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Cuomo unveils his vision for new convention center

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (r.) waves as he is introduced by Lt. Gov.Roberty Duffy before his State of the State speech at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany. AP Photo/Mike Groll
TimesLedger Newspapers

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he wants the Aqueduct racino in South Ozone Park to be the site of the nation’s largest convention center during his State of the State address last week.

Cuomo said convention centers are “economic generators” and the Javits Center in Manhattan is not big enough to attract the best shows and conventions.

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

He called the Javits Center “not competitive.”

The governor said $4 billion would be needed from the private sector to build a convention center at the Aqueduct racino.

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

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.”

Cuomo said 2011, his first year in office, was successful for the state because it “established credibility” and “reversed decades of decline.

“We have big problems in New York. We also have big solutions in New York,” he said.

“I think we had a change of attitude last year,” Cuomo said. “We were done with the dysfunction of Albany, done with the label of dysfunction ... and we made up our mind to change it.”

The governor said he wanted to expand gambling in the state to raise revenues.

“When it comes to casino gaming, I believe we’re living in a state of denial,” he said, referring to opponents the governor said fail to acknowledge the state already has gambling in the form of native American casinos and racinos like the one at Aqueduct.

“The debate ... is just not true. We’re in the gaming business,” Cuomo said. “For us, it’s not about chips and cards. This is about the jobs that the casino industry generates.”

The governor said expanding gambling would generate $1 billion in economic benefits for the state.

He also called for repairing 2,000 miles of roads, improving 48 state parks and historic sites and repairing 114 flood-control projects.

Cuomo said he understands the politics behind those who do not agree with him on pension reform, but the governor said his proposal would only affect potential new employers in the future — what he called the “unborn.

“We have taxpayers who are suffering today and need help today,” he said. “Let’s respond to them.”

Cuomo said there needs to be improvement in education, saying the state ranked 38th in the country in graduation rates.

“We need major reform,” he said. “We have to change the paradigm.”

During his address, the governor also proposed what he called a foreclosure relief unit that would provide counseling and mediation to keep residents in their homes.

Cuomo said he expects the state to improve on last year, but cautioned that some observers viewed last year as a fluke.

“The cynics don’t know us and they don’t know New York because there’s no way we’re going back, we are going forward. There’s no way we’re going down, we are going up,” he said. “Last year we learned to walk, this year we’re going to run. The best is yet to be. They ain’t seen nothing yet.”

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

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