JAMES M. ODATO
Published 11:01 p.m.,
Sunday, January 15, 2012
New Jersey authorities, New York City officials and state
boards may all have a say in the "international destination" complex
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is touting for Queens. For instance, it is likely that gaming
and tourism interests in the Garden State will express concerns about the
Cuomo-negotiated Aqueduct Race Track development — an expansion of the massive
racino, the creation of up to 3,000 new hotel rooms and construction of North
America’s biggest convention center. The proposed project could decimate Atlantic
City casinos and cut into other business between Jersey City and the shore,
according to gaming representatives and development officials. Will the six New
Jersey commissioners on the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey approve
giving up 22 acres next to JFK Airport that the Malaysian gaming corporation
Genting desires for its 3.8 million-square-foot convention center at the Big A?
Will New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie go for it? Representatives of Christie and
the Port Authority would not discuss the matter last week.
Genting likes to set
up casinos at international gateways: Its giant casinos in Macau and Singapore
came first. Now the Malaysian company targets Miami and New York City. Cuomo
announced his agreement with Genting on Aqueduct in his State of the State
speech, stunning several lawmakers. Last week, Cuomo began reaching out to
them. His staff briefed top Senate and Assembly aides about the project, and
Cuomo sent a letter to the legislative leaders saying he wants to work cooperatively
on any deals involving Genting.
In the letter, Cuomo said the project is a hallmark of his
drive to create jobs to help New York’s economy and suggests he could make it
happen without legislative support. The New York Racing Association controls
most of the land around the site, except for the 22 acres the Port Authority
controls which is in the path of the proposed development.
In a twist often found in the Capitol, Cuomo’s father was
behind the state’s loss of control of those acres. In the early 1990s and
dealing with budget problems, Gov. Mario M. Cuomo required NYRA to sell the
land to the Port Authority. The authority board voted to buy it for $50
million. NYRA turned the money over to the state treasury, as directed by the
Cuomo administration; the parcel has never been used for much of anything other
than excess NYRA parking. The authority transferred the land to New York City
and leased it back for potential usage by JFK. A city official said the
authority renews the lease every five years, and only for parking. Developers
would have to bid on taking over control, an official said. Genting says it
could adapt plans and just build a big convention center on the 67 acres it is
leasing at Aqueduct under its racino deal.
But the state
Franchise Oversight Board holds the responsibility under law for all real
estate development at Belmont and Aqueduct, and for ensuring a competitive
bidding for development rights. Lottery Director Gordon Medenica, who is on the
FOB, said he expects several interested parties will have a role eventually.
NYRA might also be
brought in. A Genting associate said the company wants to take over the entire
Aqueduct track and move winter racing to Belmont. Genting’s Stefan Friedman
denied that, adding "We’re not going to get into a discussion about the
future of racing."
Reach Odato at