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Hochul backs $455 million Belmont Park redevelopment plan

Garry Jones

New York Governor Kathy Hochul is backing a proposed $455 million plan to redevelop Belmont Park on Long Island.

“Belmont has long been a crown jewel in American horse racing, but was built over a century ago, and has not been renovated since 1968,” said David O’Rourke, CEO and president of the New York Racing Association (NYRA).

O’Rourke testified at a joint session of the legislature on the 2023 executive budget proposal on Thursday.

The proposal would be at no cost to taxpayers, as NYRA said that they will be able to pay the $455 million loan back in 20 years.

However, NYRA’s franchise will end in 2033, 10 years short of the loan payback period. Some committee members expressed concerns.

“We shouldn’t have to sell the land to pay back your bonds, so how would you pay us back?” asked State Senator Liz Kruger, the finance committee chair.

John Scheib, president of Scheib Associates, testified against the plan.

“New York state is about to loan half a billion with no one signing up for the second half of the debt service,” Scheib said.

He added that, “NYRA hasn’t been profitable enough to pay its franchise fees to New York state in 14 years.”

O’Rourke emphasized the proposal’s economic impact with an analysis by HR&A Advisors. After construction, 740 new, full-time jobs will be generated.

“Supporting a new Belmont means supporting thousands of New Yorkers who rely on horse racing for their livelihoods,” O’Rourke said.

Downstate racing would be consolidated after the renovation, relinquishing the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens. The 100 acres with a $1 billion appraisal would be repurposed by the state.

Jane Montalto is a former news intern at WSHU.