Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi's hopes for an Equestrian Center was the topic of discussion at the March 10 meeting of the Muttontown Village Board. Kathleen Klienman, president of the Muttontown Horseman's Association (MHA) asked if the board had looked through the information from the county about proposals for the Chelsea Estate and the Muttontown Preserve. The mayor summed up the information about the county planning to use its 6,000 acres of parkland for generating revenue.
"Mr. Suozzi is not looking to privatize the parks but is looking for extra services for people that can be created in partnership with the private sector. Those interested in offering suggestions about the use of the Chelsea Estate (see page 10) and for an Equestrian Center have 40 days to respond, by April 4," said Mayor Richard Murcott.
Ms. Kleinman asked what position the board would take on the proposals. Mr. Murcott said the use would protect the trails, and increase horseback riding which would probably be a good thing, but he said he wanted to hold judgment until he sees any of the plans. Ms. Kleinman said her group would like to be involved in the process since the MHA spends several thousand dollars a year cleaning up the trails. "We want to have a say," she added.
Mr. Murcott said, "Nothing will happen without this board's approval. You will have a lot to say."
"It's interesting to me to see more than just the Muttontown Preserve as a site. I'm interested to see who is interested," said Ms. Kleinman.
The potential sites include Muttontown North: approximately 25 acres along Route 106 north of Muttontown Road and or Muttontown South, approximately 16 acres south of Muttontown Road on the west side of Route 106. A second potential site is the Stillwell Woods, approximately 30 acres is appropriate in the center of the property which is located on South Woods Road in Woodbury.
Mayor Murcott explained that when the county took over the Muttontown Preserve property 30 years ago, they got permission to construct a horse barn and indoor facilities. They want an outside operator to agree to a proposal to build the facility. They already have the permission to do it there, he said.
The county is also interested in the Jericho Preserve, located on Old Jericho Turnpike, north of the LIE where there are 14 available acres, plus barns and several buildings.
The Manetto Hills was the fourth property suggested. The property consists of 145 acres located on Washington Avenue in Woodbury. There is also a mansion on the property in need of restoration.
All the possible sites listed are either designated preserve or parkland. Under this designation, certain limited commercial uses are permitted, but they must be related to and supportive of the primary recreational uses of the park, and they should be accessible to the public.
Mr. Suozzi is especially interested in promoting Nassau County as horse country. During Mr. Suozzi's presentation to local community leaders recently, he gave an example of the need to promote the idea, saying that the Belmont Stakes is taken with a "ho hum" attitude, while it is an event he sees worthy of publicizing. It has great cachet among horse aficionados. The Belmont Stakes is the third jewel of the Triple Crown that is held five weeks after the Kentucky Derby, which is held in Louisville, Kentucky and the Preakness in Baltimore.
The county is promoting horse country with their Horse of a Different Color promotion. Laurette Kovary of East Norwich is one of the participating artists. Mr. Suozzi said this area has polo and horseback riding and Dressage. He said 2,000 horses are born in New York State each year and 300 are sold here in Nassau County, adding that if the horse sales were held here the county would get $1 million in sales tax. Mr. Suozzi said there are 36 horse breeders in Nassau County.
To that aim, the county sent out Requests for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) in relation to ideas for equestrian facilities. The requests went out on March 4 and are due at the county on April 4.
The county plans to review the information from the RFEI responses, with a view toward using the information to prepare formal Requests for Proposals (RFPs) to be issued approximately in May, to further the implementation of these revenue enhancing projects. General public comment is welcome as well. The county will conduct an open and participatory process, collecting input from the surrounding neighborhood, the community of potential park users, involved and interested public agencies, and potential private partners.
The RFEI request suggested that potential projects may include various equestrian facilities such as breeding facilities, polo fields and events, a facility with indoor and outdoor riding rings and stables, an auction pavilion, and/or a thoroughbred retirement farm. However, the document said, "The county will consider all proposals and creative ideas for generating increased revenue and providing additional recreational activities."
Those interested should contact Ms. Lisa Scorcia; Nassau County Department of Parks, Recreation & Museums; Eisenhower Park, Administration Building; East Meadow, NY 11554 or telephone 572-0257.
The Belmont Stakes is named after August Belmont, a financier who made a name and fortune for himself in New York politics and society. He was involved in horse racing and his imprint is intertwined within the history of the Kentucky Derby. The Belmont is the oldest of the three Triple Crown events. The Belmont predates the Preakness by six years, the Kentucky Derby by eight. The first running of the Belmont Stakes was in 1867 at Jerome Park on a Thursday. It is the fourth oldest race in North America.
The Belmont Stakes was held in what is now Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx until Belmont Park was opened in 1905. In 1921, the race was run in the counter-clockwise manner of American racing as opposed to the English system of running clockwise.
The race has been of varying distances, from 1-5/8 miles from 1867 to 1873, to 1-1/2 to 1-1/4 miles and since 1925 at 1-1/2 miles.
A total of 11 Belmont Stakes winners have sired at least one other Belmont winner.
The Belmont Stakes trophy is a Tiffany-made silver bowl with a cover and is supported by three horses, Eclipse, Herod and Matchem, the three foundation thoroughbreds. On top of the trophy is a silver figure of Fenian, the winner of the third Belmont Stakes in 1869. It was the trophy August Belmont's horse, Fenian won in 1869 and was given to the race in 1926. The winning owner has the option of keeping the trophy for the year their horse is the Belmont champion.