Cuomo Calls Aqueduct A ‘Waste’ – Says racing site should be transformed

Cuomo Calls Aqueduct A ‘Waste’ – Says racing site should be transformed

Gov. Cuomo recently said that the Aqueduct's days as a racetrack are likely numbered. File Photo

Gov. Cuomo recently said that the Aqueduct’s days as a racetrack are likely numbered. File Photo

Following protests in September from the New York Racing Association that the Aqueduct Race Track in South Ozone Park was in no immediate danger of closing following a report that said otherwise, Gov. Cuomo said the space’s days are numbered.

In a recent meeting with the Daily News’ editorial board, the governor reportedly called the race track “a waste” and said it would better serve the state if transformed into something else – which the Daily News suggested be something along the lines of affordable housing.

“‘You could do anything at Aqueduct,’” the Daily News reported Cuomo telling its editorial board. “‘I mean, you’re right at the airport. It’s a great piece of property. It’s one of the largest pieces of property, probably in the city of New York.’”

State Budget Director Robert Megna, who attended the same meeting, said NYRA Chairman David Skorton was seriously looking into the possibility of closing Queens’ race track.

The governor’s statements follow protestations from NYRA in September that the financially-strapped racing organization was not going to shutter Aqueduct any time soon.

Following a report by the Albany Times Union that at an Albany meeting of the NYRA reorganization board, trustees addressed the group’s financial woes and said they were looking at a variety of ways to give the organization a financial boost, including ending Aqueduct’s reign as one of three thoroughbred horse-racing tracks in New York state.

“There are no plans to close Aqueduct,” NYRA spokesman Eric Wing said in September. “There was a lot of preliminary, informal discussion about a host of possibilities regarding everything from monies to legislation that hasn’t passed yet, and in the course of that discussion Aqueduct came up.”

Wing said that while trustees did discuss Aqueduct’s tenure, the idea of closing the track was in no way meant to be taken as a concrete proposal.

NYRA is facing significant financial difficulties, and its operating loss for the first six months of this year is twice as much as the loss that occurred during the same period in 2012. The numbers improve when incorporating the revenue from the VLTs run by Resorts World Casino New York City – a racino located next to the track, and NYRA reported a net income of $8.1 million when including funds from the terminals.

Additionally, in September a former state official who worked on racing issues, but wished to remain anonymous, panned the notion that Queens’ track would become a thing of the past.

“The idea they would shut down a race track that’s connected to the largest taxpayer in the state – Resorts World – is highly unlikely,” the individual said.

By Anna Gustafson


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