And they’re off! State begins the race to redevelop parking lots at Belmont Park

An aerial picture of Belmont Park
Photos courtesy of Empire State Development

The state is offering developers a different kind of daily double at Belmont Park — and it could set up a power play for the New York Islanders’ ownership.

Empire State Development (ESD) announced on July 31 a request for proposals (RFP) to redevelop a pair of parking lots adjacent to the racetrack on the Queens/Nassau border. It’s the latest chapter in ongoing efforts to find new uses for underutilized properties surrounding the spacious Belmont Park, which is home of the Belmont Stakes, the third leg of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown.

The ESD identified two sites for redevelopment: Site A, an 8-acre parcel at the northeast corner of Hempstead Turnpike and the Cross Island Parkway, adjacent to the recently renovated Belmont Park Long Island Rail Road station; and Site B, a 28-acre lot south of Hempstead Turnpike that serves as the racetrack’s auxiliary parking lot.

For years, areas surrounding Belmont Park have been the subject of redevelopment rumors. Originally, the New York Cosmos soccer team identified the auxiliary lot as a potential site to build a permanent area (they currently play at MCU Park in Brooklyn). More recently, the Islanders — whose lease at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center won’t be renewed — have eyed the same lot for constructing a new hockey arena.

According to Newsday, the Islanders are expected to submit a proposal as part of the process.

“Belmont Park represents an exciting and much-anticipated development opportunity on Long Island,” said ESD President, CEO, and Commissioner Howard Zemsky. “We encourage respondents to submit creative proposals that stimulate vibrant community and economic growth in the region.”

Site A is the small trapezoid at the top; Site B is below.
Site A is the small trapezoid at the top; Site B is below.

The goal stated in the RFP is to strengthen Belmont Park’s position as “a premier destination for entertainment, sports, recreation, retail and hospitality on Long Island” with “uses that are complementary to the existing” racetrack. The ESD wants the proposals to include ideas that will create quality jobs, benefit Elmont and surrounding communities, use sustainable design and construction practices, and offer opportunities to minority-, women- and service-disabled veteran-owned businesses.

All proposals must be submitted to the ESD by 2 p.m. on Sept. 28 of this year. Anyone wishing to participate must RSVP to BelmontParkRFP[@]esd.ny.gov.

The entirety of Belmont Park belongs to New York State; the New York Racing Association (NYRA), per an agreement reached with the state in 2008 following a protracted ownership dispute, has a lease agreement to operate Belmont Park through 2033. NYRA conducts a spring/summer meet and a fall championship meet at Belmont Park every year.

The RFP notes, however, that the racetrack, grandstand, stables and other facilities directly related to the track’s operation are off-limits; any potential changes proposed in Site A’s redevelopment must have NYRA’s support.

NYRA, meanwhile, reportedly plans to conduct a major renovation of the Belmont Park racetrack and grandstand beginning in 2018, a process that could take up to two years to complete. The racing organization is currently renovating Aqueduct Racetrack in South Ozone Park, installing a new turf course and revamping the main track.