40° Good Afternoon
40° Good Afternoon

A new chance to grow Belmont Park

A horse is led to the track at

A horse is led to the track at Belmont.

With a state request for proposals on how to best develop the area near Belmont Park expected soon, consider what could be at one of the region’s most important swathes of empty land.

It was nearly five years ago when the Empire State Development Corp. first solicited ideas for the 36 acres on either side of Hempstead Turnpike. But state officials never made a decision, canceling the request four years after they issued it. It took far too long for the state to return its focus to the area. The community has waited long enough.

So let’s get it right this time by crafting a solicitation that will return the broadest range of possibilities for such a valuable piece of land — one close to the highways, on the border of Queens and Nassau County.

At one point, a soccer team wanted a stadium. Other developers sought retail at the site. Now the New York Islanders are hoping to bid, and most likely the request will allow for the possibility of a sports arena. But let’s not limit it. A variety of uses could be a solid fit, and even an arena plan could include much more than just that. At a recent listening session in Elmont, residents suggested hotels, retail, a technology incubator, a community center and more. There are innovative developers here; we want to hear their best ideas.

Any of them will have to deal with issues that come with any large project, like traffic and other infrastructure needs. But there is one item the state must make sure the developers address: funding a new Long Island Rail Road station that is open all year, not just for a few big racing days. And speaking of racing, any plan has to enhance and complement the centerpiece of the area — Belmont’s track and grandstand — and allow for the possibility of year-round horse racing.

It’s post time. A better future at Belmont awaits. — The editorial board