Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in his State of the State address yesterday that he wants to bring the largest convention center in the United States to Queens by turning the Aqueduct Race Track in Ozone Park into a 3.8-million-square-foot venue.
It goes hand-in-hand with another aspiration he announced during the speech to legalize casino gaming, allowing the Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct to offer a full slate of table games.
The two goals were keystones in a $25 billion economic and infrastructure plan he laid out. Cuomo touted both as a way to attract tourism, create jobs and reinvigorate New York’s economy.
“For us this is not about chips and cards,” Cuomo said. “This is about the jobs that the casino industry generates.”
Cuomo estimated the convention center could create tens of thousands of new jobs and a constitutional amendment legalizing gaming could create $1 billion of economic activity.
New York would partner with Genting Americas, the same Malaysian company that built the Resorts World Casino, to build the convention center.
“Genting Americas is extremely excited about this opportunity to partner with Governor Cuomo to build the largest convention center in the country,” Genting Americas Senior Vice President of Development Christian Goode said in a statement. “It’s a great time to invest and grow in New York, and we are thrilled to be able to play a role in creating jobs and increasing tourism.”
The New York Gaming Association welcomed Cuomo’s suggestion to legalize gaming but encouraged the state to handle the process responsibly.
“Enhanced casino gaming offers our state the promise of enormous economic benefits …. But appropriate constraints are necessary to ensure that New Yorkers realize the benefits of gaming, while limiting the risks inherent in unrestricted gambling. New York’s nine racetrack casinos have already shown that casino gaming can be implemented in an economically sensible and socially responsible manner,” the statement said.
The convention center would be a $4 billion private investment, Cuomo said, but it would take New York from having the 12th biggest convention center in the nation in the Jacob Javits Center to where the state belongs.
“We’ll go from No. 12 to No. 1 because that’s where we deserve to be, the No. 1 state in the nation, period,” Cuomo said.
Local leaders also started weighing in after the speech. State Senator Joe Addabbo (D-Queens) threw some support behind the governor’s ideas, but was more restrained, possibly because his constituents in Ozone Park would be most affected by any new construction.
“I am enthusiastic about the idea of a convention center at the Aqueduct Racetrack site, but I also believe we should proceed forward in a cautious manner,” Addabbo said. “I am an advocate for community input on this project and feel most people would want to see plans or drawings for the proposal. Given our current economic situation, I would certainly work toward creating the thousands of jobs and revenue to the city and state the convention center brings.”
By Jeremiah Dobruck