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Friday, May 25, 2007

Big A Land In Huge Demand

- Thanks to reader JK to sending along the link to this article in the New York Sun about just how attractive the land upon which Aqueduct sits would be to developers should the track be closed.

"It probably is the largest undeveloped hunk of viable real estate in the city," a professor of urban studies at CUNY's Queens College, Martin Hanlon, said. "In terms of potential for development, it's very much there — you have the Belt Parkway, you have the A train."

If Aqueduct, which sits just north of the western reaches of JFK, were shut down and opened to new construction, real estate analysts say the giant site, about eight times bigger than the Hudson Yards rail site on the far West Side of Manhattan, could be developed as a regional hub for southeastern Queens, with room for millions of square feet of residential and commercial space.
The piece goes on to discuss the usual desire of the local community to restrict any possible development to low-rise housing in keeping with the character of the community there, but ha, and sorry Ozone Park residents, but fat freaking chance for that! The current zoning laws in the area allow for commercial development - just check out the Home Depot built right next door - and the track sure ain't coming down to build two-story, one-family residential housing, I'm sorry to say. Of course, the whole deal is quite speculative right now, and the reaction to the story has been wholly, and thankfully, negative.
"I'm totally opposed to it," [Gary] Pretlow, the chairman of the Assembly's Committee on Racing and Gaming, said via telephone. "It's not good for racing — it doesn't do anything for the entire industry in New York; it hurts the existing venues."
- According to the Saratogian, the idea to split the franchise up between NYRA, who would run Saratoga, and a franchisee for downstate didn't come from Spitzer's office. The concept is anathema to the folks in Saratoga, and the Concerned Citizens for Saratoga Racing immediately convened a press conference to explain why.
- Separate track operators would compete with each other.
- Operators would find it hard to hire and retain competent staff.
- Duplication of equipment and operating systems.
- Owners and trainers might move to states with more stable operations.
- Competing tracks might run head-to-head, forcing one to close.
- Racing's quality would deteriorate, reducing income to state and local government. [The Saratogian]
But if the idea didn't come from the governor's office as Rifkin claims, where did it come from? I don't imagine that Tom Precious, who broke the story on, made it up. My ever-skeptical mind wonders if it's something being floated by one or more of NYRA's challengers. After all, Saratoga may be profitable, but I don't imagine that those revenues would be very material compared to those from the downstate slots parlors. Recalling the backlash when Magna proposed making Saratoga a year-round entertainment destination, why would the bidders want to hassle with the responsibilities and restrictions associated with the high demand to keep Saratoga exactly the way it is (as in, slots-free)? They would, of course, if they really cared about the sport. But excuse me if I sometimes often wonder if that's really the case.


Anonymous said...

Alan said: "My ever-skeptical mind wonders if it's something being floated by one or more of NYRA's challengers."

Why exclude NYRA from your list of suspects? They really never wanted anything to do with slots (or OTB or simulcasting) from the beginning. This unlikely scenario plays right into their supposed strengths - a not-for-profit who can put on a boutique meet front-loaded with graded stakes.

Whereever the notion came from, it's obvious some people have been thinking about making major changes so we shouldn't be surprised when the fog lifts.

Also, I'm not so sure Saratoga is that profitable. All those rich stakes' purses are supported by the other 46 weeks of downstate racing. Abd referring to an earlier post, I couldn't agree more that Belmont is a gorgeous venue this time of year. It's still a wonder more folks don't come out. Maybe if we held a Stanley Cup final game there....

Alan Mann said...

Late Scratch said: "Why exclude NYRA from your list of suspects?"

Well, I suppose that's an excellent and totally logical point.

Anonymous said...

Whoever floated the idea of splitting up the tracks- something that bad must have originated from a politician- it's a lousy idea. To stay on "top of the heap", NY racing needs all 3 tracks operated by the same association.

Anonymous said...

Splitting up the two tracks seems like a typical political compromise, all three parties (NYS, NYRA, Excelsior) get what they want, screw what's best for the people.

The SPA special interest groups are up shit's creek on this one. If these are their best arguments they have no shot. Only one, the equipment argument, makes any sense at all and who cares? I always thought it was ridiculous that NYRA shipped all that crap upstate for six weeks anyway. There goes Starting Gate number one flying up the thruway!! Tote board two in the outside lane!

Only reason they are protesting at all is because their horse in the race, Empire, is now bringing up the rear.

Racing dates are regulated, tracks would not operate at the same time or compete, nor under the plan would have any incentive to do so. Employees would rotate as they do now, many NYRA employees take vacation those six weeks anyway.

The only hurdle is the purse issue, but they will arrive at some solution diverting some VLT money to fund the current SPA purse structure.

The Sun's land analysis has one fatal flaw, it assumes the state would put the land up for bid to commercial interests, when we all know it will be sold at below market to the Port Authority as a "necessary" airport addition. This whole scheme has been a disquised eminent domain issue from day one.

The PA was formed to operate the Ports but in reality has turned into one of the largest Real Estate developers in NY, in part because of tax breaks afforded it as a goverment agency and in balance because of no-bid land grabs.

OK enough commenting, off to the mostly empty but beautiful backyard at Belmont.

Have a nice weekend, but do not wish anyone "Happy Memorial Day", it is insulting to those that gave their lives protecting our right to barbeque and bet horses.