As Legislative Session Comes to an End, In Retrospect the Pros Far Outweigh the Cons With New Belmont Park Project

By Senator Joseph Addabbo, Jr. | June 2, 2023

Even though iGaming was not included in this year’s budget, there was good news for the horseracing industry as the New York Racing Association (NYRA) is set to receive a $455 million loan to build new thoroughbred racing facilities at Belmont Park.

Through the state budget approval, NYRA will be allowed to construct a new building at Belmont Park to replace the existing grandstand and clubhouse, creating a brand-new, state-of-the-art, more efficient racing facility.

This will become one of the most ambitious and significant racetrack construction projects in recent memory and will make Belmont Park a premiere destination for horseracing fans across the country. The new version of Belmont Park will continue New York’s long legacy of quality horseracing and improve upon it with modernized and upgraded facilities that fans can truly appreciate.

As with most large-scale, big-ticket projects, there were those who criticized the plan. Fortunately for New York, the pros far outweigh the cons. Aside from the fans enjoying the new facilities, the jockeys, backstretch community and the horses themselves will benefit state-wide from these upgrades.

In addition to the roughly 3,500 union construction jobs, including a $130 million MWBE component, and $1 billion in related economic impacts, the project will also create over 700 post-construction full-time jobs, which jobs could be responsible for $155 million in annual economic benefits.

Recent out-of-state, track-related horse deaths around the time of the Kentucky Derby, have some advocates condemning the Belmont project. In actuality, the new Belmont synthetic surface track is safer for racehorses. In addition, the new modern Belmont Park will be more environmentally friendly, creating 45 acres of green space, and will become fully ADA accessible. NYRA itself will become more efficient as it merges the operations of Belmont and Aqueduct. The NYRA deal will also come at no cost to the taxpayer, as it is statutorily obligated to repay the loan in full, with an additional $80 million in interest being paid to the state.

When construction on the new Belmont Park is completed, it begs the question, ‘what will happen to the 110 acres of Aqueduct Racetrack property in South Ozone Park, Queens?’ Another benefit of the Belmont project is that the land located at the Aqueduct Racetrack will be turned over to the state, valued at $1 billion.

As the former State Senate representative of Aqueduct Racetrack, and the current Chair of the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, I know that the future fate of the Aqueduct land is of great importance to New York and the local community.

There are many proposed uses for this land, all of which are noble causes. It was essential to negotiate into the budget language that when the Aqueduct property is ready to be transferred to the state, the local community will have input as to its future use. The potential to allow the Resorts World Casino to expand, which would create a significant number of additional local union jobs and add to its already $3 billion contribution to state educational funding, could be combined with addressing the possible need for appropriate, affordable housing.

There are many changes coming to the world of horseracing here in New York, and it’s important to ensure that the pros outweigh the cons with those changes for the people of New York. I believe it’s clear that the Belmont Park project does that.

Joseph Addabbo represents New York’s 15th State Senate District and serves as the Chairman of the Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering.