LIRR ridership sets record
June 7’s Belmont Stakes attracted 102,199 spectators — the third-largest crowd in the event’s 146-year history. Of those, approximately 36,000 used the Long Island Rail Road train system to get to Belmont Park in Elmont, which LIRR Spokesman Aaron Donovan confirmed to the Herald nearly doubled the previous record set in 2008. Donovan pointed to the positives of such high ridership, amid complaints from riders about overcrowding.
“The LIRR took more cars off the road this year than any other year,” Donovan said. “We shattered the record.”
Donovan did, however, also admit that although nearly 6,000 less spectators used the LIRR for departures than they did for arrivals, the fact that they all wanted to leave after watching California Chrome fall short of a Triple Crown presented a problem with overcrowding.
“It’s difficult to manage,” he said. “[Riders leaving at the same time] does present logistical hurdles. It’s not easy. There were some complaints with the departures, but that’s why we do encourage Stakes fans to stick around after the Races for other events at the Park.”
New York Racing Association CEO Christopher Kay said that although the event was a “smashing success” and generated millions of dollars, there were a host of issues with transportation.
“We recognize the transportation problems that ensued at the end of the day and will work quickly with LIRR officials and local law enforcement to ensure better service in the future.”
Assemblywoman says Belmont has ‘crumbling infrastructure’
In a letter she sent to state Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages (D-Elmont) expressed her concerns about what she referred to as “crumbling infrastructure” at Belmont Park that must be addressed before Empire State Development Corp. makes a decision about future development at the site. Following the race, the pedestrian bridge that leads from the Park’s grandstand to the train station had to be shut down due to pieces of falling concrete from under the bridge.