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Genting, state want addition to racino site

The proposed convention center near Aqueduct Race Track would be the largest in the nation if constructed. Photo courtesy Genting
TimesLedger Newspapers

Genting, the company behind the racino at Aqueduct Racetrack, is in discussions with the state to construct and finance the country’s largest convention center at the South Ozone Park site and expects at least 20,000 jobs to be created by the project.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed the convention center at Aqueduct during his State of the State address last week.

“Let’s build the largest convention center in the nation, period,” Cuomo said.

He called the Javits Center “not competitive.”

“It will be all about jobs, jobs, jobs — tens of thousands of jobs,” Cuomo said.

Genting, a Malaysian company that built Resorts World Casino New York City, which opened at Aqueduct in November, said it would finance the $4 billion convention center “using a combination of debt and equity.”

The company said 10,000 construction jobs and 10,000 direct permanent jobs would be created “at minimum.”

In a letter to state legislative leaders sent Tuesday, Cuomo said he wants them to meet with Genting.

“Given the past history, while I may have the legal authority to proceed unilaterally, I choose to only proceed in full public view and with support of the Legislature in a spirit of cooperation,” the governor said, referring to the failed deals on awarding the Aqueduct racino contract and criticism of his predecessor’s, David Paterson, involvement in the process in the past.

Although Queens has a population of 2.2 million and is home to two airports, it does not have a convention center. A proposal for redeveloping Willets Point included a 400,000-square-foot convention center.

The center suggested for Aqueduct would be nearly six times the size of the one that had been envisioned for Willets Point.

A fact sheet put out by Genting said the project would also create “tens of thousands of additional indirect jobs in Queens County and throughout the New York City metropolitan area and bring untold billions to the city and state of New York in tax and tourist revenues.”

Elected officials who represent the area said the idea of a convention center is appealing but would like community residents to have input on the project — specifically Community Board 10.

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) said he was supportive of the governor’s proposal, but wants the community to have a say in what is built.

“I am an advocate for community input on this project and feel most people would want to see plans or drawings for the proposal,” the senator said in a statement. “Given our current economic situation, I would certainly work toward creating the thousands of jobs and revenue to the city and state the convention center brings.”

U.S. Rep. Bob Turner (R-Middle Village) wrote in a letter to Cuomo that community residents should be involved in the process.

“Queens Community Board 10 is charged by the New York City Charter to provide assistance on issues such as land use, budget and city service delivery issues,” Turner said. “Seeing as they will be responsible for a lot of the issues that arise due to the project, they should be involved in the planning stages. Making sure Community Board 10 and other local stakeholders are involved in the process will only serve to help make this location the best possible convention site.”

State Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Ozone Park) also said there should be community input.

“The proposal to build the largest convention center in the nation at Aqueduct is an ambitious plan that must be undertaken responsibly and appropriately with real community involvement and participation,” he said.

The Queens Chamber of Commerce has long called for a convention center to be built in the borough.

“The governor’s plan to build a 3.8-million-square-foot facility with 3,000 new hotel rooms at Aqueduct Racetrack is a huge victory for the Borough of Queens,” said Carol Conslato, president of the chamber.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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