ON THE NEW YORK RACING ASSOCIATION (NYRA)

September 1, 2020

September 1, 2020

This is not an easy article for me to write. There are half a dozen activities that impacted my life. One such activity has been/is/and probably will always be thoroughbred wagering. I’ve been betting horses since I was 16 years old when I won my first bet – $2 win on Bedazzle at the old Jamaica track that paid $10.80. I can also still remember giving testimony as a representative of the horseplayers at a Presidential Crime Commission hearing in 1976 (my testimony is in the archives). In any event, any discussion on thoroughbred betting to follow would unquestionably have to center on the New York Racing Association (NYRA).

 

NYRA is home to three thoroughbred racetracks in New York State: Aqueduct, in New York City; Belmont Park, in Elmont; and, Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs. (An automobile racetrack is located in Watkins Glen.)

 

  1. AQUEDUCT RACETRACK. The genesis of the name? Aqueduct is any artificial channel built to transport water; the aqueduct may take the form of an open or enclosed canal, a tunnel, or a pipeline. Underground aqueducts were in use in ancient Mesopotamia, but the aqueducts that supplied water to ancient Rome are the most famous. Several extensive aqueducts have been built in Europe but the most extensive aqueducts system in the world is that which supplies water to southern California, including the cities of Los Angeles and San Diego. The major source of water is the Colorado River. In any event, Aqueduct Racetrack today is also home to the Resorts world Casino. My thoughts? ? The track is an absolute dump; I haven’t been there for 11 years.
  2. BELMONT PARK. It’s Belmont Park, not Belmont, a city in San Mateo County in California or Middlesex County in Massachusetts. The original Belmont Park opened in 1905 in Elmont, Long Island. Nearly 40,000 were in attendance on opening day. Today? NYRA has successfully converted what was once the most beautiful racetrack in the world into a fourth-class hangout for a handful of abused senior citizens. NYRA’s incompetence – no surprise since it is run by either career bureaucrats or career bureaucrat opportunists – is to blame. I stopped going last year after NYRA knowingly shortchanged their Belmont senior ticket wagering the time had come to end their abuse and exploitation – 25 years ago, I predicted (in the Daily Racing Forms) that daily attendance would drop below 5,000. Hell, I was wrong. Prior to COVID-19, weekday attendance was under 1,000!!! The place is now a disaster, plain and simple … a ghost town and a manure-hole. Thank you NYRA. Thank you Cuomo.

 

  1. SARATOGA RACECOURSE. This track is housed in upstate Saratoga Springs, Saratoga Springs is not to be confused with Saratoga, FL, our family’s favorite vacation spot or the city of Saratoga in Santa Clara County in California. Saratoga Springs conducts the summer meet (part of July and August) at Saratoga Race Course. Since 1955 (1), your author has attended the races there 65 years in a row. Weekly vacations have been reduced to a 2-night stay with the entire family at the historic Gideon Putnam, with breakfast at the fabulous Triangle Diner and dinner at Friend Bruce’s local gem Pennell’s and the overly expensive 15 Church. For me, going to Saratoga Springs is a bad habit that has gotten worse … but Mary, the kids, and the grandkids love the joint. Attend if you must, and you won’t get ripped off … you’ll get GOUGED like never before.

 

I won’t mince words early on, but here is how I have described NYRA in the past. “… a corrupt organization that has perpetrated one of the biggest scams on an unsuspected public”. This so-called “non-profit” organization is dedicated to maximizing profits for the thoroughbred industry at the expense of the patrons, public, and incompetent government officials (e.g., Cuomo). The only bigger scam and fraud in the NCAA.

 

So what’s the problem? As noted, it’s simply that NYRA has managed to destroy New York Racing as we once knew it. The sport survived 2 scares in the last half century. OTB first brought in a whole new group of fans. NYRA started staggering again soon after but casinos came to their rescue in recent years. I don’t think there is another Trump (no pun intended) card around for this industry. So the bottom line is that it is just a matter of time. The sport CANNOT survive! Why?

