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Petition calls on NYRA to commit ‘adequate’ funds for backstretch clinic

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Petition calls on NYRA to commit ‘adequate’ funds for backstretch clinic

The Saratoga Immigration Coalition, a network of local congregations and concerned citizens, is circulating a petition that entreats the New York Racing Association “to write adequate funding into its annual budget” to help sustain a free medical clinic for backstretch workers at Saratoga Race Course.

This year, after NYRA cut its contribution by $200,000, the nonprofit Backstretch Employee Service Team, which has operated the clinic since its inception a decade ago, was set to run the facility only for the track’s summer meet rather than for the full duration of workers’ stay in Spa City, from mid-April to mid-November, the Times Union reported. After the rollback garnered publicity in May, NYRA and a board member made donations of undisclosed amounts to BEST, allowing the clinic to stay open for its traditional length of time.

In a brief interview, Terence Diggory, a coordinator of the coalition, told The Alt that the new petition was prompted by “anxieties that arose around the emergency situation” this spring and a sense that the turmoil was “unnecessary.”

“Maintaining the health of backstretch workers is vital to the success” of the Saratoga Race Course, Diggory said in a statement. “It is also a basic good that we as a community—including NYRA—owe to the backstretch workers. They are our neighbors and we should care about them.”

“NYRA has made meaningful financial contributions to B.E.S.T for many years,” NYRA communications director Patrick McKenna said in an email. “While we have not yet completed next year’s budget plans, we anticipate making a contribution again in 2019.”

The coalition intends to present a copy of the petition to NYRA’s board at its Aug. 8 meeting in Saratoga Springs.

A BEST representative did not immediately return a request for comment.

This story has been updated with comment from NYRA.

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