the State Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering, speakers criticized the track for ignoring Elmont and failing to help alleviate a declining local economy, an unkempt racetrack exterior and increasing crime.

NYRA and Belmont Park have become "the nightmare neighbor next door," said Assemb. Thomas Alfano (R-N. Valley Stream) to cheers by many in the crowd of 200 at the Elmont public library. He called the exterior of the track "an eyesore and source of community embarrassment." [Newsday]
As you local readers know, Elmont is no Saratoga. It's not at all a destination, merely the place where Belmont is. It says a lot that the only press coverage I've seen of the hearing in a daily newspaper was the above referenced story in Newsday. It's a nice enough residential area, and I can certainly understand their feelings about the physical appearance of the track. The huge grandstand is unkempt to say the least; and worst of all is the decaying railroad station. There's a huge, hideous overhead walkway from the track to the trains which at one time was a bustling train station complete with ticket windows. It's probably been, what, 20 years now? since a ticket's been sold there, and it stands empty most of the time. The last train leaves around 25 minutes after the final race, and sometimes you'll see some forlorn losers walking over there well before the final race post.

I can't imagine that the track benefits the local economy much beyond the cars that fill up at the Mobil station across the street, or patronize one of the small stores nearby on Hempstead Turnpike. Maybe it was different when a lot of people went to the track. Community leaders made it clear that should there be slots at Belmont, they want a piece of the racino action, as is the case in Yonkers and Saratoga. A spokesperson for the Deputy State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos told the Form that a bill legalizing Belmont slot machines would go nowhere without local allocations.

But the bill won't be going anywhere as long as it's opposed by the Democratic Assembly leadership, and specifically, Speaker Sheldon Silver. As we've seen many times, the gambling issue transcends party lines; and New York is a state in which the Republicans have generally been in favor, and the Democrats stand opposed to any further expansion.

If we have to have slots, there's no place on this earth more suitable than the vast unused grandstand at Belmont. But while Silver's spokesperson told Hegarty that proponents can still make a case, he added, ominously: "The conference of the assembly majority would have to be convinced that it made sense." That's quite similar to the statements out of the Speaker's office before he single-handedly blocked the West Side Stadium (which, for the record and if you care, I was totally in favor of).

- Discreet Cat is headed to the BC Dirt Mile (and Seventy Yards). Well, I suppose he is. He has no Breeders' Cup points this year, but should the race be oversubscribed, the selection committee will no doubt include him, if only for the sporting factor of having one of the more interesting horses of the last few years participate on racing's biggest day. Trainer Saeed bin Suroor told RTE Sport:
'Discreet Cat needed the race - he gave a good blow - and he will be fine in the future when racing over longer distances.
.."When horses get sick, it can take months and you have to be very patient. Discreet Cat is a top class horse and you have to forget today's race and look to the future. I am expecting a good run from him over a mile at the end of October in the Breeders' Cup.'


Teresa said...

The Blood-Horse online posted a story about this, with many of the same quotations, on Monday. DRF online also ran a story yesterday, without the incendiary quotations.

Anonymous said...

They are running the BC dirt mile at 1 and 70? That's just silly. Next year, why not have the BC at Suffolk Downs!

From now on, let's keep the BC at world class tracks.

Patrick J Patten said...

hey, Monmouth Park is just fine.

Anonymous said...

The stretch is too short, IMO. Also it tends to be speed favoring. Because it's a relatively small facility, the tickets are prohibitively expensive.

Anonymous said...

i don't think they are much more expensive than other years, there just aren't enough of them. i paid $175 for an eighth-pole seat at Belmont in '05 and it was too cold to sit in it. I have a crappy $100 seat this year on the clubhouse turn and i'll be happy if i'm not freezing to death.

as for being world class, monmonth really is a beautiful track. it's not saratoga or belmont, but then, what is?

Alan Mann said...

I don't recall Belmont having the exorbitant general admission prices that Monmouth had....but who sets these prices anyway, anyone know? Is it the tracks, or the Breeders' Cup?

I really like Monmouth. It reminds me in many ways of the old Gulfstream (minus the palm trees of course).

Teresa said...

The eyesore comment seems like a bit of an exaggeration; from Hempstead Tpke the place is imposing and neat; the backyard is well-kept; the clubhouse always looks good; and I'd characterize the grandstand as desolate rather than decrepit. It's not as if the rest of Hempstead Tpke is a scene of beauty; in fact, I'd say the presence of Belmont significantly upgrades the aesthetics of the local landscape.

Is this just the locals (understandably) trying to squeeze as much money as they can out of the new deal?

Anonymous said...

Maybe your readership can answer a long standing question I have yet to find an answer for....(It's likely self evident and obvious, just not to me!)

Why a mile and 70yds? Why not 60 72, 75, 100, 43?