  1. A near 20% takeout will not sit well with crafty younger-set investors / gamblers in the future.
  2. I just don’t see them ever trying to accommodate the patrons. My suggestion is that you save your money and buy a sports book stock. I just purchased 2.000 shares of William Hill (WIMHY) two weeks ago at $6.08/share.

 

Not a pretty picture. Let me know what you think. Incredibly, the newsletter is approaching 15,000 hits.

 

 

Visit the author at:

www.theodorenewsletter.com

or

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NEXT POSTINGS:

 

OCTOBER 1:              On the Ultimate Quiz III

NOVEMBER 1:          On Election Time

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Here are this month’s three offensive suggestions from the upcoming second edition of my “BASKETBALL COACHING 101” book.

 

  1. Devise delay strategies to allow the opponent shooting a foul shot to “cool” off.: this can include making a substitution or having the individuals on the line crisscross. Delay. Delay. Delay. Delay especially at the end of a game.
  2. Where appropriate, employ a shuttle system to ensure that the best defensive players are on the court.
  3. Practice one-on-one defense with each player. See also (#11).

 


ON PURELY, CHASTE, PRISTINE AND RANDOM THOUGHTS XXVIII

October 1, 2019

Hard to believe. The 28th! Here’s another 25 thoughts of yours truly.

  • It’s a new football season, but I still maintain that Eli Manning is the most overrated and luckiest individual to play the game of football…ever! The football Giants are toast if they don’t go with another quarterback.
  • Had contact with a recently graduated college basketball player who confirmed that two players on his team were paid. Now get this…he attended a mid-major
  • The Mets failed us once again. I thought nobody could be worse than Terry Collins. I was wrong.
  • I maintain that the bulk of the media continues to peddle lies and distortions.
  • Mets reliever Diaz doesn’t deserve the bad press. I believe he has the highest swinging strike ratio in the league – and that is an excellent measure of how good a pitcher is.
  • Just returned from a 3-day visit to Saratoga Springs. It was my 63rd year in a row. Lost some money but had a great time with the family. Finally had dinner at 15 Church Street; it was a unique experience.
  • Recently met democrat Judy Bosworth, Supervisor of the Town of North Hempstead, and was impressed…so much so that I might vote for her next time around. Ditto with Councilman Pete Zuckerman.
  • It’s World Series time. The Mets are dead but I’m still alive with the Yankees (ugh!) and the Braves.
  • My new book on “Water Management” will be out before the end of the year.
  • Mary still gets mad at me when I ask the maître d’ at an upscale restaurant: “Are franks and beans on the menu?”
  • Winter is just around the corner, and I’m not looking forward to it.
  • Lost Richie Dreyer (St. Francis), one of my players, last month. He brought a toughness that was lacking on my Killeen’s Tavern basketball team. He mellowed in his old age and did some wonderful things for AA.
  • I believe that one of our nation’s biggest problems is that family life has been displaced by government subsidies for far too many people.
  • Travel by any mode is terrible in Manhattan. Ditto Brooklyn.
  • Visited Quebec City in late June to attend the annual Air & Waste Management conference and presented two papers. Loved the Canadians and what a great city.
  • When are baseball pitchers going to wake up and figure out that the key to success is to not walk anyone and batters realize to go the other way when the shift is on?
  • Only got to Lot #6 at Jones Beach twice this year. I still maintain it is the most beautiful beach in the world.
  • The New York Racing Association seems hell-bent on destroying thoroughbred racing at Belmont Park. I paid for a season pass but won’t be going back this year; it simply isn’t an enjoyable day anymore. The level of incompetence of this organization is beyond belief. Hello Nassau OTB. I’ll have more to say about this in January.
  • The level of hatred for de Blasio continues to mount; it is almost as bad as that for Trump.
  • Still involved with developing potable (drinking) water processes via the desalination route, but have recently extended my work to include non-desalination methods. This has really been exciting work.
  • Traveled to Monmouth Racetrack (twice!) with several of my players. We visited my dear friend Steve “The Greek” Panos, the toughest Greek since Alexander the Great.  I am forever indebted to Steve for probably saving my life during a riot at one of our basketball games in 1963.
  • It’s all Greek to me. I still love lamb and pastitsio.
  • Recently attended a Kourtakis (maternal) family reunion in New Jersey, and it was just great. Some of us reminisced about life growing up in New York City.
  • Dear friend and noted sports historian Arthur Lovely keeps hitting the nail on the head with his “every day is a blessing”
  • My new quote to those close to me? “I hope misfortune follows you but never catches up.”

