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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Adam Barsky, NIFA chief, says he’s serious about Nassau fixes

Adam Barsky, new chairman of the Nassau Interim

Adam Barsky, new chairman of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority chaired his first meeting, Friday, April 1, 2016. Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Adam Barsky, the new chairman of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, says he is serious about helping the county pull in significant new revenue.

So serious, in fact, that he is slated to meet Tuesday with County Executive Edward Mangano and officials of Nassau’s Off-Track Betting Corp. to explore ways the county can get more funding from OTB.

OTB, in a deal last month as part of the state budget, was authorized to sell its right to install video display terminals. The move allows OTB to benefit financially from VLT’s going to Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens.

The corporation benefits politically too, since no community in Nassau wanted it sited in the county.

But the deal, which was passed in the middle of the night on the last day of the session in Albany, does not guarantee revenues to Nassau.

Nor does it require any belt-tightening by OTB, which already is in debt.

Barsky, in an interview Monday, said he wants to change that.

How? By inserting NIFA into the center of the discussions about the OTB deal. Barsky said he got the ball rolling last week by expressing his concerns in a letter to OTB officials.

But Barsky, and NIFA, may be able to do more than write letters and attend meetings.

Under state law, NIFA keeps an eye on operations at NuHealth, which operates Nassau University Medical Center, and Nassau Community College.

Why is such oversight essential?

Let’s look at Nassau University Medical Center as an example. When the county transferred the hospital to a public benefit corporation, it agreed to guarantee the corporation’s bonds. If the hospital goes bankrupt, county taxpayers are on the hook.

But Nassau also helped OTB by handling some of its debt. As such, NIFA approval may be necessary for the deal between OTB and Genting New York LLC, which would gain the authority to add the 1,000 VLTs that Nassau would have installed to the 5,400 the company already has at Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct in Queens, Barsky said.

It’s a possibility that the deal could open new possibilities for Nassau, including guaranteed revenues.

Could NIFA also push OTB, which for years has suffered losses, to significantly reduce staff? That too could leave more money to benefit Nassau.

Under the current proposal, Resorts World would pay Nassau OTB $9 million in 2016, $9 million in $2017 and $25 million in 2018. Future payments would be $25 million, plus an amount adjusted for inflation, officials said.

That’s real money.

Unfortunately, as Mangano has said, the county itself was not part of the negotiation.

Or, as Barsky put it, “They got hosed.”

Barsky said NIFA’s out to try to fix that and other problems as he pushes Nassau to get back on sound financial footing.

Barsky’s ultimate goal?

“To put us out of business,” he said.

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