Opinion

Recent articles about the redevelopment of Belmont Racetrack need some clarification and focus. To help readers with the current status of the redevelopment issue, I thought I would offer the following thoughts.

Over the past year, I have been very involved with the issues surrounding redevelopment of Belmont and the lands that are part of the track. This process began as a result of the franchising agreement expiring under former Governor Eliot Spitzer. This opportunity allowed many years of neglect and disrespect to be addressed and rectified. I am very pleased with the work completed thus far.

At that time, I was the first state leader to go to Belmont with a delegation of community leaders to assess the opportunities Belmont had for Elmont, South Floral Park and Floral Park. Those community leaders were: CCC President Joyce Stowe, Parkhurst Civic Association President Cheryl Lee, CCC Executive Board Member Chet Collins, Elmont East End Civic Association President Patrick Nicolosi and NYS Assembly Racing and Wagering ranking member Assemblyman Bob Barra.

During that tour, I discussed some of the options that I believed were available for the track and the research process I thought was necessary to make an informed decision on how to make our dreams reality. It was at this time when the idea of development, a hotel, video lottery terminals (VLTs) and retail shopping were discussed with NYRA President Charles Heyward. It was at that meeting where all concerned were enthusiastic about the prospects of transforming that area and exploring all viable options. Our focus was to create jobs, promote economic development and cut property taxes for homeowners.

What is important to realize is that the redevelopment of Belmont is separate and apart from the Elmont Coalition for Sustainable Development's efforts on Hempstead Turnpike. The Belmont plan is not part of the coalition's charge and was not part of the visioning plan. Belmont is state land and development at the site must go through a request for proposal (RFP) process as well as environmental and feasibility studies.

The Belmont plan does not address Hempstead Turnpike and will not address Hempstead Turnpike in its plan. Hempstead Turnpike's plan is under the umbrella of the coalition led by community leaders working with the Town of Hempstead.

The two plans are separate and address very distinct issues.

Governor David Paterson has put together a report authored by the Empire State Development Corporation that has outlined several options for the Belmont site. This report came as a result of a stakeholders meeting, written testimony and a community meeting. Again, the requisite meetings were held to develop the options reported to the governor. These are the options that will be explored at this juncture.

For the record, I support the hotel, VLTs and retail shopping components with movie theatres and restaurants outlined by the governor. It is interesting to note that these options received the highest grades in the study authored by Empire State Development Corporation. These options were also the options that were overwhelmingly supported by the community at-large.

The report is available for anyone to inspect on the Internet or is available in my office. You can call me at 437-5577 to receive your copy.

As this process moves forward, I would caution readers to remember that the plans you read about so often are very distinct and are separate. The coalition deals with Hempstead Turnpike and New York State deals with Belmont.

Assemblyman Tom Alfano


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