Floral Park seeks more input on NYRA privatization

Grace McQuade
Floral Park’s Village Hall is seen on Floral Boulevard. (Photo from Google Maps)

Floral Park officials contacted state senators this week asking for more input on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to privatize the New York Racing Association.

Deputy Mayor Kevin Fitzgerald, who leads the village’s Belmont Park Task Force, read about Tuesday’s special Senate hearing in Albany on the future of NYRA, which operates horse-racing tracks, including Belmont Park in Elmont.

This week’s hearing took place before the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee. The list of invited speakers included the executive director of the New York Thoroughbred Breeders Inc., the president of the New York Thoroughbred Horseman’s Association, the president of the Saratoga Chamber of Commerce, and a member of the Saratoga Race Horse Community Advisory Board.

After reading about the planned hearing in several periodicals, Fitzgerald said, he noticed there was no representation for Belmont Park.

He sent a letter this week to state Sen. John Bonacic (R-Mount Hope), the Senate committee chairman, about the potential end of state control for NYRA, saying Floral Park, along with other communities surrounding Belmont Park, also have a stake in the privatization of NYRA and the implications.

“In addition, I asked the senator to establish a Belmont Community Advisory Board similar to the one in Saratoga, with Floral Park being a part of it,” Fitzgerald said at Tuesday’s village Board of Trustees meeting.

In 2012, Cuomo created a government-appointed control board to operate NYRA for three years, after which it was to become a private, nonprofit corporation again.

But privatization has been pushed back over the past two years, Floral Park officials said.

NYRA also operates Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens and the Saratoga Race Course in upstate Saratoga Springs.

Horse racing leaders spoke in favor of re-privatizing NYRA at Tuesday’s hearing, saying it would help the industry expand, Spectrum News reported.

“This cannot wait any longer,” Jeffrey Cannizzo, the executive director of the New York State Thoroughbred Breeders Association, said, according to Spectrum’s report. “The cloud that has loomed over our industry needs to disappear.”

Floral Park Mayor Thomas Tweedy commended Fitzgerald for tracking this latest development by staying abreast of horse racing industry issues and taking immediate and appropriate action to protect the interests of the village.

The Belmont Park Task Force has tracked proposals to further develop Belmont Park since its inception in 2008.

“The influences that we often deal with are those that come from outside of Floral Park,” Tweedy said.

“This village board … takes our responsibility here quite sincere — the oath we take, we take as a moral commitment to maintain Floral Park as we need to,” Tweedy later added.

Also on Tuesday, the Board of Trustees postponed a vote on changes to the village code of ethics, including new anti-nepotism provisions, to its Feb. 7 meeting, citing a lack of public feedback on the revisions.

Noah Manskar contributed reporting.

Share this Article