70 Yds is not roundly divisible into a mile like an 1/8th or 16th (It's sort of close to a 25th of a mile)

So when someone way back when, needed to run a bit more than a mile, why did they land on 70?

Just curious as to the actual origins.

Alan Mann said...

Teresa - I think it's a bit of both. Of course there's some gamemanship on the part of the community to get some money out of the deal. And while, no, Elmont is not the most picturesque place in the world, there are aspects of Belmont - that train station - which does qualify as decrepit - and the barn area that runs along Plainview Avenue in particular - that are not particularly pleasing to the eye from the outside. And the Cross Island Pkwy parking lot has been turned into a car dealership lot.

(And Let's Go Rangers!!)

Anonymous said...

Alan, I agree about the train station, but I seem to recall that it is the property of the LIRR and that they are responsible for its upkeep (or lack thereof).

Alan Mann said...

Yeah, I'm sure it's the LIRR's responsibility. Those trains roll around the turn into the station at around 2 MPH. I took a train there on Gazelle day, and heard a conductor say that the tracks are not maintained, and that the train would fall onto the Cross Island Pkwy if they went any faster.

Teresa said...

And that is why, environmentally unfriendly as it is, I drive to Belmont. I took the train twice, and it took me forever to get home each time.

A friend just sent me an article from Thoroughbred Times on the Belmont/Elmont and it included a bit of a pushback from Charlie Hayward that I didn't see in the other articles. Trying to find the article online without success yet, but I can forward it via e-mail if you're interested.

It makes me nervous that the Rangers pp is going to use the same plan as last year. I'm not looking forward to seeing them cycle the puck for half the power play before taking a shot.

And for what it's worth, I love Monmouth, even though I've been there only once.

Anonymous said...

anonymous is incorrect about the RR area it is nyra's. It has been ignored in recent years progressively less and less each year.(for approximately 10 years with the last 5 nearly complete disregard for safety and upkeep)

Anonymous said...

Fair Grounds has races at 1 mile and 40 yards.

I believe that these races are carded at these distances because if they were carded at one mile, the distance to the first turn is too short, resulting in bunching at the turn.

Anonymous said...

Two Things for all you Cheap Bastards (like me):

1. Breeders' Cup Ticket Prices are always ridiculously expensive. That's the bad news.
The good news is that I have been to BCs at GP,SA,AP and BEL, and have never paid even 1/2 of face value for a ticket. How? Just show up....this is horse racing people, nobody goes, and even on BC Day, there are TONS of people stuck with good tickets that they can't get rid of.
On that particularly cold and abysmal Belmont BC day in 2005, we paid $20 each for seats well inside the 1/16th pole.

2. RE the LIRR and Belmont. There is an alternative for those of us who do not have cars. You can walk from the front gate on Hempstead Tpke to the Queens Village LIRR stop in 20 minutes. Trains leave from this station for Penn Station once an hour. Sometimes it works out nicely with the end of the last race, sometimes it doesn't. Also, if you've lost all your money, and it happens to be a Saturday or Sunday, the fare is only $3 back to Penn Station b/c it's considered an intra-city weekend fare!

Anonymous said...

I love visiting Belmont Park and all of its outmoded quirks. Despite this affection, there are several cosmetic improvements that I've been waiting for NYRA to address for several years.

The admission area to the grandstand is outdated and embarassing for a place that bills itself as the "Taj Mahal of racing." Also, the entire facility is in dire need of a fresh coat of paint. Finally, couldn't they offer a more inspiring selection of dining options? I realize most hard-core race fans aren't willing to spend much cash on a fancy lunch, but New York is supposed to be the food capital of the world. How about a little more ethnic flavor?

Anonymous said...

The issue with Belmont is big. During the racing season, there are a lot of people working at the track. Upwards to 600. Many of these workers, having children who attend the Elmont schools. Often times, workers and families living in multiple dwellings, illegal apartments;(that's another issue) however these individuals using up tax payers resources.
Elmont dissatisfaction in Belmont, and ultimately NYRA's lack of contribution to the Elmont community. They haven't been paying taxes for years now. Any money that is made from Belmont, Elmont never sees cause it goes to a general fund at the County. (approx 10.6 million a year).
The stables, are the most visible part (for Elmont), the fences etc. are simply horrible. Though the entrance on Planfield Avenue (on the Floral Park side) is nicely decorated. But it could be a whole lot better.
VLTs are not the solution, there are just a quick fix, that ultimately will hurt the racing element of the Park. The park need to be returned to its former glory, as the best track in North America. It remains one of the longest in the world. As a history lesson, the track used to be longer, however it was shorten to make sure the entire race track remained in Nassau County. The western part of the track belongs to Queens, including the Train Track.
What many people in Elmont want, is to make sure that whoever controls Belmont is a good neighbor. Like what good neighbors do, help each other out.