Suffolk OTB sells headquarters for $2.4M


Suffolk OTB sells headquarters for $2.4M
Hoping early retirement for 86 will be a sure bet
[email protected]
Nassau Regional Off-Track
Betting Corp., faced with declining revenue and diminished interest in horse racing,
has offered early retirement
incentives to 86 employees in
a move that could generate
$3.5 million in gross salary
savings, agency officials said
The move comes as OTB
continues to look for a site to
build a casino-style gambling
parlor to house as many as
1,000 video lottery terminals.
In January, OTB dropped a
plan to put VLTs at the vacant
Fortunoff building in Westbury after vocal community
The incentive would pay eligible OTB employees 1 percent of their 2014 base salary
for every year of service with
the agency or every year of
membership in the New York
State Retirement System —
whichever figure is higher —
to a maximum of 20 years.
To be eligible, employees
must be 55 or older and have
worked for OTB or been in
the state retirement system
for a minimum of 10 years.
OTB president Joe Cairo estimates that about 40 employees — or 18 percent of the
agency’s 222-person workforce — will take the incentive.
The incentive would be
paid out of the agency’s operating budget and be made in
15 bimonthly installments, beginning in late May and continuing through the end of
the year.
Cairo said the cuts were needed because OTB has seen diminished revenue as the sport’s
popularity has waned and from
a brutally cold winter that prevented racing for long stretches
Suffolk OTB sells headquarters for $2.4M
[email protected]
Suffolk County Regional
Off-Track Betting Corp. is selling its Hauppauge headquarters for $2.4 million in an effort to raise cash, OTB president Phil Nolan said.
“We need liquidity,” Nolan
The Suffolk OTB, which is
emerging from bankruptcy
and trying to build a gambling
parlor in Medford, will rent office space nearby in Hauppauge. It backed away from
renting space at Brookhaven
Town Hall and another townowned property after community opposition to the casino
earlier this year, Nolan said.
“We decided to move
around the corner after there
Nolan said.
Suffolk OTB is counting on
the 1,000 video lottery terminals to bring it out of bankruptcy. The public benefit corporation, whose three board members are appointed by the Suffolk legislature, expects to
have lost more than $3 million
last year on its horse race betting operations, Nolan said.
Local civic groups have sued
to stop the Medford casino.
Critics said the need to sell
its headquarters is the latest
sign of a troubled operation.
“They’ve proven that they
can’t run a business,” said Nerina Sperl, treasurer of the
Medford Taxpayers and Civic
Association. “Why would we
let them have another bigger
business to run?”
Nolan blamed the financial
state of the OTB on dwindling
interest in horse betting and a
state formula that divides profits between other interests.
He expects the sale to close
in mid-April, he said. The
move into smaller and less expensive space in Hauppauge
will happen within 45 days, he
The pending sale came to
light after Suffolk OTB board
minutes were posted online
March 23.
The OTB had been finalizing leases to move into vacant
space at Brookhaven Town
Hall and other town-owned
property, according to OTB
board meeting minutes from
November and December.
Both are closer to the Medford site.
Brookhaven officials, who
have tried to distance themselves from the gambling
project, denied that a deal was
ever close.
According to the November
OTB minutes, “President
Nolan stated that we are planning our move to the Town of
Brookhaven, we have committed to 2 separate locations at
their Town Hall.”
In December, Suffolk OTB
School revamp eyed
] Officials talk to colleges
on Hempstead High issues
It’s a dying
industry. It
was a tough
winter for us
and that
may have
the need to
do this
] Reform plan is floated
to section student body
[email protected]
Hempstead school officials
are in early talks with highereducation institutions about
possible instructional reforms
and changes at the high school,
which is on a state priority list
because of students’ poor academic performance.
A representative of Johns
Hopkins University School of
Education yesterday proposed
a restructuring of the high
school to break up the student
population into “small learning
communities” of 75 to 105 students who would go to classes
under “teacher teams.”
The “whole-school transformation” program also would
address attendance and behavior problems with increased
support for students, said Doug
Elmer, chief program officer
with the Talent Development
Secondary program at Johns
Hopkins in Baltimore.
The team effort would increase staff cooperation, give
more attention to students in
overcrowded classrooms and
place added emphasis on math
and English learning, he said.
