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Queens Chronicle

Scratch all horses at Aqueduct Race Track?

LI Association proposes racing be moved from SOP to Belmont Park

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Posted: Thursday, March 15, 2018 10:30 am

The Long Island Association, a nonprofit that advocates for the interests of Nassau and Suffolk counties, is proposing to move horse racing from Aqueduct Race Track in Ozone Park to Belmont Park, which would allow for more racing days at the latter and open the Queens track for “redevelopment.”

Matthew Cohen, LIA’s vice president of government affairs, said the proposal would help make Belmont an even greater destination, in conjunction with the New York Islanders building a new hockey arena there.

“We were thinking, what can we do to maximize the value here at Belmont, and it made a lot of sense,” Cohen said.

The LIA released the idea last Wednesday as one of its top 18 priorities for 2018, in which it seeks action from federal, state and local leaders on a variety of issues.

Cohen said the group will now meet with the New York Racing Association, community leaders and state elected officials to discuss the idea of moving all downstate racing to the Nassau-Queens border and what type of “redevelopment” could be done with the land at Aqueduct.

“It’s really just engaging with the state, NYRA and the community to see if it makes sense,” said Cohen, explaining the LIA’s next steps. “When you think about it, it could be a good thing and I think there would be a lot of support.”

Some Long Island business leaders have already expressed backing for the idea, Cohen said.

A spokesman for NYRA, which operates both Aqueduct and Belmont, did not respond to a request for comment on the proposal by press time.

The proposal would require a change in state law.

The legislation that approved the construction of Resorts World Casino New York City, Aqueduct’s neighbor, states there must be a horseracing track on the grounds.

South Queens state leaders didn’t say they outright oppose the plan, but that a lot of discussions will have to be held.

“We have to undertake serious considerations as to how the LIA’s proposed plan will impact my constituents and the racing community as a whole,” Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Rockaway Park) said in an emailed statement. “Thoroughbred Racing has had a huge impact on my district, both economically and historically, so in order to consider a proposal to radically change the face of this industry and neighborhood, there must be a thorough, thoughtful, and truthful analysis as to the kind of effect this will have.”

State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), the ranking member of the higher chamber’s Racing and Wagering Committee, said “I would have to look at the details.

“Their mission is to do what’s best for Long Island, but my mission is to do what’s best for my people and my community.”

This isn’t the first time Aqueduct’s been proposed for closure — former Gov. Eliot Spitzer wanted to shutter it but the community rallied to save the historic track.

Aqueduct had fallen into a state of disrepair but NYRA recently invested $15 million to improve it, and last year installed a new course.

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