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Ideas exchanged for Belmont Park space at development meeting

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There was a great divide between the 300 residents of Queens and Nassau counties who attended a meeting Monday night at Elmont Memorial Library on what should be done to develop about 36 acres of available space at Belmont Park.

Empire State Development, the state’s economic financing wing, is sending out a proposal for development and set up the parameters for what vendors can build there with “loans, grants, tax credits, real estate development, and marketing,” according to the state government’s website.

State Sens. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), Todd Kaminsky (D-Rockville Center) and Elaine Phillips (R- Mineola), as well as Assembly members Clyde Vanel (D-Queens Village) and Michaelle Solages (D-Valley Stream), listened to residents’ various requests about what ESD should include in its plans for the site at 2150 Hempstead Turnpike in Elmont.

Many residents assume Empire might designate the area for two sports teams after the New York Islanders NHL team’s unpopular move to Barclays Center in Brooklyn from Nassau Coliseum and the New York Cosmos’ failed 2012 bid for space .

Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, who owns the Barclays’s building, projected as far back as January that the hockey team would not add to the center’s revenue and many fans had issues with the viewing area. This resulted in fewer than 13,000 people attending games in an arena with 18,000 seats, according to Bloomberg.com.

Residents from Queens Village, Cambria Heights, Elmont and the neighboring Floral Park were not pleased by the idea, insisting a sports arena would create low-paying jobs in security, ushering and groundskeeping. Denizens from further towns in Nassau County or other boroughs were more worried about losing the Islanders, however.

Some of the 25 Islander fans who were present came from Uniondale, Garden City and Manhattan, according to the speakers’ list provided by Kaminsky’s office.

“We, as a community, are saying to you that you are making a gross error if, in fact, that [request for proposal] is going to be moving forward and is indeed tailored for [a sports arena for] the Islanders,” Elmont resident Aubrey Phillips said.

“You must choose between people that have flooded our auditorium in favor ofone hour of fun [and] juxtapose that with people that live here after that hour is finished. When that hour is finished, we the residents of Elmont and the greater community, have to clean it up and live with it,” Phillips said.

Floral Park resident Matthew Sexton suggested that Nassau County should get back to being a center of innovation.

It was a place for aerospace innovation as far back as the 1920s, according to the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency.

“The RFP for the New York Cosmos was pulled in 2012 because it went bankrupt,” Sexton said. “Economists all agree that arenas are a net economic loss for our area.”

The assertion drew boos from Islander fans in attendance.

“What I propose is an incubator,” Sexton said. “Empire Development Corp. has no problem building this in Rochester and Buffalo, bringing in development for energy and technology. We are going to be the largest African-American community in the country. Do you know that African-Americans will go on to college disproportionately in technology fields?”

New York City has 2.2 million black people, according to a 2010 U.S. Census Bureau report. That is the most in any city across the country. Elmont has a population that is 45 percent black, according to a 2016 city data report.

Sexton cited the example of a tech incubator in Texas that will bring in a lot of money for that state.

“I don’t want us to think big, I want us to think smart,” Sexton said.

The nearly 60 speakers did agree there should be daily LIRR service to Belmont Park. The current rail is only operational for horse races from April to July.

Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

Posted 12:00 am, July 13, 2017
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Reader feedback

mandella says:
Now that NY politicians have savaged most of the city's land in their gentrification schemes they're now spreading that elitism into Nassau County with their fake "(re) development" plans by kicking to the curb low-income residents as they've done in the boroughs.
July 13, 3:14 am
Jay from Elmont says:
This article is very misleading. As an attendee of the meeting, generalizing all the residents to be opposed to the plan is very wrong. Many from those communities, including me, did back the idea of an arena as well as other developments on the property since it is 36 acres. And revitalization occurs in many towns on Long Island, which is why we made a vision plan for our community to promote the right development since we worked with several entities for the plan in 2007. As a journalist, you should be precise with what you report on and everyone should understand the topic before writing on something that they do fully understand.
July 13, 1:07 pm
Jim Johnson from Elmont says:
Let's go Islanders!!
July 13, 4:29 pm
Virginia from Elmont says:
We don't need a sports arena to bring down our property values. The islanders did nothing for uniondale...it helped the neighboring areas such as east meadow and Westbury but who stayed in uniondale? The same would happen here. And we don't need low wage jobs...those of us paying the taxes need real jobs...this will create maybe 2 managerial jobs and the rest will be min wage. Even hotel managers don't earn more than $11-$13/hr...I applied to the hotels in Carle place and the night manager was only getting $11-13/hr. They have to consider the noise level also...we can hear concerts from there by my house. A lot needs to be considered. Keep it as green space...just fix it up. NYRA is already working on winterizing the track so we will have year round racing there...no more aqueduct.
July 14, 10:05 am
Alex Y. from Floral Park says:
Sorry to say but the RFP was not pulled in 2012. In fact the community session at Sewanaka HS wasn't even until 2014.
If the rfp process had not dragged on for so long the cosmos could have actually generated revenue to stay viable.
The cosmos plan at least had 8 restaurants and a movie theatre that would be open year round for the community to use and enjoy. It also was an arena for a sport that is actually growing in popularity not declining. We already have a disgusting and aged horse track you want us to now also get stuck with a dedicated ice arena when the islanders leave the next time?

A business park with incubation as the goal might be great as long as the funders are in it for the long haul. It can't be like ESD and NYEDC's normal course of seeding and running. Thus leaving a poorly funded incubator with no real benefits to be useful. It also may need to get equity stake in ventures so that once they get their unicorn that becomes the endowment for the future. Otherwise we will just end up with a weird and drab set of empty buildings like Lake Success.
July 14, 2:43 pm
analytics genius from Queens Village says:
Well my house has market value $650K if Empire development corp. aka NYS builds anything at belmont. houses will be back to $350k elmont will benefit. Elmont is like Trenton Camden Newark. Drive around Elmont and look at the people.
July 15, 10:05 pm

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