Saturday, May 3, 2008

So long, OTB (and happy Derby day)

The Kentucky Derby is today. And in the EV Grieve household (aka, apartment), it's a national holiday. There are screenings of The Lemon Drop Kid, Saratoga, The Killing and Seabiscuit. Well, won't get into all the rituals. Don't want you to think we're really weird. Oh. And there's the ceremonial trip to an OTB parlor. This year, though, the whole thing is a little bittersweet. Bloomberg is pushing for these things to shutter after the Belmont. Anyway, much has already been written about the future of OTBs. In fact, the state just closed two, including the parlor right by my office at 17 John St.

I'm stunned that the state closed this location for good at 7 last night, HOURS BEFORE THE BIGGEST BETTING DAY OF THE YEAR.

Idiots, yes? As the Post reported, the branch, open since 1982, generated bets of $5,915,870 in fiscal 2007.

I stopped by John Street yesterday at lunch. There were FOUR people inside. It's actually a lovely little spot. The paneled walls give it a basement rec room feel circa, well, 1982. There are 12 betting windows (15 if you count the three automated tellers). Yesterday, only three of the windows were open. I was shocked how quiet it was. I took exactly one picture inside the door (and a lousy one at that) before I was shooed away by a OTB worker standing guard by the door. I tried to explain what I was doing. He didn't seem interested in my story.

This line from the Times article sums it up best:

It is an ever-narrowing slice of New York that still belongs to the hustler and the old-timer. Soon it may be extinct...

Like everything else that helps give the city some character.


Jeremiah Moss said...

you've got to visit all the otb's and take pics. i'm afraid to go in there myself, but you seem right at home. hurry before they're all gone!

Grieve said...

I know! That would be an excellent project. I do feel a little uneasy in there myself with a camera -- particularly after the OTB fellow told me "no pictures" on Friday. I honestly believe he thought I was casing the place for a stick-up later...