Daily Point

Betting on Belmont Park

With all the talk about downstate casinos — and the possibility that one of them could end up at Genting-owned Resorts World New York City at Aqueduct Racetrack — eyes are turning to another key player in the mix: Belmont Park. Could Belmont end up being the region’s racing home, if Aqueduct’s focus turns to casino gambling?

That would only work if Belmont Park’s racing facilities are re-imagined. And those first steps are underway — but the rest won’t happen without state approval to obtain financing.

A retaining wall on the north end of Belmont now is under construction, to be completed by spring. That will allow the New York Racing Association to construct a tunnel from the north end so vehicles and pedestrians can access Belmont’s previously unused infield.

But that’s just the beginning. NYRA’s ultimate goal is to modernize the racetrack and to construct a new structure to replace Belmont’s existing grandstand and clubhouse.

"For thoroughbred racing, a new Belmont Park would be the most significant and important project in many decades," NYRA spokesman Patrick McKenna told The Point. "It would pave the way for the return of the Breeders’ Cup to New York and result in a facility capable of hosting year-round racing, among other advantages."

To finance the construction, though, NYRA needs the state’s help, since the association is seeking the ability to use state-backed bonds. While state and NYRA officials apparently have discussed the issue, the racing association has yet to get the authority it needs. NYRA hopes it could be handled through the ongoing state budget process, which would require a go-ahead from the legislature and governor.

Unlike the initial reaction to the arena and other projects at Belmont, it seems the remaking of the racing facilities — and the use of state-backed bonding — has the full support of local elected officials, including State Sens. Anna Kaplan and Todd Kaminsky and Assembs. Clyde Vanel of Queens and Michaelle Solages, who wrote a letter last month to legislative leaders Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Carl Heastie advocating for the bonding authority.

Also on board: the Elmont Chamber of Commerce and the mayors of South Floral Park and Floral Park.

Floral Park Mayor Kevin Fitzgerald’s support is particularly noteworthy, given the village’s reticence to support the other development at Belmont. In a letter to Gov. Kathy Hochul, Fitzgerald noted that NYRA has committed "to protect our residents."

In his letter, Fitzgerald highlighted some of the concerns he’s had regarding UBS Arena and the other New York Arena Partners development efforts. And he also specifically emphasized the village’s opposition to a casino at Belmont Park.

"To be clear, the NYRA plan supported by Floral Park does not include a casino, and there would be significant community opposition to this project if it included a casino," Fitzgerald wrote.

Those comments highlight the future siting of a downstate casino. While Belmont isn’t the likely spot, Aqueduct could be. And that’s part of the reason why many of the players involved think it might make sense to move Aqueduct racing to Belmont — and another reason to modernize Belmont’s facilities.

A state spokeswoman said officials are "looking at" the authorization request.

— Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Talking Point

Nassau's elusive contract deals

Unions representing much of Nassau County’s police and civil workforce have been working without contracts since December 2017. It was hoped that new agreements would fall into place soon after the expected reelection of Laura Curran as county executive. Now everything has changed.

The Correction Officers Benevolent Association, insiders say, was so close to a deal that one described that contract as being "on the one-foot-line." The PBA, having already seen former president James McDermott agree to a deal the membership nixed by a thin margin, couldn’t easily demand very much more than what its leaders already agreed was fair, so there was more repackaging than re-imagining slated for that offer.

And if the PBA received anything that exceeded what the detectives and superior officers unions garnered, a new PBA deal could trigger reopeners in those now-settled contracts.

Meanwhile, the CSEA and the county were still far apart.

That was the state of play when Republican Bruce Blakeman’s surprise win reshuffled everything.

Now Gary Dellaverson, the labor attorney the Nassau Interim Finance Authority hired for $25,000 a month in late 2018, has seen his role in the new administration diminish.

But attorney and longtime Republican county mainstay Peter Bee is back on the job for Blakeman as outside counsel, handling the issues surrounding litigation on the battle over longevity pay, and taking a hand in union negotiations.

And even as the hoped-for year-end completion date for the contract slipped away, two new complications were brewing:

  • Inflation has surged since the end of the year, making it likely the unions and their members will want more than what was on the table when prices were flat.
  • The NIFA control period, triggered by huge county deficits more than a decade ago, gets harder to justify as Nassau enjoys fiscal surpluses flowing from pandemic funding and improved sales tax receipts.

And on the CSEA front, where points of agreement with the county have been hard to find, Nassau CSEA president Ron Gurrieri says he doesn’t accept the premise of the county stance.

"They want to point to a pattern that was established with the detectives and superior officers deals, with several years of no raises," Gurrieri said, "but those police officers make three times as much money as my members. The pattern that matters is comparable workers, like CSEA employees in the towns of Hempstead and Oyster Bay, who did get significant raises, because they earned them and they needed them."

NIFA Chairman Adam Barsky told The Point this week that the detectives and superior officers’ deals Dellaverson helped pen were strong contracts that were fair to both sides and continued a consistent and reasonable pattern. He added that Dellaverson is still working for NIFA, and the control board is still highly concerned about future budget deficits.

"What we’re trying to prevent here is a return of the patterns of spending and budgeting that created the need for a control period in the first place," Barsky said.

— Lane Filler @lanefiller

Pencil Point

The great dictator

Bob Gorrell

Bob Gorrell

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/nationalcartoons

Final Point

Under par?

Now that his bid to take the GOP’s Garden City convention by storm came up unsuccessful, Andrew Giuliani will be appearing back on Long Island Thursday evening in his continued effort to woo over voters.

The gubernatorial hopeful will be making remarks at the Bellport Country Club, which overlooks one of Long Island’s many golf courses. That, at least, is comfortable territory for Giuliani.

While most New Yorkers might know Giuliani mostly as the son of former NYC mayor Rudy or otherwise as a onetime aide to President Donald Trump, golf is another major part of his biography.

He and Trump are longtime golfing buddies, having played together "over 300 times," says campaign spokeswoman Heather McBride, who adds that the twosome last played together in September.

Newsday reported in 2011 that Trump made a golf-course phone call to Olympic gold medal figure skater Sarah Hughes on behalf of Giuliani.

"I'm here on the golf course with Andrew, and he really wants to take you out on Wednesday night," Trump said, according to Hughes.

The younger Giuliani played golf at Duke University, though not without incident: As a rising senior, he filed an ultimately unsuccessful court action against the school for allegedly pushing him off the team. In the complaint, he disputed charges against him including that he squabbled with a teammate and played too hard in a football game training session.

Still, it had been his "dream to become a professional golfer after college," the filing noted, and McBride says he won eight tournaments as a professional golfer.

But his experience in the major league PGA Tour was brief.

"He missed the cut in a Korn Ferry Tour event in 2011, the South Georgia Classic," PGA Tour spokeswoman Laura Neal emailed The Point. "That was his one start on any tours owned or operated by the PGA TOUR."

The athlete-turned-candidate surely hopes his gubernatorial run will go further, though now he’s busy with the petitioning process to get on the primary ballot against Rep. Lee Zeldin, who earned the official GOP nomination for governor this week.

Though Giuliani has played numerous courses on Long Island, none were recent, says spokeswoman McBride: "Andrew hasn't played golf since the aforementioned round with President Trump."

— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

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