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