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Oh, SmAlbany!

Daily posts and occasional longer essays about politics, culture, and life in the Capital Region...updated M-F, midmorning


"I write this not as a booster of Albany, which I am, nor an apologist for the city, which I sometimes am, but rather as a person whose imagination has become fused with a single place, and in that place finds all the elements that a man ever needs..." -W. Kennedy, from O Albany!

Impressive Katrina Donation

This is impressive: A decent-sized donation to Hurricane relief in the Gulf from...the backstretch workers at the track! As the TU reports today :
Even though they need it for themselves, Saratoga Race Course backstretch workers gave the proceeds of a fund-raiser this weekend to hurricane relief efforts.

The contribution from the backstretch was about 40 percent of the nearly $14,000 WTEN Ch. 10 and the Red Cross raised Saturday and Sunday at the track. The organizations will continue to take contributions today.

All summer, Nick Caras, recreation director for the New York Racing Association, has been raising money for workers by selling a book produced by the the Daily Racing Form Press, "Saratoga: The Ultimate Racing Experience." Riders such as Mike Luzzi, Chantal Sutherland and Edgar Prado stopped on their way to the jockey room to autograph books, drawing attention and patrons' dollars to the backstretch workers' cause.

Most people prefer not to think about the conditions in which the workers at the track live. If you really want to understand the magnitude of a donation like this, consider this:
The local industry would not exist without the 1,300 backstretch workers. But in this short season, programs like day care and English classes are sometimes dropped.

Along the shed rows, workers rise before dawn to ride and walk high-strung thoroughbreds, sometimes for as little as $200-a-week.

Backstretch employees work for trainers. NYRA provides free housing. The dorms, designed for single men, would not meet code as a permanent dwelling. The backstretch is a village, but not a home.

Most sleep in 10-by-12-foot concrete rooms, two to a room, and share smelly three-stall bathrooms with dozens of others. There is no heat, no laundry, no dressers and little cross-ventilation.

Impressive donation indeed.

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