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ESDC To Revise Belmont Park Redevelopment Study

$50,000 plan to reassess Elmont mainstay

Fifty thousand dollars in the grand scheme of things could appear un-noteworthy in New York State. However, that $50,000 could go a long way to solving the problem that is the ongoing economic development fiasco of Belmont Park.

Long Island senators secured funding for the Empire State Development Corp. (ESDC) to revise its Belmont Park Redevelopment Study conducted in December 2008 under then-Governor David Patterson. Senator Jack Martins secured the funding prior to the budget adoption.

As part of the state budget, Martins, along with Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, were successful in allocating funds through the ESDC toward a plan for the redevelopment study. The goal of the plan, according to Martins’ staffers, is to explore options for the historic park in order to revitalize the area and boost the economy of the local communities by making the park a destination.

“The time for talking about redevelopment for the Belmont Park area is over,” Martins said. “This allocation of funds for the study represents action. It is the first step in turning a stagnant area into one that will boost the economy for the local communities. At the same time, it is imperative to only consider options that keep with the character of the communities surrounding the park. To that end, community input is crucial.”

Any plan for redevelopment of the park will center around injecting revenue into both the residential and commercial tax base, Martins’ Elmont community liaison Scott Cushing noted.

According to the Patterson-sanctioned 2008 redevelopment plan obtained by Anton Newspapers, possible solutions to boosting economic development were standalone “racinos,” retail elements, small hotels and walk-able malls in the racetrack parking lot south of Hempstead Turnpike. The current study, according to Martins’ reps, will not incorporate any casino-type environment.

“The plan then needed to be a job generator and increase economic development,” Cushing said, who previously worked for then- Assemblyman Tom Alfano. “The majority of the work was going to be done in the south lot.”

At one point in 2008, Wal-Mart showcased an interest in building a store in the lot, but the plan was ultimately nixed by the shopping giant.

The study commissioned for 2012 will center on creating a sports stadium in the south lot. Cushing said one possibility is a soccer stadium.

“Belmont is now on the radar,” Cushing stated. “Jack Martins was able to get $50,000 to update the study, start to look at the feasibility of development at the site and to also take a look at different aspects related to the study; sports recreational uses, whether a stadium could be involved. One sport that everyone seems to be interested in is soccer.”

After the study, the ESDC would search for developers to put out “request for proposals.” Governor Andrew Cuomo would have to sign off on the project.

“The ESDC will incorporate input from community groups in its vision plan and work with local officials to ensure that the priorities of the surrounding residents and businesses are addressed,” ESDC Long Island Regional Director Andrea Lohneiss told Anton Newspapers.

Sandra Smith, chairwoman of the Elmont Coalition for Sustainable Development, has been at the forefront of the development of Belmont since the idea’s inception. She has had multiple conversations with Martins about developments and is eager to see the project get started.

“I’m excited,” Smith said. “This is where we were supposed to be back in 2009. I’m happy to see that things are moving forward. The Belmont property, since Hempstead Turnpike is our primary concern right now, is huge, to get redeveloped. We were looking for a walk-able mall-type place before the old study. Anything along those lines that would create jobs and help with taxes.”

With the recent betting scandal involving New York Racing Association (NYRA) executives and the possibility of a Triple Crown winner in I’ll Have Another on June 9, all eyes are focused on the Elmont mainstay. Cuomo, along with Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on Tuesday, May 22 announced an agreement to establish a reorganization board that will place NYRA under temporary public control until 2015 in order to reform the association and transform oversight and management of horse racing in New York State.

“Out of chaos comes opportunity,” Cushing said. “We have an opportunity here at Belmont to develop it. You have everyone concentrated on it.”