Belmont plans inch forward


Empire State Development has begun to obtain the necessary approvals to build its planned arena on 43 acres of state-owned land at Belmont Park.

On July 31, the state Public Authorities Control Board approved ESD’s lease of Franchise Oversight Board-owned land to build an arena, hotel and stores at Belmont Park under certain conditions, including the approval of a $40 million payment in lieu of taxes agreement. The PILOT would last throughout ESD’s lease for the arena, and for 20 years for a proposed hotel and 15 years for retail stores at the arena. An estimated $154 million would go to the Elmont and Sewanhaka school districts over almost 50 years, and the state would make at least $1 million per year from rent payments based on attendance.

The entire cost of the lease and construction would be funded by New York Arena Partners, which has agreed to pay $1.3 billion toward the project, according to ESD spokesman Jack Sterne.

“This is a step forward for the Belmont project,” he said in an emailed statement, “bringing us one step closer to a redevelopment opportunity that will produce 10,000 construction jobs, generate hundreds of millions in new tax dollars and create billions of dollars in economic activity. We look forward to continuing the approval process and working with our partners and community members to make this project a success.”

Sterne added that Empire State Development and the Franchise Oversight Board must also approve the lease, but it does not have to lease additional land for a proposed Long Island Rail Road station in Elmont because the MTA already owns the property between Elmont and Bellerose Terrace.

The station would be on the Hempstead line, and is estimated to cost about $105 million to complete. New York Arena Partners agreed to cover 92 percent of the total cost, with the state providing $8 million in funding. The eastbound platform would be built first to accommodate New York Islanders fans heading to the team’s opening game in 2021, and construction on the north side of the station is expected to be complete in 2022.

“We did the necessary surveying to build a station,” said Donna Haynes, assistant director of promotional partnerships and public affairs for the MTA.

The Elmont station would border the homes of 10 Bellerose Terrace residents, who were invited to a hearing about the proposed station on Aug. 1. But the meeting at the Bellerose Terrace Fire Department attracted residents who wanted to air their concerns about the station, which would be equidistant from the Queens Village and Bellerose Terrace stops.

A number of residents said they did not want an LIRR station in their neighborhood, saying they already have one about a half-mile to the west, and expressed their concerns that it would be near an elementary school that young children walk to. Some also raised concerns about the environmental effects of the construction, to which Haynes replied that the MTA would conduct soil testing before construction began.

Project status

The state released its final Environmental Impact Statement for the Belmont Park Arena project on July 8. When complete, the EIS stated, it would include a 19,000-seat arena, with more than 7,000 parking spaces, a 250-room hotel, a movie theater, a community center, commercial office space and 350,000 square feet of retail space. Additionally, it would include the renovation of the Elmont Road and Hendrickson Avenue parks, which have long suffered because of poor maintenance.

Some of the additions were, however, introduced for the first time in the report, according to State Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages, who wrote a letter to the ESD on July 31 requesting that it extend its public comment period — which ended on Aug. 1 — to accommodate further studies on the additions.

“There has been new information and project modifications introduced for the first time in the EIS that need to be thoroughly vetted so that my constituents, who will have to live with the ramifications of this project, as well as all relative agencies, can be provided with a meaningful opportunity to review and comment on those plans,” the letter read.

ESD was also scheduled to adopt the findings of the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act and State Urban Development Corporation Act at its headquarters in Manhattan on Aug. 8, after the Herald went to press.

Ronny Reyes contributed to this story.