In laying out a plan with $25billion in economic development initiatives, Gov. Andrew Cuomo says that constructing the nation’s largest convention center —and razing Javits—is a priority.
Jan 4th, 2012 — Article by: Jeremy Smerd, Crains New York.
nitiatives. At the top of the list for New York City is a push to build the country’s largest conve
ntion center in Queens, raze the Jacob K. Javits Center and then redevelop the 14-acre waterfront property on the far West Side of Manhattan.
The governor also said he wants to invest $1 billion to grow the high-tech economy of Buffalo. That proposal drew the largest applause during his address to lawmakers and the public in Albany. The investment would be modeled after the success of the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering in Albany, where a research center has attracted computer chip developers and manufacturers.
Mr. Cuomo also reiterated his proposal for an infrastructure fund that would coordinate the capital plans of various state agencies to rebuild state bridges, highways, dams and railways. He also gave preference to plans to upgrade the state’s aging and inefficient energy transmission lines.
Topping the list of priorities, though, was the convention center plan. He said he wanted to replace the Javits Center with 3.8 million-square-foot exhibition center at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens through a joint-partnership the administration is developing with Genting Americas, the gaming corporation that operates the racino.
“Let’s build the largest convention center in the nation, period,” Mr. Cuomo said. “It will be all about jobs, jobs, jobs, tens of thousand of jobs.”
Razing the Javits Center would leave a multi-block, $4 billion piece of waterfront property that could be parceled off and developed alongside Related Cos.’ planned Hudson Yards project and the redevelopment of the Farley Post Office into Moynihan Station. The redevelopment of Javits will be modeled after Battery Park City, where the state leases the land to developers in exchange for a percentage of their rental income. Revenue for the state would increase along with apartment values.
Economic development officials had considered Willets Point, Queens, a possible site for a new convention center because of its proximity to La Guardia Airport and infrastructure improvements that are already underway. But the Aqueduct Racetrack site in Queens has clear advantages, too: Genting could build a convention center on one story and, perhaps most importantly, finance it.
“Genting Americas is extremely excited about this opportunity to partner with Gov. Cuomo to build the largest convention center in the country,” said Christian Goode, the company’s senior vice president for development. “It’s a great time to invest and grow in New York, and we are thrilled to be able to play a role in creating jobs and increasing tourism.”
The governor described the convention center as a $4 billion project that would include as many as 3,000 hotel rooms.
An insider familiar with the issue said a constitutional amendment allowing casino gambling would not be a necessary incentive for Genting to build the convention center, but the governor nonetheless reiterated his belief that the state must allow Las Vegas-style gambling in order to compete with casinos operated in other states and by Indian tribes in New York.
“It’s not a question of whether we should have gaming,” he said. “We have gaming in the state of New York…We’re not doing it as well as we should be doing it, but we are in the gaming business.”
Observers have discussed upgrading subway access to Aqueduct and possibly building an AirTrain spur to connect John F. Kennedy International Airport to the site. Mr. Cuomo controls the authorities that manage those systems—the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Mr. Cuomo used slides and pictures to make his point and, at one moment, make fun of himself and other legislative leaders. Last year he used battleships to highlight the Legislature’s bickering that had made Albany ineffective. On Wednesday, he showed photoshopped pictures of Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver holding hands. Signaling a return to the camaraderie of the past, the two men were portrayed in black and white photos wearing boys’ short trousers. (Were those knickerbockers?)
The speech first read as a highlight reel of the governor’s rookie year accomplishments: an on-time and slimmed-down budget, a property tax cap, a marriage equality bill and a tax “reform” bill that cut taxes for middle class households, among other legislative victories.
But Mr. Cuomo quickly cut to his “three-part plan” focused on economic development, streamlining government and his “vision for a progressive future.” He promised this year, as he did in early 2011, to introduce mandate reforms that would ease the burden the state places on local governments to provide services. Part of that was a promise to reduce the pension benefits to future government workers.
Mr. Cuomo ended his wonky speech with a pep talk to rally the audience to support his jobs plan. Raising his voice and trying to sound inspirational, he said, “This isn’t the end but the beginning…last year we learned to walk, next year we learn how to run.”