At an MTA public hearing on its proposed changes held on Jan. 21, 2009, two NYRA representatives, joined by a New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association board member and eight civic leaders provided oral statements in opposition to the planned suspension of rail service to Belmont Park.
NYRA’s statement to the MTA:
While the New York Racing Association (NYRA) recognizes that the MTA needs to balance its budget, no other proposed service cut so directly affects one business, one employer, one industry as does the proposal to eliminate LIRR service to Belmont Park (except for Belmont Stakes day).
For more than a century, the railroad has brought fans to Belmont Park, a 445-acre landmark on the Queens-Nassau County line, bringing patrons from the most mass-transit dependent population in the nation to one of the best known sporting venues in the world.
NYRA, its state franchise to operate racing at Belmont Park recently renewed for 25 years, is poised to greatly enhance the appeal of Belmont Park as a major destination and community resource. The State of New York, now the owner of the Belmont Park property, has parcels of land adjacent to the Belmont Park train station that it is planning to develop commercially, plans very much in line with the extensive visioning process undertaken by civic leaders of the surrounding communities, and which are predicated on continued and even expanded rail service to the Belmont Park station.
NYRA is committed to more effectively marketing Belmont Park, to build attendance at the track, but more than that, it is mandated by the state to build attendance as part of the franchise agreement. This requirement will be impossible to meet without a continuation of NYRA’s long term partnership with the LIRR and MTA. NYRA would be interested in expanding that partnership by working with the MTA to better market the “Belmont Special” and to build special days and special deals around the LIRR service.
Beyond its position at the pinnacle of American thoroughbred racing and as an important regional attraction, Belmont Park is a major employer, an economic engine for the region and the cornerstone of the State’s Thoroughbred breeding industry which employs more than 35,000 people across the state of New York, generates millions of dollars in economic activity, and is a vital component of the state’s agricultural sector, while preserving green space throughout New York State.
Green is the trademark color for beautiful Belmont Park and one of the “green” things about the track is that fans can get there by the greenest of mass transit solutions, the railroad. The New York metro area is fortunate because most of its major sporting venues provide “green” rail and subway service. This is not the time to abandon a “green solution” that is already in place and highly effective.
We appreciate our long association with the Long Island Rail Road, strongly oppose the drastic reduction in rail service proposed for Belmont Park, and seek to work with the MTA and the LIRR in strengthening our relationship for our mutual benefit, as well as the benefit of the industry and surrounding communities.