Redevelopment Of Belmont Park Must Involve And Benefit Elmont Community
We like to see our State Legislators working together, putting people and community before politics and the divisiveness of partisanship.
No one, in our opinion, does it better than Assemblyman Tom Alfano of the 21st AD in Nassau County. The moderate Republican, known to ignore party lines in favor of community ties, now joins forces with his Democratic counterpart in the Senate, Craig Johnson, on plans for Elmont's renaissance.
When Town Supervisor Kate Murray touts her plans for redevelopment, we cast serious doubts -- it being altogether necessary to suspend all belief in the hope that the Town of Hempstead could or would actually do anything for the good people of Elmont.
With Tom Alfano and Craig Johnson leading the charge and taking an active role in the process, we feel assured that Elmont's best days are truly yet to come.
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JOINT STATEMENT FROM SENATOR CRAIG M. JOHNSON AND ASSEMBLYMAN TOM ALFANO ON THE FUTURE OF BELMONT PARK RACE TRACK AND ITS RELATIONSHIP WITH THE COMMUNITY
As representatives of the communities surrounding the Belmont Park Race Track, we remain very concerned with what appeared to have been a lack of consideration for Elmont and Floral Park in the awarding of a new state franchise for the thoroughbred franchise.
Recent events, however, have given us optimism that the communities' voices will not be ignored during this process that will determine who runs Belmont for the next 30 years.
We, like many of you, were alarmed that the memorandum of agreement between the governor and the New York Racing Association made no references to the race track's role in the community.
The decades that NYRA has operated Belmont in a bubble has also left many with little faith that, unless mandated to, they would become the good neighbors that our communities need and our residents deserve.
The day the decision was announced, we sent a letter to Governor Spitzer that spelled out our concerns and strongly requested that the communities have a seat at the table during any decisions that were made about Belmont.
Since that time, the governor has said, both personally and publicly, that he agrees that the communities should be part of the process.
We applaud him for heeding our call.
But, make no mistake about it: We have a long way to go.
We need to make sure that these assurances are in writing and part of the final franchise agreement, which has to be approved by the state Legislature.
As your representatives in the Senate and the Assembly, we vow to make sure that the community's needs are met in the final version of the agreement.
How the track can best benefit the community is something that should be left up to the community. Elmont is currently undergoing a visioning process designed to determine the community's future direction.
Its relationship with Belmont, an attraction that draws thousands of people to the area, is sure to figure prominently into this plan.
We promise to work with them to make sure that their vision is taken to the state level, and becomes a reality.
In fact, the Elmont Community Coalition Council, which serves as the umbrella organization for all civic groups in the community, has put together a comprehensive, sensible list of recommendations we feel should be used as a roadmap for this new relationship. Some of these include:
· A major overhaul of the facility including new painted fencing, more attractive landscaping, sidewalk improvements, renovation of backstretch housing and educational facilities for backstretch workers and erection of lamps instead of poles surround the park and many others.
· Community participation and inclusion in the Annual Belmont Stakes and other important races as well as a celebration parade at major events.
· Economic development and tourism initiatives including high-end restaurants and shops on the grounds of the park as well as a hotel and convention center to expand the use of the grounds year-round.
· Creating an overall business and service center to generate tax revenue for the community, at the same time increasing the tax base which results in lower property taxes to homeowners.
· An iron-clad PILOT (Payment in Lieu Of Taxes) agreement guaranteeing a revenue stream from Belmont to local area governments, specifically the school districts.
Of course, the only way that we can be truly successful is if all of us, state officials, local leaders, and residents, to work together. This is not an issue that can afford to be infected by partisanship and any other difference that may divide us.
The future never is.