Wednesday evening, during a public hearing at Garden City, Long Island, speakers from the state’s racing industry and Belmont Park’s surrounding communities voiced their opposition to the elimination of the “Belmont Special.”
NYRA Communications Director John Lee also addressed the panel, saying, “I became a fan of Thoroughbred racing, especially racing at beautiful Belmont Park because I could get there on the LIRR. Generations of racing fans and Belmont Park patrons have depended on the “Belmont Special.’ This drastic service cut would undercut one specific and vital Long Island business, to the detriment of the surrounding communities.”
Thoroughbred owner Stephen Zorn, representing the Board of Directors of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, said, “One of the target groups for creating new racing fans are the thousands of bright, energetic and relatively well paid young professionals who come to New York from all over the world. Most of these folks don’t have cars. If we want to turn them on to racing, and make lifelong fans of them, we need the Belmont Park train service.”
Community leaders also spoke in favor of continued and even expanded LIRR service to Belmont Park including Town of Hempstead Councilman Ed Ambrosino, Nassau County Legislator Vincent Muscarella, Mayor of the Village of Floral Park Phil Guarino, Village of Floral Park Trustees Tom Tweedy and Jim Rhatigan, Elmont Chamber of Commerce President Chris Rosado, Elmont Civic Group Leader Pat Nicolosi, and Lyle Sclair of Sustainable Long Island.
Several speakers noted that curtailing Belmont Park rail service while the State is making plans to commercially develop land adjacent to the track’s train station would be counterproductive.
Speakers addressed their comments to an MTA panel that included Chairman H. Dale Hemmerdinger, Vice Chairman David S. Mack, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Elliot G. Sander, Long Island Rail Road President Helena E. Williams, and Joseph Smith, President of MTA Bus Company/MTA Long Island Bus. MTA panelists urged attendees to make their positions known to their state legislators.