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Friday, April 17, 2009


The local Queens Chronicle reports on a community meeting scheduled for next week at which Aqueduct will be one of the main topics, and which Mayor Bloomberg's director for community affairs in Queens will attend.

For one thing, residents are said to be concerned that NYRA's upcoming (and, given conditions in the real estate market, hoped-for) sale of some parcels of land surrounding the track will add to the problem of vacant lots and empty and partially-constructed homes that currently dot the area.

"All you have are these brown parcels of fence, and people graffiti them and start dumping garbage there. People who live next to these lots start experiencing rats and mice coming in....People feel their homes are devalued. It impedes our quality of life.”
In addition, despite eager anticipation of the new jobs which a new racino would create, the community is concerned about the changes to the neighborhood which would result.
Residents are nervous about what will follow the state’s selection of one company to build a “racino” there with video lottery terminals because of increased traffic, and the kind of people who will be attracted to the new gambling center..
And that's only natural, and no different from any other area surrounding new gambling facilities.

However, if I lived there, I'd also be deeply concerned about the present state of affairs, the incessant delays, and the gnawing possibility that nothing will ever happen there. Because as much as I love the Big A, let's face it; the place is presently a blight, an eyesore, an embarrassment to all concerned, from the hideously ugly netting separating it from the Home Depot, to the empty parking lots and grossly decaying infrastructure. This is especially the case now, at a time when the city is celebrating two grand new baseball stadiums. And that's in addition to the new stadium to open at the Meadowlands in 2010 and the Devils' impressive arena in Newark. Even Yonkers Raceway has transformed into the enticing Empire City racino.

Aqueduct, where the nation's showcase city's thoroughbred racing resides for six months out of the year, is a sad and pathetic contrast. After navigating past two beastly-looking shuttered entrances, one passes through the similarly obsolete admission booths, through the rusting gates, and into the main lobby. There, as opposed to the grand Jackie Robinson Rotunda at the Mets' Citifield or the impressive lobby at the Rock, one is greeted by a small standing neon sign plugged into a wall socket which reads "Welcome to Aqueduct." Welcome indeed. If I were a resident at next week's meeting, I'd implore Jennifer Manley to have her boss Mayor Bloomberg take an hour out of his schedule to tour the grounds, to bring Governor Paterson with him for that matter - one doesn't need 20/20 vision to see that the place is a dump - and as many state legislators as he could round up. And maybe, with just one brief visit, our elected officials, with a close-up and personal look at what years/decades of their gross neglect has wrought, will actually go back to work and get something done. Enough already.

The Governor had a rare good day on Thursday, basking in the camera lights for once, and smiling amongst the likes of the mayor of NYC and others as he announced his support for a bill legalizing gay marriage. It's a worthy cause indeed in my opinion, and a timely one, and there's no question that civil rights for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters is a cause for which Paterson has worked diligently over the years.

However, there's also no doubt that, in the face of the uncertain, at best, prospects for approval in the state Senate, Paterson's push is a political one; a crucial and highly calculated step towards his resurrection in the polls looking towards his re-election prospects. I believe that, with the budget process completed, the governor's horrendous poll numbers have bottomed out, and can only proceed upwards. True, he is the target of yet another round of negative and demeaning ads, this time over 8700 state union jobs he's proposed to eliminate. However, as unfortunate as any job eliminations are, unemployment is on the rise across all sectors of the economy, and I don't believe that this campaign, coming on top of all the other complaints about the budget, will gain much traction with the public. Between what he says will be his active involvement in wooing legislators on gay marriage, and his successful effort to overturn the Rockefeller drug laws, Paterson is starting to build a record which will be highly appealing to the Democratic base and which will start to nudge his numbers higher. Now, if he would only take the time to resolve the mess at NYRA, he could get a few hundred thousand(?) horseplayers on board as well.


El Angelo said...

Alan, I disagree with none of your assessment of the Big A's dilapidated state. But given that it cost $150 million or so to raze Gulfstream and rebuild in Florida 5 years ago, I don't want to even hazard a guess what it would cost to put some real fixes into the place. And this is for a sport (a) that fewer than 5% of NY cares about, and (b) can't make money as it is. I'd love to see Aqueduct get the money and attention it needs to get it to a passable level, but I think it'll be easier to get slots installed at Saratoga.

