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NYRA deal nearly finalized

As part of the agreement, which was not finalized as of Wednesday morning, NYRA would continue to run Aqueduct, Belmont Park in Elmont, L.I. and Saratoga Race Course for 25 years, The Times reported. The non-profit has been operating the tracks since 1955.In exchange for the state extending NYRA's franchise, the non-profit would withdraw its claims on the land where Aqueduct and the other two tracks are situated while also receiving $105 million in state funds to help the organization get through bankruptcy court, the paper said."I think we're finally close," said Larry Love, a staffer for state Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Rockaway Beach), at a Community Board 10 meeting last week.But Steven Duncker, the chairman of the New York Racing Association, said in a statement Monday that "discussions are going backward, not forward" and threatened to close Aqueduct if an agreement was not reached.Love said the Feb. 13 deadline for the state to reach a decision on who will control Aqueduct and operate the video lottery terminals to be installed there "is a real deadline. (This) one's not going away."There had been a Dec. 31, 2007 deadline to approve who would operate Aqueduct, which passed without an agreement. Instead, Gov. Eliot Spitzer granted the New York Racing Association, whose franchise to run the state's tracks expired on that date, a temporary extension running until Wednesday.A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) said Tuesday that "negotiations are continuing" and Silver was optimistic that the Feb. 13 deadline would be met.Love said the details of a deal were "still being fine-tuned."A staffer at Pheffer's Albany office said Tuesday afternoon that the assemblywoman had not gotten any notice of a vote by the Legislature on Aqueduct.Duncker said an agreement being ironed out "does not provide the proper business model and economic terms that permit NYRA to emerge from bankruptcy."Love said Pheffer would like to see the video lottery terminals Ð which were also discussed for Belmont Ð in Aqueduct first before any other state track gets them as well as the Little League on the grounds of the South Ozone Park track "taken care of" as part of the agreement.Pheffer also wants community input for any future plans at Aqueduct, he said.Once lawmakers decide who will operate Aqueduct, an agreement on the video lottery terminals "should come quickly," Love said.Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R-Saratoga Springs) said in a statement last week that he expected a deal on racing "will be announced very shortly."Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

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