Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills), like others, is waiting to see how Gov. Cuomo’s plan to build the nation’s largest convention center in Queens will unfold.
But speaking at a meeting of Community Board 5 on Jan. 11, Hevesi said he is troubled by the process Cuomo chose, limiting the development to Genting Americas, which operates the recently opened casino nearby at Aqueduct Race Track.
“The city doesn’t give out sole-bid contracts and the state doesn’t either, usually,” he said. “Why did we do it here? Why Genting? Did the governor get a deal?”
He did not address the legality of the move. Cuomo’s office did not return calls.
Hevesi also questions whether or not the governor, a fellow Democrat, did his homework before throwing the weight of his office behind a convention center as a panacea for the state’s economic ills.
“Convention centers nationally are not making the money that they did a few years ago,” he said. “There’s been a drop-off.”
In his State of the State address on Jan. 4, the governor said he wants to “build the biggest convention center in the nation, period” at Aqueduct to replace the Javits Convention Center in Manhattan.
He also wants to amend the state constitution to allow full casino gambling which already exists in neighboring states and tribal casinos throughout New York.
Genting, which operates the Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct, has proposed spending $4 billion for a four-million-square-foot convention center that would include 3,000 hotel rooms.
In response to a question from the audience, Hevesi agreed that traffic also could become an issue in the Kew Gardens-Forest Hills area, with Queens Boulevard likely to feel at least residual effects from increased traffic to and from a convention center or an expanded casino.
He also acknowledged a convention center would force the question of whether or not to restore train service — and if so to what extent — along the old Long Island Rail Road Rockaway Beach line to the fore.
The assemblyman said it might be a prudent enterprise, but that it could cost $800 million or more. He also cited efforts to turn the line into a greenway linking Ozone Park and Rego Park and noted that some residents along the rail line want it kept exactly as it is.
Fielding questions about redistricting, Hevesi said a proposal to create a new Senate district is the Senate Republicans’ plan to retain their majority in that house in the wake of the new law that counts prisoners housed upstate in the population figures for the prisoners’ home areas.
The resulting population shifts mean larger numbers for New York City and smaller ones for upstate in terms of everything from representation to allocations of state spending [see “GOP wants new Senate seat,” Jan. 12, at qchron.com]
Though the assemblyman is far from the only one tying the effort to the prisoner recalculation, Hevesi said the move makes perfect sense — from a GOP viewpoint.
“The prisoner recount hurt them upstate and helped us,” he said. Hevesi also said he supports an independent redistricting commission.
“But I don’t know how this will play out,” he said, given the Legislature’s taste for gerrymandering its districts for political advantage.
He said Forest Hills, which he represents, is a prime example of how communities are divided by the practice.
“Forest Hills has four state senators, this small neighborhood,” he said, referring to Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing), Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis) and Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica).