Thursday, November 15, 2007

Calling out the Judge

The Thursday edition of Newsday, the predominant Long Island newspaper, included the following letter to the editor:

Turn Belmont Park into new courthouse facilities

For years, we have been trying to fix Nassau County Family Court, which has been inadequate since the 1970s, and to refurbish Nassau County Court (a great example of WPA architecture). That courthouse needs to be gutted and completely redone from top to bottom if we want to preserve it, and we would have to find backup facilities for both while these projects took place.

There would be a strain on parking for the litigants, court personnel, jurors and the like. Garden City doesn't want a family court in the village. The county does not have the funds to undertake the projects. The county would like to restore the land on both sites to the tax rolls.

In the meantime, the community of Elmont is occupied by an outside force that is not part of the community, underused during the day and vacant at night. That force is delinquent, according to Newsday, on taxes and has been accused in the past of criminal activity. I speak, of course, of the New York Racing Association and its 400-acre site in Nassau called Belmont Park.

The NYRA franchise is up for renewal. It is in debt to Nassau County for back taxes, and racing as a sport is being overwhelmed by competitive gambling from OTB, casinos, lotteries and lack of interest.

My proposal is to take over the land at Belmont, deed the land to a private builder in exchange for the construction of a state-of-the-art court facility, leasing the facility back to the county for $100 per year for the next 60 years. In return, the developer would receive use of the remaining land for commercial and residential use with tax incentives.

The location has excellent public transportation; the county jail is close; there is ample room for parking for all who need it. Elmont would have many new corporate citizens.

Yes, the Belmont Stakes would be run at Aqueduct, but the Hambletonian Trotting Race is no longer run in New York. The Polo Grounds, along with Ebbets Field and Shea Stadium, have been demolished or removed, and the House that Ruth Built is becoming a playground.

Surely this idea is worth some public discussion.

John L. Kase

Editor's note: The writer is a Nassau County Court judge.


Now that you have read the fiction, here are some facts:
- The point that Garden City doesn't want the Family Court and that Nassau County would like to add the old court facilities to the tax rolls has nothing to do with what is best for New York racing, or New York State in general.

- The ownership of the Belmont property is a major question between the State and NYRA. It has never come up that Nassau County has any claim to the land. How then, could the County confiscate the land for a court?

- Belmont is vacant at night? Well, mostly, except for the 1,000+ horses that are there generating revenue for Nassau County residents that make a living training, grooming and riding them.

- The Belmont Stakes should be run at Aqueduct? With all do respect your honor, your ignorance shows that you should keep your opinion on this subject to yourself. It's not the same thing as playing a baseball game at another stadium.

So, Judge Kase, I have a counter offer. Let's convert those horrible old court houses to OTB facilities (run by NYRA in my model). You may be unhappy with your digs and seek to take mine. I then, think it's fair to propose taking yours.

As you said, "Surely this idea is worth some public discussion."


Teresa said...

Thank you so much for posting this--UNBELIEVABLE! As if there's not enough garbage and politics (are they different things?) flying around on this issue...this guy's self-serving nonsense makes me bananas. Love your point about the land...maybe Nassau County wants to purchase it from the state?

Also another great example of the power-grab that this brings out in people, without the slighest consideration for the people truly in jeopardy and held hostage by this process: the backstretch workers.

alan said...

I don't believe that the Hambletonian was ever run in NY State.


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