Friday, May 23, 2008

What Can Big Brown Do For Elmont?

Elmont's Stake In The Triple Crown

The Belmont Stakes. The third leg in the legendary Triple Crown, and Big Brown, with the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness already under his saddle, poised to leave the field in his dust on June 7th at this annual Elmont classic.

Clearly, Big Brown's run at the Triple Crown will be a boost to horse racing, much needed after the recent falls -- literally and figuratively -- from grace.

Will Big Brown's appearance, and possible purse, at Belmont, be as big a boon for the communities that surround this historic park?

Hard to say.

Talk of revitalization abounds, like so much fodder in the feedbag.

An infusion of money from Albany. The possibility of Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) ala Yonkers and Monticello. The much touted compact between Nassau County and the Town of Hempstead, designed, in theory, to bring Elmont back from the brink.

So far, the talk is just that, talk. Little action beyond what may take place on the track's oval, with the hoopla in the winner's circle about all there will likely be to cheer about on Elmont's race card.

Yes, the words -- of community groups, of not-for-profits, of elected officials -- sound as sweet as the bugle's call at post-time. The artists' renderings, as lovely as that shot of Big Brown wearing a horseshoe made of roses.

Still, would that the enthusiasm that will undoubtedly consume the Belmont throng spill out onto the streets of Elmont, Floral Park, and beyond, and that, in terms of converting lofty words into well-planned action, we'd hear someone shout, "And they're off!"
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Feedback from the Elmont community:

May the community of Elmont be saved, if such a thing as VLTs enter Belmont Park. Just like Monticello, where(the surrounding community) is going bankrupt, and trying to see if it can survive financially.

Imagine how the gambling industry will be hit, when the economy continues to go down, and the price of gas continues to go up. Tropicana went under, and they are a major component to the operations of Yonkers as well.

Then think about a new casino at Aqueduct, and a few more in CT, and PA.

Clearly, someone did not do so well in economics. More is not always better.

Then there are the social ills, the increased expenses in police, roads and bureaucracy. Imagine having to deal with the effects of a Racino in a community, and then having these same politicians with more money! Do you honestly think that will bring positive change?

What major plan of revitalization did some of these politicians want for Elmont? A Racino and a hotel. Not only do they want a Racino, they want a hotel, which, in all honesty, is designed to replace the Courtesy Hotel. Clearly, it is hypocrisy at its finest.

For years (dare I say decades), the community, including past Presidents of the Elmont Chamber of Commerce, thought to revitalize Belmont, with a greater sense of community, by constructing a museum/cultural center.

The idea has fallen on deaf ears since. Much to the same, of the safety concerns of Hempstead Turnpike to our state representatives.

On June 7th, regardless of how financially successful the day, or week maybe, it helps to serve as a reminder of what Historic Belmont Park really stands for. Whether you enjoy horse racing or not, it is what it is. What is left standing in our town that represents the history of the Hempstead Plains? Let me tell you what that day really means. It is a day that helps us to remember passion, culture and history. That is something that money can't necessarily replace.

Xavier Rodriguez
Elmont, New York

The writer serves as secretary of the Locustwood/Gotham Civic Association in Elmont. The views expressed are his own.
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Thank you for writing, Xavier.

We certainly agree that we need more in the way of history and tradition in our hometowns, with a smattering of forward-looking vision that will help bring community into the 21st century.

On the VLT front, we couldn't agree with you more.

If anyone believes that revenues generated at the track will spill over into the local economy, we would simply ask them to take a drive through Yonkers or a stroll in downtown Monticello, such as it is.

Yonkers may be undergoing a renaissance, of sorts, having nothing to do with the VLTs at the raceway.

As for Monticello, Broadway, the main drag, is a a virtual ghost town, with economic revival as distant on the horizon as the Indian reservations are remote to the proposed casinos.

Throwing money at the problems -- be they of cities or suburbia -- rarely solves them, as we should have learned from the failures of many of the Great Society initiatives of the 1960s.

We can mask the symptoms -- be they the blight along the turnpike or the happenstance of aging facades -- but the underlying disease remains largely untreated.

For there to be a jewel in Elmont's claim to the Triple Crown, there must not only be a viable plan to revitalize and re-energize, there must also be summoned the courage and the wherewithal to take that plan to the streets.

Meanwhile, keep those cards and letters coming, folks. Write us at

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