Standing near the world-renowned Belmont Park, Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony J. Santino and Assemblyman Ed Ra called upon New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo and the MTA to upgrade the train station at the horse-racing facility to provide year-round commuter train service. The officials asserted that the state’s focus on development at the site provides a perfect opportunity to include commuter rail service for the underserved communities of Elmont and Franklin Square. Santino and Ra observed that providing commuter rail service is critical to stimulating the region’s economy, especially in the west end of Nassau County, by providing greater mass transit access for the local workforce to New York City, Queens and Brooklyn.
“State officials are acutely focused on economic development at Belmont Park Racetrack, and that is a good thing,” said Santino. “As part of the vision for Belmont’s future, we are asking the Governor and the MTA to seize an opportunity to provide year-round commuter train service at this site for the underserved communities of Elmont and Franklin Square. Creating greater access to job opportunities in Manhattan and the other boroughs would be a ‘shot-in-the-arm’ to local communities and our area’s economy.”
After reading news reports that indicated a Request for Proposals (RFP) is soon to be disseminated by state officials, seeking the vision of planners for transformative economic development at Belmont, Santino and Ra saw an opportunity for area residents, especially commuters. In specific, the Supervisor and Assemblyman observed that a recent $5 million Belmont Train Station platform expansion constituted a key infrastructure investment for this underutilized rail station. Further, the officials noted that two very large hamlets that surround the station, Elmont and Franklin Square, do not have local train stations. In fact, nearby train stations in Floral Park, Garden City, Stewart Manor and Valley Stream are located within village boundaries and offer extremely few parking opportunities for commuters of unincorporated areas such as Franklin Square and Elmont. Indeed, Elmont’s population of 33,198 and Franklin Square’s resident total of 29,320 represent among the largest hamlets in the town.
“Redevelopment plans for the property at Belmont Park present a unique opportunity for local commuters that should not be overlooked,” said Ra. “The hamlets of Franklin Square and Elmont deserve a viable alternative when it comes to commuting to the city.”
Santino and Ra said that expanded train service at Belmont is consistent with the priorities of the Governor and the MTA with respect to increasing ridership on the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR). In fact, the railroad’s ridership has grown 10.2 percent over the past 5 years from 81 million to 89.3 million. Ridership continues to grow by almost 2 percent each year.
The officials, who often visit the train stations in nearby villages surrounding Franklin Square and Elmont, mentioned that the most frequent complaint they hear is that there is virtually no parking for residents of Elmont and Franklin Square. As a result, these town commuters are forced to pay cab fare, inconvenience family and friends to provide rides to the village stations and/or walk long distances in inclement weather.
“Elmont and Franklin Square are vibrant and dynamic communities that have an opportunity to realize even greater economic potential,” said Ra. “By creating a year-round commuter train station at the Belmont Racetrack, we will be stimulating the local economy in and around Belmont while simultaneously creating economic opportunities for residents of Western Nassau County.”
Santino and Ra have written to Governor Cuomo, requesting that any redevelopment plans, requests for proposals and associated initiatives to transform Belmont include provisions for a full-time commuter train station at Belmont Racetrack.
“Any redevelopment proposal for Belmont’s future must deliver on the promise of economic opportunity for residents of Elmont and Franklin Square,” concluded Santino. “Providing real benefits for this region must include a full-time commuter train station at this site.”