Anonymous said...

Any word coming out of Albany on a new bidding process? Maybe the legislators are considering just abandoning the Big A project, because of the real scope of creating an updated and rebuilt facility, and moving everything to Belmont?

jk said...

I have been out to the Big A much more this year than previous years and I like it. It is not pretty but it is functional. The subway service makes it convenient.

NYRA should do much more to fix it up given the high takeout rates we are paying.

If the LIRR service to Belmont is cancelled, I doubt I will make it out there this year.

There is still a chance of my Caps in 5 prediction to hold true.

alan said...

>>There is still a chance of my Caps in 5 prediction to hold true.

C'mon jk, you guys scored the #1 pick, why so bitter? :-)

Anonymous said...

The more I read about NY politics and politicians, the more I understand why we don't have a casino at Aqueduct yet. Currenly the hot button NY corruption news is this whole thing about former Comptroller Alan Hevesi and the abuses of he and his pals using the people's money as their own war chest. And to think, he was the guy who's audit brought to light much of the NYRA's corruption in the first place. Then Hevesi, recommended Getnick & Getnick and played a role in the pleas contained in the deferred prosecution agreement, and in the end, Hevesi touted NYRA with a clean bill of health having applauded his own selection of Getnick & Getnick and the ongoing integrity reform within the organization. Hopefully, nothing to do with his work in the racing world during that 2002-2006 period is holding up any of the VLT determinations that can't seem to get off the ground now?

Anonymous said...

Off topic, below is link to "The Today Show" story on the Paragallo horses, excellent job.

And here is the link if some of you kind hearted individuals wish to adopt one of these horses;

In the story they get Ernie on the phone and he claims it was all poor management, that he paid $6000 per week in upkeep. Lets see, $24000 per month divided by 177 horses divided by 30 days equals about $4 per day in upkeep, and he has no idea how this happened?

Yet he spends money entering hopeless Cellar Dweller in the Wood so he can entertain in the dining room. That money obviously could have been spent better elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

How about the State or City funneling just a sliver of what they are contributing to the new ballparks for the pro sports teams in the area to the racing industry which provides full time jobs for at least 100 times more people than any of those teams ever will?

At the risk of insulting the hockey fans on this blog, I have not watched a hockey game in 20 years and could care less about the new arena in brooklyn, yet as a nyc taxpayer I am contributing to its private developer's big money making deal(and to tossing long term residents of the area out of their homes).

There is no excuse to let this industry go down the drain no matter how much you may feel NYRA has badly mismanaged.

jk said...

>> C'mon jk, you guys scored the #1 pick, why so bitter? :-)

Because Garth Snow is going to trade the pick to Toronto for Curtis Joseph and a 2nd round pick!

Here is an update on A-Rod and Ms. Frankel.

A-Rod and Bethenny Frankel still free agents

Friday, April 17th 2009, 4:00 AM

Looks like Alex Rodriguez and Bethenny Frankel weren’t a match made in heaven.

Anonymous said...

The new bidding process:

Anonymous said...

You have a camera. Show us out of towners what you're talking about.

alan said...

>>You have a camera. Show us out of towners what you're talking about.

Oh man, you mean I have to go there again before Belmont opens? :-|

Anonymous said...

Hey Alan, I will take some shaps today and email to you, wouldn't want you to be "forced" to visit the Big A.

alan said...

>>Hey Alan, I will take some shaps today and email to you, wouldn't want you to be "forced" to visit the Big A.

Ha, thanks! Not really like I have to be forced to go. I still love it despite everything but, let's be honest, it's not very attractive these days, as functional as it remains. But I do get rather weary of it in mid-April to be sure, especially with the weather like this! (And today is out with the Rangers in action anyway..)

Anonymous said...

Hey Alan – glad to see you are a proponent of gay marriage. But why stop there. Polygamists should be granted the same rights. How about 2 men and 3 women who want to marry? What about the civil rights for them. A mother who wants to marry her daughter or son should also have the same rights that are offered to others.