MTA chairman recuses himself from Belmont station project

Rebecca Klar
MTA Chairman Joe Lhota will recuse himself from matters regarding Belmont expansion. (Photo courtesy of Joe Lhota via Twitter)

MTA Chairman Joe Lhota will recuse himself from the Long Island Rail Road expansion at the Belmont station, according to Newsday.

The recusal follows a letter written by the Belmont Park Community Coalition stating that Lhota, who is also employed by Madison Square Garden, has a conflict of interest concerning the Belmont project.

In December, the Empire State Development Corp. awarded a request for proposal bid to New York Arena Partners to build a 18,000-seat arena, a multipurpose event center, a retail center and a hotel on 43 acres of state-owned land currently used for parking spaces at Belmont Park.

New York Arena Partners is a partnership that includes Sterling Equities, the Scott Malkin Group, Madison Square Garden and the Oak View Group.

In its letter, the Belmont coalition states that according to filings made with the Securities and Exchange Commission Lhota was paid $150,000 by the Madison Square Garden Co. in 2017.

In December, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the arena would be built at Belmont Park it was also announced that the station would be renovated to accommodate additional traffic to Belmont.

Aubrey Phillips, an Elmont resident and vice president of the Parkhurst Civic Association, previously told Blank Slate Media that if the station is going to be improved it should be improved with the needs of the community in mind.

The station needs trains at 6 a.m. and 7 a.m., to take children to school and residents to work, Phillips said.

“Not at 4 in the afternoon simply because there’s a game there,” he added. “That has no sustainable economic or transportation influence on the Elmont community.”

The coalition has voiced other concerns about the project, including that a sports arena does not bring sustainable development to the community.

The coalition also has concerns over how the Empire State Development Corp. has handled the process, stating that the Belmont Community Advisory Committee that was formed earlier this month should have been formed before the bid was awarded.

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