12/10/2017 10:40PM

Proposals unveiled for underused parcels at Belmont Park

The site plan submitted by the New York Islanders of the National Hockey League calls for an arena and retail space adjacent to Belmont Park.

ELMONT, N.Y. – For the first time publically, the two groups hoping to redevelop underutilized property at Belmont Park revealed their plans on Sunday.

One group, representing the New York Islanders of the National Hockey League, wants to build an 18,000-seat arena that would return the team to Long Island, where they played at the Nassau Coliseum from 1972 to 2015 before moving to Brooklyn. The plan includes 435,000 square feet of dining and retail space as well as a hotel and 10,000 square feet for community space.

Another group, representing the New York City Football Club, a professional soccer team owned in part by the New York Yankees, wants to build a 26,000-seat soccer stadium. That plan also includes 400,000 square feet for dining and retail as well as 5.2 acres for a community park and two acres for smaller community soccer fields.

The plans were unveiled at Elmont High School before hundreds of residents of nearby communities interested in how the projects would impact their residential neighborhoods.

Neither project is expected to hinder racing at Belmont Park on a long-term basis. There could, however, be a short-term impact during the construction period of whichever project is approved.

The decision on which group gets to go ahead with its project will be made by the Empire State Development Corp., which in July put out a request for proposals for two parcels of property at Belmont. One parcel consisted of approximately eight acres bordered on the south by Hempstead Turnpike and abutting the Cross Island Parkway. The second site consists of 28 acres south of Hempstead Turnpike. That second site is currently a parking lot that, aside from Belmont Stakes Day, is rented by the New York Racing Association to local car dealerships to house new cars.

Based on the proposals unveiled Sunday, either venue would be constructed on the property of Belmont Park behind the western end of the grandstand and take up significant space in the backyard. Both venues would include retail shops and dining and be easily accessible to the Long Island Rail Road station.

“The arena is located north of Hempstead Turnpike for a couple of key reasons,” said James Carmello, an architect with Populous, which would construct the arena for the Islanders group. “The first reason is that it will be in close proximity to the Long Island Rail Road platform. The second key part is it concentrates the activity closer to the grandstand so that entertainment activity will be closer to the grandstand and the platform but further away from the residential neighborhoods.”

The Islanders are owned by Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin, the latter being the chairman of Value Retail, which has several retail outlet villages worldwide. Those types of outlet stores would be a key element of the retail component of this project.

“We don’t just want another arena, we want meaningful development,” said Richard Browne, managing partner of Sterling Properties, whose parent company is owned by the Wilpon family, which owns the Mets.

Browne noted that his father has been coming to Belmont Park for 67 years.

“He’s still coming,” Browne said.

The proposal by the NYCFC also includes space for outlet and other retail shops as well as dining. This proposal would utilize the property south of Hempstead Turnpike for a multipurpose park that would include soccer fields for youth events.

“Communities need open space, they’re starving for open space,” said Avi Kollenscher, senior vice president of Related Companies, a privately owned real estate firm working with the NYCFC group. “We call this project ‘Fields of Belmont’ because it really ties in what we’re trying achieve here, which is a vibrant, 24-7 master-plan community that’s going to be activated, be a job creator and something that’s going to benefit not just business but the people who live in this community.”

While both groups acknowledged the likelihood of increased vehicular traffic to the area, both hoped fans would utilize the Long Island Rail Road to attend games and other events.

It is not clear when Empire State Development Corp. will choose its proposal. The Islanders are scheduled to play at Barclays through the 2018-19 season.

“Belmont Park represents an opportunity for vibrant community and economic growth in the region, and we’re currently reviewing proposals for the site,” said Amy Varghese, spokeswoman for Empire State Development Corp.

A spokesperson for NYRA said the company looked forward to working with whichever group is awarded the project.

“While it would be inappropriate to offer specific comments on either proposal, ESD’s goal – as noted in the RFP itself – is to strengthen Belmont Park as a premier destination for sports, entertainment, and hospitality in a way that complements and enhances Thoroughbred racing at Belmont,” said Pat McKenna of NYRA. “As the cornerstone of an industry responsible for 17,000 jobs and more than $2 billion in economic impact annually, NYRA looks forward to working with the successful bidder to drive racing forward at Belmont Park and advance the goals set forth in the RFP.”