 

Tata!

 

 

Visit the author at:

www.theodorenewsletter.com

or

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NEXT POSTINGS:

 

NOVEMBER 1:          On the OHI Day V

DECEMBER 1:          On Hofstra Men’s Basketball: 2019-20 Season

JANUARY 1:              On Four Key Issues

FEBRUARY 1:           On the Ultimate Quiz II

 


ON GREAT EATS IV: DINERS

September 1, 2019

Food has been defined as anything eaten to satisfy an appetite and to meet needs for growth. It maintains all body processes and supplies energy to maintain body temperature and activity. So food is important. But the questions that remains is – where should the food be consumed? At home? In a restaurant? This fourth article on Great Eats is concerned with diners and servers as a follow-up to an excellent May 25, 2019 New York Times (NYT) diner article titled “A Last Cup of Coffee, to Go.”

 

As one might suppose, the word diner has come to mean different things to different people. Webster defines diner as “a small restaurant built to look like a dining car and equipped to serve meals” while the NYT offered “factory-made lunch cars, often with stainless-steel finishes and neon signs.” Others might describe it as something between a step above a simple eatery with a limited menu to a restaurant with an extensive menu, fancy booths, full bar, take-out menu, etc. The former would probably best describe my father’s “9 stool – 3 table business at the North end of Hell’s Kitchen prior to being evicted by Robert Moses, while the latter would best describe the first two of the diners to be described shortly.

 

But, then again, why a follow-up article? The NYT article keyed on diner history and diners located in New York City. This article expands the diner story to include not only those in Queens but also Long Island. What follows is a short writing on a diner in Queens and five diners on Long Island. I asked each diner owner to comment on their background, their business, the present state of the diner business, and the future of diners. Here is some of how these six individuals responded.

 

  1. The Old Westbury Diner (formerly Seacrest), 4 Glen Cove Road, Old Westbury.

The premier upscale diner on the Island. Owned by Stavros Dimas, who emigrated (legally) from Greece in 1980. He has expressed major concerns with rising labor costs and believes only the large diners will survive in the future. My Take? One of my favorites. Great breakfast, full bar, expansive menu, excellent food, easy parking, very pleasant owner who is concerned with the community, and excellent service. This place is also the closest thing to a classy restaurant.

 

  1. The Apollo, 630 Merrick Avenue, East Meadow.

The Apollo is owned by Jimmy (son) and Harry (father) Constantotos. Harry emigrated (legally) from Greece in 1963 and has owned the Apollo since 1976. Perhaps my favorite. As Jimmy put it to me, they “provide basic services, good food and a clean environment.” It features an expansive menu, full bar, ample parking, large portions, very reasonable prices, and excellent service (ask for Nicoletta to be your server). They appear optimistic about the future but expressed concerns with existing competition, labor costs, and the real estate market.

 

  1. Uncle Bills, 307 Stratton Place, Linden Place, Whitestone.

This one is owned by “Aki” (little one in Greek), a big brute by my standards. This lovable Greek emigrated (legally) from Cyprus in 1973 and has owned Bill’s for 16 years. Aki claims it is the cheapest diner in Queens (I think he is right). He is concerned about the future because of rising salaries, rent, and competitors. My Take? The place is a local gem with lots of good dishes, easy parking, and the price is definitely right.

 

On to the next two. Both are Mary’s favorites.

 

  1. Thomas’s Diner is located at 325 Old Country Road, Carle Place.

This place is Mary’s favorite. The diner opened in 1946 and has been owned by the (Thomas) Koukoulas family since 1973. Tom indicated that diners will have difficulty surviving in the future because of “chain restaurants where the quality continues to improve. The old school diner will not be around long as many families are not passing the business along.” The place has a limited menu with great food at very reasonable prices. Despite limited parking, this landmark joint is always (and I mean always) jammed. Mary’s favorite (not mine) and an absolute must for diner lovers.

