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There is something amiss with New York state and city officials when it comes to convention centers (“Guv bets on conventions,” TimesLedger Newspapers, Jan. 12-18, and “Nix Aqueduct convention center idea: Poll,” TimesLedger, Jan. 19-25).
The Javits Center, on the West Side of Manhattan, while structurally sound, is currently undergoing an extensive, taxpayer-funded $1.4 billion renovation purported to make it more competitive. Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Willets Point development plan in Queens includes yet another convention center, ignoring not only the existence of the Javits Center but its huge renovation as well.
Were that not foolish enough, in comes Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan for yet another convention center — this one a mega-center at the Aqueduct Race Track in South Ozone Park. Cuomo does not ignore the existence of the Javits Center, but seeks, notwithstanding the huge taxpayer investment, that it be demolished after the renovations are completed and the area redeveloped, presumably by his fat cat real estate friends.
What makes the scenario a waste of taxpayer dollars is public officials’ lack of convention space knowledge. If they did a serious study, they would have come across an article in The New York Times Jan. 18, 2005, entitled “Report finds a glut in space for meetings.”
Reference is made to a Brookings Institution report that raised serious questions about a convention hall “space race” among cities. The report said, “You’ve got cities around the country building new or expanded convention space at a very rapid rate in a market that is already glutted and over supplied. In an environment where every major center around the country is sharply discounting rental rates or giving space away and throwing in incentives, the likelihood of any succeeding is remarkably dim.”
It was also pointed out there was a steady decline in attendance, no doubt due to the use of the Internet in buying and opening offices near large corporations buying offices.
The absurdity continues. Borough President Helen Marshall, one will recall,
• supported the destruction of hundreds of trees in Flushing Meadows Corona Park to construct a grand prix racetrack around Meadow Lake
• supported the United States Tennis Association seeking to double the size of its presence in Flushing Meadows, thereby giving up irreplaceable public parkland
• had no objection to hundreds of cars being parked on park grass when the New York Mets and USTA play, something that would never be allowed in any other major park in this city
• thought it was a great idea to build a huge New York Jets football stadium in the middle of the park.
She did not care the owners of Willets Point properties were being taxed for sewers, notwithstanding there were no sewers. It did not matter to her the Willets Point proposal would destroy hundreds of small businesses and financially ruin thousands of employees and their dependents and make a mockery of the time-honored concept that eminent domain is to be used for a needed public purpose and not to benefit real estate moguls.
Were any of the above individually or totality sufficient to question Marshall’s judgment in civic affairs, she has now joined the Alice in Wonderland convention center madness, claiming a Willets Point convention hall is needed, since it will “compliment” Aqueduct or Javits or both.
It should come as no surprise the Mad Hatter has now taken up residence in Queens Borough Hall.
Benjamin M. Haber
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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