08/28/2005 11:00PM

Six named to New York bid panel


New York Gov. George Pataki and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno on Friday each appointed three people to a nine-person committee that will oversee the bidding for the New York Racing Association's franchise to operate Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga.

The group, which is being called the Committee on the Future of Racing, was created by legislation earlier this year that was supported by Pataki and Bruno. Under the legislation, the committee will be responsible for drafting a request for proposals to operate NYRA's franchise and issuing recommendations to the governor, legislature, and New York State Racing and Wagering Board on any bids that are received.

NYRA's franchise expires at the end of 2007, and the bidding process to operate the racetracks - along with a casino at Aqueduct that is expected to take in $1 billion in slot-machine handle a year - is expected to be highly politicized.

The appointees to the committee include Jackson Knowlton, the managing partner of Sackatoga Stable, which owns 2003 Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide. Knowlton, a Saratoga Springs resident who is the president of Empire Health Advisors, was appointed by Bruno, whose district includes Saratoga Springs.

Bruno's other appointees are John Nigro, the president of an Albany real estate development company, and Edward P. Swyer, the founder of several real estate companies in upstate New York.

Pataki's three appointments are J. Patrick Barrett, a former chief executive of Avis Inc.; Bernadette Castro, the commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation; and Fredric S. Newman, a founding partner of the law firm Hoguet Newman & Regal.

Knowlton is also a board member of Friends of New York Racing, a racing advocacy group that is expected to issue a draft of a bill to reform New York's racing law in September. The bill will likely seek to legalize slot machines at Belmont Park and carve out protections for horsemen and the racing industry from slot-machine revenue.

Knowlton said on Friday that he would consult with members of Bruno's staff in order to determine whether to resign from the board of Friends of New York Racing. "I'm prepared to do that if they think it's appropriate," Knowlton said.

The final three appointments to the committee will be made by Rep. Sheldon Silver, the speaker of the Assembly. Silver has also yet to make the final appointment to a five-person NYRA oversight panel. The other four members - three appointed by Pataki and one by Bruno - have already been selected.

Sisa Moyo, a spokeswoman for Silver, said that selections to both panels have not yet been finalized, but she said Silver expects to announce the appointments "shortly."