 

  1. The Mineola Diner, 138 Jericho Turnpike and Willis Avenue, Mineola.

This is one that has survived the relentless passage of time. Michael Alpert purchased the diner (from a Greek) approximately 10 years ago. One of Mary’s favorites, it features excellent food at reasonable prices. The place is small, parking is a problem, and is only open for breakfast and lunch. The menu is limited but there are nearly 100 items to choose from. Not my favorite, but another landmark that has survived the times and one of the better ones that belongs on everyone’s go-to-place list.

On to the sixth one.

  1. Station Plaza Coffee Shop and Diner (breakfast and lunch) at 206 Station Plaza, North Mineola (facing South at the train station).

A newcomer and a relatively unknown, it is usually packed. Probably the cheapest diner to eat at. And, the good news is that the food is excellent and plentiful. Lots to like here even though it doesn’t look like a diner. But as the old saying goes – try it and you’ll be sure to like it. Only negative: metered parking is a problem. New owners, George Arniotis (and father) and Pete Vatakis – Greeks, of course – are there for 2 months and are optimistic about the future of diners. “Give them good food and they’ll keep coming back.”

 

I would be remiss if I did not comment on three other diners. Presently, the diner of all diners is The Neptune (Astoria Blvd. and 31st Street). It was my favorite 65 years ago while growing up in Astoria, and it still is, and is the diner by which all others should be compared. Unfortunately, its days are numbered; it opened its doors for the last time TODAY.   (Update:  Interestingly, the media had reported that the diner was closing but apparently, the lease was extended.)  Another is Mykonos (not the one in Great Neck) – a hole-in-the-wall, semi-diner; it is named after an island in Greece and located in Tarpon Springs, Florida, a community overrun by Greeks and Greek-Americans. Finally, one of my early (pre-teen years) memories that has yet to leave me was dining out on Sundays approximately once a month. It was a Greek eatery – The Acropolis, located on 60th Street, just west of Central Park. I wish it were still around. I can still taste the roast lamb and pastitsio, your author’s two favorite Greek dishes.

 

Finally, diners remain near the top of my list of restaurants to frequent. Why? Six reasons.

 

  1. The food is always fresh
  2. The price is right
  3. Expansive menu
  4. Generous portions
  5. The ambiance is usually casual
  6. Rarely a wait

 

In addition, I still think diners have a bright future despite concerns with dwindling customers, rising rents, lost leases, shrinking profit margins, etc. Some of this is true, but most of the new restaurants reviewed in the literature are hellaciously priced. I make every effort to stay away from these joints; they simply are not worth it. The diners have been hurt by credit cards and a more strict enforcement of the tax codes, i.e., they can no longer rely on patron tax charges that often served as the margin of profit. Two options that can help diners survive is to modestly increase prices and provide a more compact, rather than expansive, menu.

 

A closeout? I need to mention my current favorite of favorites. It is the Triangle Diner located in Saratoga Springs, home of summer thoroughbred racing in August; my recent visit to SS was the 64th year in a row (see pics below).  The diner is a “garage,” similar to an old-fashioned diner located in the middle of nowhere during the depression era.  It is surrounded by some really great 4-star restaurants, including 15 Church and Pennell’s. Yet, it is the 3rd highest rated restaurant in SS. Fantastic breakfast and lunch at extremely reasonable prices. A local gem and a must for all SS lovers.

 

 

 

Below are three pics.  One at our hotel, another at the racetrack and the third at the Triangle Diner.

 

Please drop me a note about your favorite diner.

 

Visit the author at:

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or

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NEXT POSTINGS:

 

OCTOBER 1:              On Purely Chaste, Pristine and Random Thoughts XXIX

NOVEMBER 1:          On the OHI Day V

DECEMBER 1:          On Hofstra Men’s Basketball: 2019-20 Season