By Kenneth Lovett
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Originally Published: Monday, December 26 2011, 2:00 AM
Updated: Monday, December 26 2011, 2:00 AM
ALBANY — Looking back on a successful first year in office, Gov. Cuomo vowed to make "eye-catching" moves in 2012 — and for the first time said he is open to rolling the dice on a casino in New York City.
"Do I support casino gaming at a New York City location? . . . Yes," the governor told the Daily News in a year-end chat.
Like Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Cuomo said he doesn’t want to see a casino in a densely populated part of the city, but would be open to putting one at a place like Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, which already has a virtual casino.
Cuomo expects to call on the Legislature in his Jan. 4 State of the State address to give the first of two needed votes to a state constitutional amendment to legalize casino gambling in the state.
He stressed he is not "preselecting" New York City or any other area for possible casinos.
"I’m not excluding any locations at this time," he said, adding that establishing a casino in a part of the city "certainly can" make sense because the operation would capitalize on the massive population.
"New York City is a real location," he said. "Albany is a real location. Buffalo is a real location."
Cuomo wants the Legislature in 2012 to pass the amendment without specifying how many casinos would be authorized or where they would be located
. He would spend the year coming up with a casino plan, then finalize details in 2013 — the earliest the issue could go before the voters for a required public referendum.
He argued that the economic boost from casino gambling far outweighs the increase in crime and compulsive gambling and other social ills that critics say the industry fosters.
During the wide-ranging interview, Cuomo reflected proudly on his accomplishments in his freshman year as governor — legalization of gay marriage, the creation of the state’s first property tax cap, a new ethics reform law and an on-time budget that cut state spending.
And while he went back on a no-new-taxes pledge earlier this month by supporting a hike on the rich, he coupled it with a modest tax cut for the middle class.
The freshman Democrat spoke of a newfound spirit of bipartisanship in the Legislature, something he has repeatedly contrasted with the gridlock in Washington. His powerful performance this past year has fueled speculation of a 2016 White House campaign, but Cuomo insisted he never even thinks about running for President.
Not at all," he said. "I’ve been around too long. I’ve heard too much talk. I’ve seen the movie too many times."
Of course, his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, was dubbed Hamlet on the Hudson for agonizing about a waging a presidential run — and keeping a plane waiting on the tarmac as he mulled over a last-minute entry into the 1992 New Hampshire primary.
Brushing off his clashes with Mayor Bloomberg, most recently over a compromise on a bill to approve street hails for livery cabs, Cuomo described the flareups as normal "stressors in the relationship" between a governor and New York City mayor.
"We get along well; we communicate well; we communicate often," he said.
But Cuomo warned that Hizzoner may have trouble getting one of his major priorities done in Albany next year: pension reform.
While the governor has listed it is a priority, he said its fate will ultimately come down to whether the Legislature wants to buck the powerful labor unions in an election year.
"I don’t think the unions are ever going to agree to pension reform," he said.
And with the state having reached multiyear contracts this year with the two largest unions of state government workers, Cuomo admitted he has very little leverage to get them on board with a pension reform plan.
In his upcoming State of the State address, Cuomo is expected to focus on the need for job creation and the importance of rebuilding the state’s roads and bridges and of reorganizing state agencies and public authorities.
Cuomo said years of budget cuts and neglect have left the agencies in far worse shape than he imagined before taking office.
"The economy is not going to come rebounding back in a way that you can buy your way out of this problem," he said. "And by the way, you shouldn’t buy your way out of the problem — you’re going to have to manage your way out of the problem."
That said, Cuomo said not to bet on him having a sophomore slump.
"There are going to be eye-catching things next year," he vowed, playing his cards close to his vest.