Is it over?

Fans and employees of New York racing are breathing a little more easily this morning, as it appears that after years of discussion, negotiation, stalling, power plays (not the good kind, that take place on ice; the bad kind, that take place when egos and agendas collide), and overall embarrassment to the Empire State, the state’s racing franchise may—MAY—finally be settled.

Read Alan at Left at the Gate for excellent, detailed analysis and coverage; this morning’s Albany Times-Union says that the plan will be announced today, and that the agreement was reached because Senator Bruno caved on his demands for the make-up of the new NYRA board. For the last week, it’s felt like a game of chicken; as a commenter posted yesterday, someone had to blink, and this report indicates that it was Bruno. Both Bruno and NYRA were facing PR nightmares: part of Bruno’s constituency is in Saratoga Springs, and he’d have a lot of people to answer to if anything affected racing at the Spa this summer, and Charles Wait, the president of Adirondack Trust (where I’ve banked since I was thirteen—it’s the very definition of a hometown bank. When I was in college and about to go overdrawn, someone from the bank would call me so that I could come down and make a deposit), resigned from the NYRA board in recent weeks to protest Bruno’s intransigence. On the other hand, NYRA couldn’t possibly have wanted to be the ones to shut down racing and put thousands of people out of work.

On Tuesday, several busloads of NYRA workers headed to Albany to try to save their jobs; in the Times-Union’s article, Tom Durkin is quoted as saying, “We are very, very concerned and we are very, very frustrated…We are just hoping that some people who should be acting in an adult and reasonable way can do so so we can work and have our jobs.” Adult and reasonable? This is Albany, Tom!

Through most of the last several months, as this has gone back and forth, as deadlines have loomed and extensions been granted, I have repeatedly stated my disgust at the nonchalance with which our elected leaders have treated the workers at the NYRA tracks: the pari-mutuel clerks; the grooms; the concession stand operators, the parking guys. I don’t know what they make, but I can’t imagine it’s a lot, and I would think/hope that they’ve got a reasonable benefits package. Since last fall, they’ve all wondered when their last day of work would be. In the last week of 2007, they learned that they’d get to work for a few more weeks; in mid-January, they learned that they be employed until mid-February. As of Tuesday morning, they had no idea whether they’d have a job at the end of this week.

Forget board members; VLT fees; administrative oversight. Are these big issues and central to the success of racing in our state? Absolutely. But behind all of them are the people who make the racing happen, and throughout these negotiations, there has been so little attention paid to them by the people who were elected to serve them. If this is over—and I won’t be confident until it’s signed—the guys up in Albany have nothing of which to be proud. Their jobs have never, unfortunately, been in doubt, and even if they were, they wouldn’t have to worry about how to feed their families, or where they’d live, as those who inhabit the backstretch dorms would.

If this is over, we can all breathe a sigh of relief, and the next time I get to Aqueduct, I will be a little more appreciative…but it’s an ugly, ugly chapter that’s coming to a close, and I hope that we don’t forget it when it’s time to vote for the folks in Albany.

2 thoughts on “Is it over?

  1. Now that the NYRA situation is resolved, can someone focus on the NJ situation?Purses are falling fast. No help is forthcoming from the state or from the AC casinos in the form of a subsidy.I suppose what will happen in a couple of years is the Penn National and Philly Park outfits who eventually get the boot as the quality of racing rises there will relocate to Monmouth Park — unless the state sells the property to developers who bulldoze the place and put up oceanfront condos and McMansions.But nobody speaks about that.After all, it’s not NY or California or Ky. racing. But, the loss of jobs and livelihood issues are the same as NYRA’s.

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