Don’t Scare the Horses

Big money and anodyne architecture are poised to take over South Ozone Park’s legendary Aqueduct Racetrack.

At the far edges of Brooklyn and Queens, there’s an outer borough magic that turns quintessentially normal American pastimes—watching baseball, fishing, eating Italian food—into subcultural activities, inspiring both devotion and curiosity. Aqueduct Racetrack is a hub for these forces. From the Aqueduct Station subway exit, the track looks like it could be abandoned. The vast parking lot is mostly empty, and the pavement is cracked by lines of grass. Up ahead, a broad cantilevered roof suspended from trusses narrows to a sharp edge, calling to mind a Swiss Army blade that has sat for years on a forest floor. The salty air blowing off Jamaica Bay has had a noticeable effect on the steel chords and web members; traces of Aqueduct’s signature baby blue peek through a concerning coat of rust.

In another country, a building like this would become the site of underground raves. The reality here is more mundane. Through fall and winter, Aqueduct hosts all the thoroughbred horse racing in New York State. In summer it’s mostly empty.

Horse racing tends to draw its most dedica…

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