Aqueduct to be used as temporary hospital; remainder of meet canceled

Posted: March 28, 2020

The New York Racing Association March 28 said that live racing at Aqueduct Racetrack is canceled for the remainder of the winter and spring meets with the building now set to serve as a temporary hospital site during the fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that New York would seek the required federal approval to construct a temporary hospital at Aqueduct to serve the borough of Queens with a 1,000-plus patient overflow facility. The action aligns with New York’s goal to provide COVID-19 patient overflow facilities in each New York City borough as well as Westchester, Rockland, Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Cuomo March 28 announced that New York had received the approval to move forward with the temporary hospital at Aqueduct as well as locations in Brooklyn, Staten Island and the Bronx.

“NYRA and the New York racing community are thankful for Gov. Cuomo’s steady leadership during this unprecedented public health crisis, and we stand ready to assist in any way we can,” NYRA Chief Executive Officer and President Dave O’Rourke said. “The governor’s ability to quickly marshal all available resources is saving lives and inspiring action both here in New York and across the nation.

“Now that Gov. Cuomo has secured the federal approval, Aqueduct Racetrack will serve as a safe haven for those recovering from this virus. We recognize that we all must work together as a community to meet this challenge and emerge stronger for it. NYRA also joins the governor in extending our deepest gratitude to the first responders, medical professionals and volunteers who continue to operate on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19.”

NYRA earlier announced that racing at Aqueduct would be suspended through at least April 5 due to the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York.

The Big A winter meet was slated to run through March 29 with the 13-day spring meet scheduled from April 2-19. The 51-day Belmont Park spring/summer meet featuring 58 stakes worth $18.65 million is scheduled to run from April 24-July 1.

Following the approval of Aqueduct as a temporary hospital site, NYRA will focus efforts on preparing for live racing at Belmont.

“NYRA is continuing to strategize the safest options for a return to racing at Belmont Park, while prioritizing the health and welfare of our staff and the racing community,” O’Rourke said. “A revised live racing schedule is an ongoing consideration, but secondary to our primary commitment to the health and well-being of the community.”

NYRA-operated racetracks have been used in prior emergency situations, including in 2012 when NYRA donated the use of the Aqueduct parking lot to the American Red Cross to operate a mobile feeding kitchen and relief supplies staging area in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

(Aqueduct Racetrack photo courtesy of NYRA)