Under proposal, new governing board to include representatives from Ozone Park; Assemblyman touts plan as way to improve historic Aqueduct Racetrack
Ozone Park, Queens – A year after American Pharoah’s successful Triple Crown run thrilled fans and brought horse racing to new heights across New York State, Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D – Ozone Park) is among the first out of the gate to support a new restructuring plan to revitalize the New York Racing Association (NYRA). Goldfeder joined colleagues representing other race tracks in sending a letter to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo asking him to support a proposal that would transition NYRA to private, not-for-profit status and create a new Board of Directors that will include host community representatives from Queens and other respective track communities.
“NYRA has really hit its stride in bringing new levels of popularity and profitability to horse racing across New York State,” said Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder. “Our proposed restructuring plan will help put the state’s racetracks on an equal footing with programs across the country and give them a real run for their money. Most importantly, it will give a voice to communities around Aqueduct Racetrack and ensure the continued success of this great sports facility.”
In a letter to Governor Cuomo, Assemblyman Goldfeder presented the outline of a new governing structure for NYRA under a proposed return to private, not-for-profit status. The letter details the composition of a new 15-member Board of Directors that will include representatives from the state Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, state Breeders Association, and an equine veterinarian. The board will also include the NYRA C.E.O. and 3-at large members nominated by the board.
Most notably, the new board outlined by Goldfeder and fellow legislators will include two host community representatives each from Ozone Park, Elmont and Saratoga Springs, which are home to the state’s three premier racetracks: Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga, respectively. Under the plan, the six members would be appointed by the Mayor or Supervisor of the host community. The plan also proposes the creation of Community Advisory Boards (CABs) for each host community. NYRA officials would regularly meet with the CABs to review and take comments on policies and programs impacting the local communities.
Goldfeder’s letter comes shortly after NYRA voted in favor of the restructuring plan during its full board meeting on April 12th. If approved by the legislature and the Governor, the plan would return NYRA to private status for the first time since it was placed under state control in 2012. In the years since, the organization has experience consistent explosive growth, aided in part by the surge in popularity surrounding the 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, who drew record crowds to Belmont Park and Saratoga. According to a media release following the meeting, NYRA has seen back-to-back profitable years in 2014-15, with $1.7 million in profits in 2014 and $3.5 million in 2015, a first since its 2006 bankruptcy.
In the Assemblyman’s Queens district, Aqueduct Racetrack has had its share of the recent success. NYRA reported that during the 2016 winter meet, the track’s average daily handle, or mutual stake wagers, were up $831,590, while its total handle had increased $54.5 million year-over-year. Additionally, Goldfeder recently announced that the Resorts World Casino, located on the track grounds, is poised to receive 1,000 video lottery terminals as part of a state budget deal with Nassau County. A portion of the revenues generated by the addition would fund maintenance work at the racetrack. For Goldfeder, the increased revenue and the proposed NYRA restructuring are steps towards ensuring the historic track’s long-term viability.
“For years, NYRA, Aqueduct Racetrack and Resort World have put their money on Queens and brought prestige and economic opportunity to our families and the community as a whole. It’s time we put a leadership structure in place that will continue the current success and make sure our community is represented,” concluded Goldfeder.
Ozone Park, Queens – Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (center) holds a 2014 press conference calling for greater funding for Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens. The Assemblyman is joining colleagues in asking Governor Cuomo to support a proposal that would transition the New York Racing Association to private, not-for-profit status and create a new Board of Directors that will include host community representatives from Queens and other respective track communities.