Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver read Gov. Paterson the riot act yesterday about that dubious video-lottery terminals deal he struck for Aqueduct race track. Good for Silver.
The deal — which would grant politically connected Aqueduct Entertainment Group the right to install and operate the terminals, rejecting competing bids from five other investors — stinks even by New York’s low-rent standards.
"Let me reiterate, in the event our conversation and my [previous] letter were not absolutely clear," Silver fumed at Paterson, in an unusually frank missive.
To wit, he won’t support any AEG deal unless certain conditions are met — and without the speaker’s affirmative OK, the scheme is dead.
But, at this point, it’s hard to see how those terms can be met.
Among other things, the speaker insists that all key players have gaming licenses and no criminal record. That could be tough, sources say, for at least two AEG investors — including partner Darryl Greene, once convicted of stealing $500,000 in city and private cash.
Silver also wants every penny of the group’s up-front licensing fee — $300 million — paid in full by March 31.
Whether AEG can raise the dough is very much an open question. In fact, Silver would do well to demand a public accounting of the group’s resources now.
But it’s not just Silver’s concerns.
The Post reported Sunday about what appears to be a tax-subsidized slush fund, called New Direction Local Development Corp., run by state Senate President Malcolm Smith, Rep. Gregory Meeks and others — many with ties to the AEG deal.
One player, former Congressman Rev. Floyd Flake, seems to be at the center of both the New Direction operation and the AEG bid for the video terminals.
And Monday, just three days after announcing the AEG deal, Paterson met with Flake for the first time, Flake says, since the governor took office.
The topic, according to Flake: Whether Flake — Smith’s mentor and a powerful figure — will back Paterson for election.
Sounds like a quid pro quo to us.
To that end, Senate GOP leader Dean Skelos is demanding a public hearing into the deal. He cites "reports about possible political considerations related to the selection of AEG."
Surely those hearings should be held before any deal goes forward, if only because this entire sordid process evolved in secrecy; it’s crying for sunlight.
Yesterday, Paterson tried again to claim that everything about the AEG arrangement is kosher. "I myself did not have a preference" about which bid won, he said Tuesday. "I was trying to break the deadlock."
Right. Silver’s letter says point-blank that Paterson "called me to personally and strongly recommend" AEG.
Silver knows the score. He’s eager for the state to get its hands on that $300 million, as he should be.
But until this fetid deal is bathed in sunlight, it mustn’t go anywhere.
It’s that simple.