08/31/2012 3:53PM

State solicits bids to develop land at Belmont Park


Two parking lots with a combined area of 36 acres at Belmont Park might be sold under a plan that would allow a state agency to consider proposals to redevelop the tracts.

The New York Racing Franchise Oversight Board approved the plan Thursday, allowing Empire State Development to solicit bids for the properties. The agency plans to release a request for proposals Sept. 15, with bids accepted until Oct. 17.

The larger parcel of 28 acres is south of Belmont across Hempstead Turnpike. The other is a parking lot to the west of the grandstand adjacent to the Long Island Railroad spur.

The RFP will allow for proposals for retail shops, hotels, institutional or educational facilities, and office space for the larger tract. The smaller tract will be considered for retail, lodging, resort or spa facilities, or any use complementary to horse racing.

The sites cannot be considered for proposals for residential housing or video-lottery terminals, the agency said.

Representatives of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo did not return phone calls seeking comment Friday. A spokesperson for Belmont’s operator, the New York Racing Association, said the association would not comment.

Under an agreement that NYRA reached with the state allowing for its bankruptcy reorganization in 2008 and a 30-year operating franchise, NYRA gave up the titles to the three tracks it operates, Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga. The agreement stipulated that the two Belmont tracts could be redeveloped.

Earlier this year, NYRA reached an agreement with Cuomo to disband its board and replace it with a smaller board controlled by appointees of Cuomo and other legislative leaders for three years. Cuomo’s budget director, Robert Megna, is chairman of the Franchise Oversight Board, which has broad powers to review NYRA’s operations.

The possibility of development at Belmont comes at a time when Cuomo is pushing for a constitutional amendment to legalize seven full-fledged casinos. Legislation allowing for the casinos passed this year. Constitutional amendments in New York can be adopted only if the same legislation is passed in two consecutive legislatures and approved in a statewide referendum, so the earliest the amendment could be approved is late 2013.

If the amendment is approved, Belmont would likely be considered a potential site for a casino. The new casinos would be allowed to operate slot machines, which have a different legal definition than video-lottery terminals.