“For the first time in my life, I’m unemployed,” said Larry Goldreyer while riding back from Long Island last Friday. “Politics is the only reason we’re out of work.”
Last week, the New York State Senate voted against a plan put together by New York City Off Track Betting (OTB), creditors and other collaborators that would’ve saved 1,000 jobs for the bankrupt agency. That’s why many of those 1,000 employees were in Long Island last Friday. They were protesting outside State Senator and Republican Leader Dean Skelos’ district office because he was the man behind the bill’s death in Albany.
“[Not voting on this bill will] cost the city and the state $700 million between all of our benefits and will destroy the racing industry in New York,” said Goldreyer, “and impact 40,000 racing-related jobs in the state, as well as the 100,000 lost by the OTB.”
An official for DC37, the New York City public employee union that represents OTB employees, used harsh language when describing the aftermath of the Senate vote.
“Tuesday, December 7 was DC37’s Pearl Harbor,” said DC37 Political Director Wanda Williams. “We had a governor’s program bill that the [New York State] Assembly passed which would preserve OTB operation. It was considered by the full house. Twenty-seven Democrats voted for it, and two Republicans voted for it, in addition to five other members of the Republican Senate Conference.
“Dean Skelos had conference with his members and didn’t want any Republicans to vote for this bill,” said Williams. “Skelos was trying to get a bill for Nassau and Suffolk county OTBs and wanted to make sure he got something included for the those two counties. After partisan accusations, he changed it to be all original OTB in and out of the county.”
State Senator Eric Adams confirmed Williams’ reports and threw his two cents in regarding Skelos’ actions.
“What Dean Skelos attempted to do is state that the assistance and bankruptcy plan that we were going to do for New York City OTB should be duplicated throughout the state, and that didn’t make sense,” Adams said. “The other areas aren’t bankrupt and they aren’t giving up what NYC OTB was giving up, like overtime and other benefits.”
Adams also wanted to remind the citizens of New York what’s at stake with the Skelos’ pulling Republican votes away from the OTB bill.
“New York City OTB carries the entire state,” said Adams. “Over 50 percent of the money that goes into our breeding program [which breeds horses] comes from New York City OTB. It’s the engine that drives the entire state, and when it collapses, it’s going to impact the entire state. It’s unfortunate that the Republicans didn’t see that. They were so shortsighted. They’re holding on to the mantle of being the party of ‘no.’”
Goldreyer doesn’t necessarily see a party of “no,” but he does see the politicians, particularly the Republicans that changed their mind on this bill, as greedy. While the bill was killed last week, there’s still a chance of it passing through Albany before the end of the year.
“They’re playing ping pong with politics between the Democrats and the Republicans,” said Goldreyer. “The [race] tracks were on board with us. The assembly voted for us. The creditors were on board. We’re doing everything possible to make this work, and the Republicans turned around and stabbed us in the back.”
“These people on the bus are like brothers and sisters to me,” Goldreyer said. “We’re still working on the politicians. Hopefully, we can get the votes we need. We all want to work. People are going to have to retire after December 30. Christmas? New Year’s? We’re not gonna have Christmases and New Year’s.”