By Kenneth Lovett / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
ALBANY — Gov. Cuomo wants to up the ante on the future of the Aqueduct racino in Queens and make it home to the country’s largest convention center, the Daily News has learned.
The planned project will be highlighted as part of the economic development agenda Cuomo will outline in his State of the State address Wednesday, two sources told The News.
“The notion is that (Cuomo) is going to put the project on the fast-track to get it done,” one source said. “They need a couple of big economic development initiatives to announce.”
The convention center plan dovetails with what is expected to be another key part of the governor’s speech: legalizing casino gambling to create new revenue for the state. Cuomo previously told The News he would be open to putting a casino in a less-populated part of the city, like at Aqueduct in South Ozone Park.
The convention center the governor has in mind — at a whopping 3.8 million square feet and located near the city’s two major airports — could spell the demise of the oft-maligned Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan, which has long been criticized for being too small a venue for a world-class city.
“It’s a great opportunity for alternative development if we didn’t need the Javits Center,” said another source. “Javits is a lousy location that can be torn down and replaced.”
The convention center’s $700-million price tag would be covered by Genting New York, the Malaysian-based casino company that runs the popular virtual casino that opened at Aqueduct late last year, that source said. The state and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey would transfer to Genting’s control land adjacent to Aqueduct that would be needed, the source added.
Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto would not confirm or deny details of the governor’s speech, which is expected to focus on the importance of job creation.A Genting official was not aware the project would be part included in Cuomo’s state of the state address.
Genting officials revealed in July they were considering a convention center and hotel for the site — concepts that for years have been discussed as potential redevelopment options for Aqueduct.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of land there that we think we can develop,” a Genting official told The News this week.
A regional economic development group created by the Cuomo administration stated last year that it would support a new convention center in Queens. It did not specify where it should be built, but the group’s head, Kathryn Wylde, said Tuesday that the Aqueduct site “is what we had in mind.”
In his second State of the State address, Cuomo is also expected to argue for the importance of enacting pension reform, rebuilding the state’s aging roads and bridges and reorganizing state agencies and public authorities.
But the New York City regional economic development group she headed had said earlier in the year that it would support a new convention center in Queens.The group did not specify where it should be located, though Wylde said Tuesday that the Aqueduct site “is what we had in mind.”
The convention center would also play into the push Cuomo will make today to legalize casino gambling in order to create jobs and raise needed revenue.
Cuomo recently told the News he was open to the idea of a full-scale casino in New York City at a place like Aqueduct.
The sophomore governor will spend much of his speech touting the need for job creation. He will also stress the importance of rebuilding the state’s crumbling roads and bridges; of reorganizing state agencies and public authorities; and of enacting pension reform.
The News reported Monday that Cuomo will also announce the creation of a commission for education reform that will be charged with addressing what he sees as an education system that is unaccountable. A foreclosure relief unit will also be created to prevent struggling homeowners from being booted from their homes.
And he will tout the creation of new commission to develop possible changes to the state tax code above the ones made last year.