The company that would run a proposed convention center next to its casino in South Ozone Park is trying to win over the hearts of trade show operators, who have recently aired concerns about Gov. Cuomo’s proposal to bring the massive structure to Queens.
“We’re very, very early in this process, and we understand that conventioneers are going to have a lot of questions and a lot of concerns,” said Stefan Friedman, a spokesman for Genting Americas, the international company that runs the casino and would fund and operate the convention center that Cuomo proposed in his State of the State address in January. “We’re going to make an effort to meet with all of them and talk about, and hopefully allay, those concerns.”
At a forum sponsored by the Crain’s New York media company last week, several trade show leaders questioned whether South Ozone Park is the ideal spot for a convention center.
For example, Mark Scheinberg, president of the Greater New York Auto Dealers Association, which puts on the annual car show at the Javits convention center in Manhattan, voiced hesitation about the plan, though he did not say whether he would eventually move his event to Queens.
“Until the trade show industry feels comfortable that this is a workable plan, you won’t have any takers,” Scheinberg said at the forum.
The $3 billion convention center, which would be entirely funded by Genting, is expected to hold as many as 3,000 hotel rooms, as well as 3.8 million square feet that would include gaming and entertainment.
While Cuomo said he expected the facility to essentially replace the need for the Javits Center, Friedman said the Queens site wouldn’t necessarily be in competition with the Manhattan spot.
“It’s going to compete with other enormous convention centers around the country that are eating New York’s lunch — Chicago, Miami and DC. Just by sheer size, they can draw the conventions we cannot.”
Friedman also noted that the company is working with the city to increase accessibility to Ozone Park from Manhattan. Concerns about traffic have been a major concern for area residents, who said the area is already congested with the millions of visitors flooding in to visit the casino.
“We simply don’t have the transit infrastructure in place that would support a convention center,” Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) said. “That’s something that Genting and the state have to come to an agreement on. We are utterly underserved by the MTA.”
Ulrich continued that there are “a number of other local concerns that I believe have to be addressed before we roll out the red carpet for a convention center.”
Ulrich, state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) and Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Ozone Park) have all said the city needs to allocate additional permanent officers to the 106th Precinct —both to deal with the influx of visitors to the casino, as well as to prepare for the arrival of a convention center.
“We want two lanes on Rockaway Boulevard, better bus service, a better train or extended air train service, more cops on the street and for the traffic to flow more freely,” Ulrich said. “If these things aren’t addressed, I don’t believe the community will support the convention center.”