Thursday, January 5, 2012

Cuomo Signs Agreement for World's Largest Convention Center at Aqueduct

Genting Group of Malaysia pledges $4 billion to construct the world's largest convention center and hotel complex at Aqueduct racetrack creating tens of thousands of construction jobs, Governor Cuomo announced Wednesday.

Before Governor Cuomo’s State of the State address Wednesday highlighted his vision to build the nation’s largest convention center at Aqueduct racetrack in Queens, the plan had already taken a major step forward.

On Tuesday, the Cuomo administration quietly inked a letter of agreement for the project with the operator of the Aqueduct racino, Genting New York. In the letter, the Malaysia-based casino operator pledged to invest $4 billion to build the 3.8 million-square-foot facility. Genting runs the video slot machine center at Aqueduct under a state license at the state-owned race track operated by the New York Racing Association.

Genting already controls 67 acres at the South Ozone Park site. But the source said the state will help make adjacent Port Authority land available for the project, and turn existing mass-transit infrastructure into a “convention center” train.

Cuomo’s plan to replace the undersized Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan with a mega-facility at Aqueduct is a key part of his push to jump-start the state economy. “Right now, the Jacob Javits Convention Center is not competitive,” Cuomo said. “That hurts the New York economy because we’re just not getting the shows here.”

The massive project would generate tens of thousands of construction jobs and fuel major economic activity, Cuomo said in his hour-long address Wednesday. It would also create up to 3,000 hotel rooms and complement Cuomo’s call for a constitutional amendment to legalize casino gambling in the state — and possibly bring a casino to Aqueduct.

Although tourists spent $50 billion in New York in 2010, the city’s tourism haul is held back by the Javits Center, which at just 842,000 square feet is only the 12th largest convention center in the nation. Chicago has the country’s largest facility, at 3.1 million square feet. With the Aqueduct proposal, Cuomo said the state would “go from No. 12 to No. 1 — because that’s where we deserve to be.”

Cuomo also wants to come up with a plan to redevelop the Javits site. Such a plan, he said, would be modeled after the redevelopment of Battery Park City, which featured new residential and commercial space, restaurants, hotels, recreational facilities and parks.