Poll: New Yorkers don’t support Aqueduct convention center Cuomo proposed
Monday, January 16, 2012
By MICHAEL GORMLEY
ALBANY — New Yorkers still love their governor, but a new poll shows that voters don’t share Andrew Cuomo’s support for a huge convention center that a casino developer wants to build at a New York City racetrack.
The Siena College poll released Monday finds that 57 percent of New Yorkers oppose the plan to build the nation’s largest convention center at Aqueduct racetrack in the New York City borough of Queens. The Democrat made that a centerpiece of his State of the State address earlier this month as part of his effort to increase state tax revenue and boost jobs as the economy remains weak.
Just 38 percent supported the idea, even though Cuomo made it clear that the Genting Group would pay for it, requiring only some regulatory approvals and a 20-acre land swap. Malaysia-based Genting is one of the world’s largest casino developers and is operating video slot machines at Aqueduct now under a state contract.
Cuomo had said the center could increase tourism by attracting conventions. A 3,000-room hotel is part of the plan, along with a train connecting the site to nearby John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Cuomo dismissed opposition, saying voters think the proposal for now "sounds like a big expensive government boondoggle."
"I think when they understand the facts that this is really all about the number of jobs and the … lack of cost for the state, I think they will be overwhelmingly supportive," Cuomo said Monday. He said New Yorkers will then realize "this is not the state building a convention center at all."
The Democrat also distanced himself a bit from the project on Monday, noting that Genting won the video slot machine contract before he took office and is simply following through on the company’s original convention center idea on state land it leases for 30 years.
"I was not part of that original decision," Cuomo told reporters. "This was all done before I got here, so I inherited the situation … the question now is to allow it to expand on land they now control."
He also said his proposal to change the state constitution to allow casinos off American Indian land will bring sense and better management to the state’s gambling policy that he called "a hodgepodge quilt."
The poll found just more than half of New Yorkers support Cuomo’s proposal for allowing non-Indian casino gambling, potentially giving Genting a huge inside track for a casino serving New York City. The poll found 53 percent of New Yorkers supported Atlantic City- and Las Vegas-style casino gambling, with 42 percent opposed.
The Genting proposal comes as the convention center business continues to disappoint in other states and Atlantic City and Las Vegas are slumping.
"New York City voters are barely supportive," said Steven Greenberg of the Siena College poll. "Suburbanites are opposed and upstaters are strongly opposed. Clearly, the governor has his work cut out for him to convince voters on that proposal."
The poll, however, finds overwhelming support – 82 percent – for Cuomo’s proposal for a bipartisan commission to find ways to improve public schools. In another question in the poll, 51 percent say they are glad Cuomo has declared he will be a "lobbyist" for students and will improve education. About 45 percent said he was "just grandstanding" in his State of the State announcement and it will take more than "him pretending" to be the students’ advocate.
The poll also found:
– 74 percent support his proposal for voluntary public financing of political campaigns and other measures to reduce the impact of money on politics.
– 73 percent support partnerships with companies to repair roads and bridges as part of a jobs program.
– 49 percent support using $1 billion of state tax breaks and other resources to jump-start Buffalo’s economy; 41 percent oppose it.
– 50 percent oppose Cuomo’s plan to eliminate the antifraud fingerprinting of Food Stamps recipients, a move he said will remove a stigma and get more food to children.
– 51 percent think New York is heading in the right direction, the first majority since 2007.
– Cuomo reached his highest job approval rating – 64 percent – up from 56 percent in November. He appears to have built support after reversing his campaign promise to oppose any tax increases. In December, he supported a millionaire tax that adds spending to the 2012-13 budget he will present Tuesday and includes a $200 to $400 tax break for most middle-class families.
Siena questioned 805 registered voters from Jan. 8 through Thursday. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.