Friday, March 06, 2009

Can VLTs Help Resuscitate An Ailing Elmont

Redevelopment Plan Gains Favor, Momentum

Video Lottery Terminal (VLTs). The so-called Racino. The kind now found at Yonkers Raceway, Monticello Raceway, and points north, bringing lottery-style gaming to local communities with the intent to infuse the local economy with cash, spurring growth and prosperity.

Sounds wonderful, in theory, but does it work, in practice?

No one would argue that Elmont, like Yonkers -- and Monticello in Sullivan County -- is in need of a helping hand. The "gateway to Nassau" has fallen upon hard times, with the decline of it business districts, the aging of its infrastructure, and myriad demographic shifts, which, for better and for worse, have forever changed the face of Elmont.

Still, will the addition of VLTs, and possibly a hotel, have the desired effect of promoting financial stability for what has become, in many respects -- particularly in the economic sense -- a downtrodden community?

Have the VLTs brought a resurgence to Yonkers or Monticello? Not really.

True, Yonkers is in the midst of its own renaissance, in large part thanks to a universal redevelopment plan that encompasses much of its downtown. The money spent at the VLTs at the raceway, however, haven't translated in bucks for either Main Street or South Broadway.

Much the same for Monticello, where plans to revitalize Broadway have perennially fallen through the cracks, and the VLTs at the racetrack, just a mile or so away from downtown, have done absolutely nothing to transform Monticello from ghost town to boom town.

Will adding a hotel make the difference for Elmont? Well, hard to envision Elmont as a vacation mecca, or a gamblers' draw akin to Atlantic City. Maybe the Belmont Stakes crowd could fill the rooms, but otherwise, a hotel in Elmont, sans attractions beyond the racetrack and the VLTs, would likely detract from the community -- ala the no-tell hotels that nearby communities have long sought to be rid of -- rather than to attract new business and enhance both image and viability.

Yes, Elmont cries out for revitalization. Still, we must be cognizant of the fact that not all redevlopment is desirable, or, for that matter, beneficial.

Before we embrace the plans for the future of Belmont -- and with these plans, the best hope for all of Elmont -- let us carefully consider the potential outcomes.

Be careful what you ask for, Elmont. For you may just get it -- VLTs, hotels, and all!
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From the Three Village Times:

Plan Unveiled for Belmont Park
VTLs and Hotel Part of PlanFor Development of Belmont
By Joe Rizza

Empire State Development (ESD), New York's lead economic development agency, and the New York State Racing & Wagering Board (RWB) have issued a report for the redevelopment of Belmont Park. The report identifies two sites for redevelopment - Site A, an 8-acre parcel of land north of Hempstead Turnpike and adjacent to the track's grandstand and open space, and Site B, a 28-acre parcel of land south of Hempstead Turnpike, east of the Cross Island Parkway, and adjacent to single-family residential neighborhoods.

The plan includes various options for each of the sites.

For Site A, these options are as follows:
• Option 1: Racino (a facility in which Video Lottery Terminals (VTLs) are located.
• Option 2.1: Small hotel with VTLs in the grandstand.
• Option 2.2: Large hotel with VTLs in the grandstand.
• Option 3.1: Small hotel with a Racino.
• Option 3.2: Large hotel with a Racino.

For Site B, the options are as follows:
• Option 1: Retail with 30 stores with theater and food complex with and/or small hotel.
• Option 2: Big box retail center with a sports facility option.
• Option 3: Mixed-use retail with senior housing.

It is hoped that the redevelopment of Belmont Park would spur economic growth in the area by creating jobs and making Belmont Park a more attractive destination for visitors.

Assemblyman Tom Alfano, who represents the Elmont and Floral Park communities in the 21st Assembly District, called the proposal a "turning point for Elmont and Floral Park that will mean jobs, jobs, jobs and a sure-fire way to cut property taxes for homeowners."

Alfano, who has made Belmont Park his chief concern, believes the proposal will revitalize the Hempstead Turnpike corridor. "The next step is looking at what the right combination is. I don't support the senior housing component because we have enough senior housing in the area. What I want to focus all of our efforts on is creating jobs and lowering taxes on homeowners," he said. "With this proposal, we can help our young people get a job. With this proposal we can create construction jobs. With this proposal we'll create sustainable jobs. With this proposal we can cut taxes on homeowners. With this proposal we'll be expanding the tax base. With this proposal we'll bring revitalization to Hempstead Turnpike. With this proposal we'll finally make Belmont a destination point instead of raw iron gates."

Senator Dean Skelos also agreed that the proposal is what the communities surrounding Belmont Park need. "What we've been saying all along in this process is that we need economic development and to cut taxes on homeowners. Right from the start, Assemblyman Alfano and I have been pushing for this kind of plan for the community. We have to move now on these proposals and we can't allow this process to get bogged down like Aqueduct. Time is of the essence. Let's get to work," he said.

Senator Craig Johnson, who represents the Elmont and Floral Park communities in the 7th Senate District, believes bringing VTLs to Belmont is vital to the project's success. "But let's be clear: This is only a first step toward making Belmont the first-class destination that it could be. This process should move as quickly as possible, but it has to be done correctly and the affected communities need to be involved every step of the way," Johnson said, adding that he has reintroduced legislation to create a Belmont Community Advisory Board.

Some of Elmont's community leaders have responded positively to the study to revitalize the areas surrounding Belmont Park. Sandra Smith, chair of the Elmont Coalition for Sustainable Development, called the site plan very exciting and a big shot in the arm for Elmont and Floral Park. "This is the beginning of something big for all our communities. From the beginning we outlined what we wanted to see and pushed hard for it every step of the way. Now with the governor, Senator Skelos and Assemblyman Alfano all pushing in the same direction, we literally hit the triple," she said.

Patrick Nicolosi, president of the Elmont East End Civic Club, believes the study is great news for Elmont. "In this economy with all of the challenges we face, we need to cut taxes and create jobs. This proposal starts us down this road finally. I want to see the large hotel, retail and Belmont redeveloped to help all our communities," he said.

The next step is to determine the economic viability of the land uses and amount of development feasible for Sites A and B with an economic impact analysis and the feasibility of placing a VTL facility in Belmont Park with a gaming analysis, according to the study. Before any redevelopment steps are taken in the implementation process, the New York State Franchise Oversight Board must unanimously approve the redevelopment of Sites A and B.

The Belmont Park Redevelopment Study can be found at

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