Comrie sees new committee role as chance to change Belmont Park development plans


Is the $1.18 billion Belmont Park redevelopment plan in trouble now that state Senator Leroy Comrie has replaced his colleague Michael Gianaris as the nominee to the Public Authorities Control Board? Not necessarily, said Comrie, whose district encompasses a section of the park.

“I’m not critical of the plan but I am hopeful there are some issues that can be resolved,” Comrie said. “I am honored that the leader has recommended me and I hope I can represent our conference well, if the Governor accepts the recommendation.”

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins withdrew Gianaris’ name from nomination to the three-member panel, which could have given the Amazon opponent partial veto power over the deal, just over a week after e-commerce giant walked away from its plan to build an HQ2 campus in Long Island City, and its promise to create 25,000 jobs over the next 10 years.

Governor Andrew Cuomo fumed that the Amazon rejection was the “greatest tragedy” he saw during his time in government during an interview Friday in which he blamed Gianaris by name for leading the opposition to the project. A day later ,Comrie’s name was put forward by Stewart-Cousins in a letter to Cuomo.

“Through comments you have made to others in public meetings and interviews it has become clear that you do not intend to confirm this appointment to the PACB,” Stewart-Cousins wrote. “To ensure the Senate Majority is properly represented, I hereby formally recommend Senator Leroy Comrie as the Senate representative on the Public Authorities Control Board.”

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi responded in a tweet saying, “Great, but it’s a day late and $27 billion short,” implying the deal, and the projected $27 billion in city and state tax revenues over 25 years, could have been saved if she had withdrawn Gianaris’s name earlier.

In a telephone interview Tuesday from Albany, Comrie seemed surprised at speculation that he was opposed to the Belmont Park redevelopment project that would include a 19,000-seat hockey arena for the New York Islanders, a 250-room hotel and a 435,000 square foot retail complex adjacent to the racetrack’s grandstand.

“I applaud the concept of the project,” Comrie said. “I do have considerable concerns about traffic and transportation issues but I’m very positive things can be worked out.”

Comrie has insisted publicly that any final project must include a full-service Long Island Rail Road station instead of limited service at the current facility with the cost of the new station passed on to the developer. He has also called for a year-round Park and Ride for commuters at the 6,000 space parking lot, as well as a significant expansion of the Cross Island Expressway.

“I am well aware that Elmont has not had any development programs for years and they are very supportive of this project, but I am also aware that on the western edge of Belmont Park, in my neighborhoods of Cambria Heights and Queens Village traffic congestion and a full service LIRR station are very serious issues.”