Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Mostly Cheers at Auction for Aqueduct Race Track Land by Lisa L. Colangelo - NY Daily News

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Land sold near the Aqueduct race track will benefit the New York Racing Association. Smith for News

But how much money the auction raked in is still not clear.

Some of the lots, which were offered both as bundles and individual parcels, went for as much as $460,000. Others were snatched up for $32,000, officials said yesterday.

"All the properties were sold, subject to approval by NYRA" said Richard Maltz, vice president at David R. Maltz and Co., the real estate auction house contracted by the association. "NYRA was extremely happy with the outcome."

He declined to say how much money was raised overall.

NYRA emerged from bankruptcy last year with a new contract to operate the state's three race tracks: Aqueduct, Saratoga and Belmont Park. It still owes money to the Internal Revenue Service.

A plan to place video lottery terminals at Aqueduct to help cash flow fell apart this year. Seven companies have recently bid again for that contract.

The auction, which took place Wednesday afternoon at the race track, was filled with developers as well as residents who have lived next to the vacant land for years.

At one point during the auction, a 45,000-square-foot parcel was offered for $200,000.

"What's that? $5 a square foot?" Maltz asked one of his assistants. "That's the cheapest property I have sold in a long time."

Carlos and Grace Benitez were among the lucky ones. They successfully bid on a 48-by-125-foot lot next to their home for $120,000.

"We've been taking care of that property for years," said Carlos Benitez, 59. "I've been mowing it and we planted shrubs."

He and his neighbor, who bid on the adjoining lot, are thinking of fencing off the area for their pets.

"It's not going to be developed any more than it is now," he said.

"I'm going to dance tonight," said a relieved Grace Benitez.

It's likely that some of the larger lots were snapped up by developers. The current zoning allows for two-family homes there.

Rosemary and Frank DeBartolo were disappointed they couldn't buy a portion of the 6,000-square-foot lot next to the home they have lived in since 1964.

That lot, offered as one parcel, went for $250,000 during the first round of bidding.

"I mowed the grass. I fenced it in so no one would dump there," said Frank DeBartolo, 75.

"There are a lot of older people who have lived here a long time who couldn't get the land next to their homes. The whole process wasn't fair," DeBartolo said.