By Naeisha Rose
Lawmakers in Queens and Long Island will attend a listening session with constituents in Elmont about redevelopment at Belmont Park by Empire State Development Corporation Monday night. The meeting will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Elmont Memorial Library at 700 Hempstead Turnpike.
Taking stock of the situation are state Sens. Leroy Comrie (D- St. Albans), Todd Kaminsky (D-Rockville Center) and Elaine Phillips (R- Mineola) as well as Assembly members Clyde Vanel (D-Queens Village) and Michaelle Solages (D-Valley Stream).
Elected officials and their constituents have mounting concerns as more proposals take shape about the development of areas in their neighborhoods without the people getting much say about what is built in the region.
Some of the issues that residents have about development, according to lawmakers, are traffic, travel, property values and union jobs. The officials also want to protect the multibillion-dollar equine industry in the state.
“Tonight we are giving the community a chance to make suggestions of what they want to see at a facility that is directly impactful to them,” Comrie said Monday. “There is a lot of history at Belmont Park. The facility is over 100 years old. Attention needs to be paid to it if we are going to keep horse racing in the state.”
Representing constituents on the Long Island side where the development will be is Solages.
“Right now there is an RFP, a request for proposal, that is going through and it is very important that community members have a say in that proposal because we want to make sure that what goes on at Belmont doesn’t hurt our community,” Solages said.
An RFP is a document that the government or a company send out for bids on services. In this case, New York state through Empire State Development Corp. is sending out a proposal for development at Belmont Park and they set up the parameters for what vendors can build there with “loans, grants, tax credits, real estate development, marketing and other forms of assistance,” according to the state government website.
With the plans for the Belmont Park area up for debate, no one within the area knows what might possibly be constructed there, but the lawmakers want to ensure it is something that will uplift those in Elmont and the nearby towns, according to Solages.
“We have concerns about traffic, noise pollution, and making sure that the people that go there are respectful to the surrounding area because many people have concerns about the development affecting their quality of life,” Solages said. “It’s important that people have a say in what goes there and that we see benefits with whatever goes at Belmont.”
A representative for ESD will be in attendance to hear the people’s misgivings.
“Development at Belmont will be an economic boost to the region and all improvements to the site will occur through the normal RFP process. We are continuing to finalize an RFP for the site, which will be released when it’s ready,” according to their press secretary, Amy Varghese.
Solages hopes that the rail that goes to Belmont Park during the horse racing stakes gets to be developed for daily services and helps to support the equine business.
According to the New York Thoroughbred Breeders Inc. website, the equine industry has brought in $4 billion to the state so far this year.
“There is a train station at Belmont right now, but it does not have a daily operation,” Solages said. “That will definitely increase the property values in the surrounding area, because if that station was a live commuting station, it would have direct access to Penn Station and when that East Side Access opens, it would have direct access to Grand Central Station.”
Solages believes that people in Elmont will have better access to Manhattan and those in that borough can come to Belmont during the off-stakes days for enjoyment.
The assemblywoman also wants her constituents and those within the neighboring towns to get high-quality employment opportunities from what is built at Belmont Park.
“The community would like good paying jobs. We don’t want minimum paying jobs. We want jobs that a family could actually live on. We are looking for executive and managerial positions. We want union jobs with a decent wage. On Monday, many constituents are going to speak on what they want.”
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose