Governor Andrew Cuomo’s goal of developing the world’s largest, best, and most successful convention center in New York City is the right objective, but putting it at the Aqueduct Racino (or Willets Point or Sunnyside Rail Yards) is the wrong solution and location.
A combined convention center/racetrack and casino at Aqueduct would be great for the Gentry Corporation and its Malaysian owners, but terrible for New York City and State.
The best and most feasible solution is preserving the I. M. Pei award-winning Javits Center and expanding it on the adjoining city blocks that it owns (38th to 40th Streets, 11th to 12th Avenues) and the free, publically owned air rights above these properties and Twelfth Avenue. A Javits expansion would:
(1) provide greater revenues and more temporary construction and permanent jobs;
(2) give Javits a Million Square Foot single level exhibition floor, hundreds of thousands of square feet of additional levels for exhibition space, meeting rooms, and related administrative, office and other ancillary needs plus staging, marshalling, and screening and parking all within its own self contained separate, independent complex;
(3) provide (a) many more millions of square feet of showroom, hotel, office, retail, residential, and gallery space and revenues than a Aqueduct convention center, (b) create as much new development as if the 14 acres occupied by Javits were redeveloped, and (c) would produce greater leasehold revenue (rents and real estate taxes or equivalent payments) than Aqueduct;
(4) result in a multi billion dollar cost free expansion of Javits through the sale of millions of square feet of air rights and air rights development leaseholds over the Javits Center, its adjoining properties, and Twelfth Avenue and its service road conditioned upon the developer(s) transferring title to the first 4 base levels of their project(s) to Javits or the Empire state Development Corporation without charge after improving that space to Javits specifications and interconnecting it to the present convention center to create a self contained, independent, enlarged convention complex;
(5) eliminate the necessity, high costs and time consuming efforts by fiscally challenged government and/or Public authorities or agencies to provide an Aqueduct convention center with infrastructure, airport transfer trains, expanded train and subway access to Manhattan, and improve vehicular access (adequate transportation and infrastructure facilities already exist at Javits minimizing its expansion and related development costs);
(6) be a boon to hotels, restaurants, retailers, other businesses, sightseeing, entertainment and cultural attractions and greatly increase property values and NYC sales and real estate taxes and other revenues;
(7) ensure the competitiveness, attendance, and success of the convention center and the reliability of its profitability and revenue stream because Manhattan’s attractions and advantages are the best draw domestically and internationally;
(8) allow completion of the Javits Expansion in one or more phases without interruption and loss of revenues, markets and related operating jobs during construction, and without the problems, delays, and costs of site acquisition, tenant relocation, and rezoning;
(9) provide the Hudson River Park, the New Jersey ferry terminal, and the High Line with restaurant, shopping, toilet facilities and other amenities;
(10) offer the flexibility of obtaining additional or alternative parking and/or staging, marshalling, and screening space on nearby piers.
Among the drawbacks of an Aqueduct Convention Center/Racino are:
(1) its negative impact on Manhattan’s business and revenues.
(2) convention centers have different markets and patrons than racinos and keeping them separate would increase the amount and reliability of their revenues;
(3) unaffordable public transportation and infrastructure cost requirements including direct subway or rail access to both Kennedy and LaGuardia Airports and improvement of heavily trafficked highway and road access to Aqueduct and enlarged water and sewer distribution capacity;
(4) discourage event organizers and conventioneers who come to New York City to enjoy its incomparable cultural, entertainment, shopping, sightseeing, dining, and business and networking advantages, not to spend their time enduring the inconvenience of crowded commutes to and from Queens;
(5) would create a heavy and unaffordable additional demand on municipal services (police, fire, sewer, water, sanitation, street maintenance and repair, schools, etc.) which already fully exist in Manhattan without the need to increase staffing and payroll;
(6) attract drugs, crime and other undesirable elements and activities to its vicinity;
(7) create heavy vehicular and truck traffic and congestion in a bedroom community
Additionally, Governors Island merits priority for a world class casino complex because of its central location, ease of security and control, existing ferry connections, and the potential to provide road access via a connection to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel which runs under the harbor near its vent tower at the northern tip of the island.
The proposed cost free air rights expansion of the Javits Center would give New York City a world class convention center commensurate with its stature that would attract the biggest and best events (and attendance), enable a full and complimentary development of Manhattan’s “New West Side” and provide the best alternative to maximize revenues and jobs.