03/26/2010 12:00AM

NYRA lays off 12 staffers to save $1.4M


Facing serious financial challenges in the wake of a scuttled casino project at Aqueduct and a bankrupt New York City Off-Track Betting Corp., the New York Racing Association on Friday announced that it had let go 12 employees whose salaries combine to be $1.4 million annually.

John Ryan, a senior vice-president/chief administrative officer, was the highest-ranking official terminated, according to multiple sources. Ryan's annual salary was $295,000, according to figures NYRA provided in February to the New York State Franchise Oversight Board. Sources also confirmed that Ryan's secretary, Gina Toner, wife of veteran trainer Jimmy Toner, was also let go. Others fired included Debbie Solomine, longtime head of group sales, Mary Jean Coscia, director of purchasing, Kevin Gremillion, operations manager at Saratoga, and secretaries Beverly Everty and Patricia Megerdichian.

NYRA officials would not release the names of those terminated, citing privacy laws.

"This was a difficult, but unfortunately a necessary decision that was dictated by the current economic downturn of the racing industry and NYRA's current challenging financial situation," Charles Hayward, NYRA's president and CEO said in a statement released by the company's communications department.

NYRA's financial struggles have been exacerbated by the fact that planned revenue from a long-stalled casino project at Aqueduct has yet to be realized and the fact that New York City OTB has filed for bankruptcy.

The casino project at Aqueduct is on hold after Gov. David Paterson's choice, Aqueduct Entertainment Group, was deemed not worthy of being issued a gaming license by the state lottery department. Now, there are differing plans on whether to restart the bidding process from scratch - which could set the project back until at least mid-2011 - or just choosing a new vendor from the four remaining bidders.

Meanwhile, NYRA is owed more than $15 million from OTB, which in January filed for bankruptcy and is making only post bankruptcy petition, statutory and contractual payments to NYRA.