(Editor's Note: The following letter was sent to Elliot G. Sander, executive director and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. It is being printed below at Senator Craig Johnson's request.)

I am writing to express my vehement opposition to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's proposal in its November Financial Plan 2009-2012 to dramatically decrease train service to the Belmont Park Race Track.

Eliminating all service to the track, with the exception of the Belmont Stakes, is counterproductive and harmful to efforts by state and local officials to make Belmont a world-class destination. As you may know, Governor Paterson has made developing Belmont a priority and included the installation of video lottery terminals at the track in his proposed 2009-2010 budget.

Smart development of Belmont is a cause I have championed since my election to the State Senate, and one that has deep bi-partisan support from elected officials and community leaders alike. Frankly, it is sad that the MTA seems to be out-of-touch with much of this. The residents of Elmont and Floral Park deserve better.

I understand that the MTA is not immune to the effects of the worldwide financial crisis. However, as I have said before, I think that before resorting to service cuts and fare increases, the authority should do everything in its power to streamline its operations and reduce its operating expenses. I understand that some steps in this arena have been made, but more must be done. This includes re-examining both its contracts with outside companies and consultants, and how its approximately 14,000 properties are used. Simply put, any of these properties that are underutilized, or not being used to fulfill the MTA's core mission, should be leased, or sold off, with the revenue earmarked for continuing operations.

I will be reiterating and expanding on these comments in testimony I will be submitting for the Jan. 21 public hearing on this plan at The Garden City Hotel.

Craig Johnson

Senator, 7th District

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