While Gov. Cuomo said negotiations between his office and Genting International about building a convention center in South Ozone Park have not “worked out,” Queens legislators, casino officials and industry experts agree New York will get a massive new meeting and entertainment facility — but it may no longer be located in the borough.
Cuomo said in a radio interview with former Gov. Paterson on Friday that Genting, which runs the Resorts World New York Casino at Aqueduct, was no longer slated to definitely be the operator of what the governor touted would be the country’s largest convention center in Queens.
“We had those conversations going on for a few weeks,” Cuomo told Paterson. “Those conversations haven’t worked out.”
The governor announced in his State of the State address in January that he expected Genting would foot the entire bill for the nearly $4 billion, 3.8-million-square-foot convention center at the racino site, and the first construction phase, which would have included hotel rooms, was expected to be finished as early as this October.
However, according to other published reports, Genting opted not to ink a deal with Cuomo because the state did not agree to give the Malaysian-based company an exclusive gaming license in the city if New York legalizes casino gambling.
Genting said it still plans to compete in the bid process for a convention center, but so have a number of Las Vegas-based companies — which some have said could mean the facility could be moved to somewhere like Willets Point, or out of Queens entirely. Cuomo had said he wanted the Ozone Park spot to replace the Javits Center in Manhattan, which a number of legislators have said is too small to attract major shows.
“Resorts World welcomes the governor’s approach as the uncertainties and difficulties regarding the constitutional amendments, tax rate and infrastructure support made any decision difficult for both parties,” Stefan Friedman, a spokesman for Genting, said in a prepared statement. “… We have several great ideas to develop our site into one of the world’s premier destinations for gaming and conventions, and we now look forward to working with Gov. Cuomo and participating in any competition for a convention center/casino project that the governor designs.”
The Cuomo administration has said it is discussing plans for a potential convention center with other companies. Caesars Entertainment Corporation, based in Las Vegas, confirmed that its representatives have met with the governor’s office, and the New York Post reported that MGM and Sands, both of Las Vegas, are also interested.
“New York is an exciting market for countless industries, including those in business and entertainment,” Jan Jones, executive vice president of communications and government relations for Caesars Entertainment Corporation, said in an emailed statement. “As the state has begun the legalization process for casinos, Caesars Entertainment has met with the Cuomo administration, and is interested in the possibility of a casino and convention center in New York, should the state proceed with legalizing gaming.”
If a company besides Genting did land the contract to build the center, it would likely not be erected in South Ozone Park because Genting owns much of the area on which the center would have been built.
Jerry Kremer, president of Empire Government Strategies and a former assemblyman, said Cuomo’s proposal to build the center outside of Manhattan “seemed to have much more opposition than support.”
“Without a better mass transportation system and hotels, the business community seemed cool to the idea,” Kremer said.
However, state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) said he believes a center could still be built in Queens.
“As of today, I’m still optimistic we’ll maximize our potential at Resorts World in terms of jobs and revenue,” Addabbo said. “We’re way too early in the process to get worried about the future of Resorts World and a convention center.”
A number of civic leaders and residents had raised concerns about a convention center in South Ozone Park, citing already congested roads and limited subway service.
“I’d love a convention center, with the revenue and jobs, but not until we resolve transportation, infrastructure and public safety issues — but I was convinced we could do that,” Addabbo said.
Some business leaders in Queens, including Jack Friedman, the executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, have said Willets Point could be ideal for a convention center, though Addabbo disagrees.
“Willets Point is years behind what Resorts World has already built,” he said. “We can break ground on a convention center at Resorts World tomorrow. It’s better than any other site I can think of.”
Borough President Helen Marshall said she would want a convention center at Aqueduct or Willets Point.
“The borough president wants to see the building, so we see the jobs,” said Dan Andrews, a spokesman for Marshall. “We’re not precluding either site. We need a convention center, and if someone can build it and provide the economic activity, construction and permanent jobs — that’s what we’re looking for. That could be at either location.”