The changes would phase in
over time, starting with the
ninth grade in the 2015-16
school year, Elmer said, and
the costs would depend on
how intensive the involvement
of Johns Hopkins’ experts is,
OTB president Joe Cairo
of time at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens.
“It’s a dying industry,” said
Cairo, who may also look to
close some OTB branches as
leases come up for renewal
this year. “It was a tough winter for us and that may have
expedited the need to do this
Suffolk Legis. Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst),
who serves as president of
Teamsters Local 707, the
labor union representing
Nassau OTB employees,
said the agency could likely operate with about 20
percent fewer employees.
“The racing industry is
past its peak,” McCaffrey
said. “The handle is down
and there is a need for
fewer employees,” referring to racetrack revenue.”
Cairo said he’s looking
for a new location for the
VLTs but declined to identify specific sites. Multiple
sources have said the focus
continues to be on Belmont Park.
Nassau OTB employees
have until May 14 to accept
the retirement incentive.
Bettors at The
Race Palace in
Plainview watch
last year’s running
of the Belmont
Hempstead High School
Principal Stephen Strachan
among other factors.
“The idea is that in three or
four years, Hempstead High
School would look pretty substantially different,” he said.
The school had about 1,860
students in the 2013-14 school
year and a graduation rate of 43
percent, according to the most
recent figures available from
the State Education Department.
The district’s administration
had invited media coverage of
the meeting to showcase its efforts, but held the presentation
behind closed doors. They said
the district has not settled on a
plan to submit to the school
board. Officials from Farmingdale State College also attended, according to a district
Hempstead High School Principal Stephen Strachan said the
meeting was “a follow-up conversation with some of our potential partners” in seeking to
improve academic performance.
“We’re focusing on professional development to support
our teachers in the delivery of
the Common Core learning
standards,” he said.
Johnson said the talks “hopefully will result in a higher level of
student performance” through
a “focus on teacher learning.”
The State Education Department placed the school on its
“priority” list in 2013, meaning
it officially ranked among the
lowest 5 percent of schools
statewide, and it remained on
that list this school year.
Priority schools are required
to submit their reform plans to
the Education Department,
spokeswoman Jeanne Beattie
said. Changes for the next academic year aren’t due until the
The district’s enrollment procedures also are being monitored until 2018 by the state attorney general’s office, which
investigated community complaints about immigrant kids
being turned away this year.
Elias Mestizo, president of
the Hempstead Classroom
Teachers Association, said he
had to crash yesterday’s meeting because he was “not notified” it was occurring.
He said teachers want “to
see how we could support children” but need to know more.
“We’ve heard a lot of promises,
we’ve seen a lot of plans and
we are waiting to see exactly
what is different with this,”
Mestizo said.
vice president Anthony Pancella III said they hoped to
close the sale by Feb. 15.
“We are pressed now to
confirm our new location at
Town of Brookhaven Town
Hall,” Pancella said.
Suffolk OTB walked
through Brookhaven property in August or September, town director of operations Matt Miner said.
The space didn’t work,
Miner said. “It didn’t make
operational sense on either
side,” he said.
cent building, and officers
found a safe that “someone
tried to get into” near the cashier area in the lobby.
“The latch to the safe was
moved to the left and dangling,
but the safe door was locked,”
Abdullah said.
It was unclear what was inside the safe and Abdullah said
there was no surveillance
video of the incident.
Nassau detectives are investigating.
Reached on his cellphone,
Freeport Mayor Robert T.
Kennedy said he had “no idea”
why someone would attempt
to burglarize Village Hall.
“It was a break-in,” he said.
“Apparently nothing missing.
. . . Doesn’t make much sense
to me.”
Kennedy said one of the police chiefs saw two possible suspects leaving the building on
surveillance video.
Police Chief Miguel Bermudez did not immediately return a call requesting comment.
Suffolk OTB expects to sell its headquarters by mid-April.
Someone broke into Freeport Village Hall during the
weekend and apparently tried
to pry open a safe, but left without taking anything, Nassau police said yesterday.
A village custodian working
in the building, at 46 N.
Ocean Ave., “felt a draft” and
noticed that a first-floor window was broken about 8:25
a.m. Saturday, said Officer
Eloise Abdullah, Nassau police spokeswoman.
The custodian alerted Freeport police, who are in an adja-