New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's plan for a 3.8 million-square foot convention center at a New York City racetrack was met with approval from one local non-profit planning group, while the local community board said it awaited more details on the project.
The $4 billion convention center at the Aqueduct Racetrack in the borough of Queens, announced during Cuomo's annual State of the State speech, would be the largest in the country and replace the Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan as the city's hub for trade shows and conventions.
The Jacob Javits Convention Center on Manhattan's West Side is obselete and not large enough to be a top tier competitor in today's marketplace, said Cuomo in prepared remarks.
He said the new convention center would be crucial to further grow tourism in New York state, which totaled $50 billion in 2010.
The state will partner with the Genting Organization, a Malaysia-based resort developer whose New York subsidiary recently opened the city's first casino at Aqueduct. In addition to the new convention center, up to 3,000 new hotel rooms would be built.
Genting Americas is extremely excited about this opportunity to partner with Gov. Cuomo to build the largest convention center in the country, said Christian Goode, senior vice president of development for Genting Americas, in a statement. It's a great time to invest and grow in New York, and we are thrilled to be able to play a role in creating jobs and increasing tourism.
Details of the project, including its expected construction schedule, financing and design, weren't immediately disclosed.
Elizabeth Bratton, chairwoman of Queens Community Board 10, whose district covers the Aqueduct site, said it was too early for the board to have a position on the project.
The details will have to be carefully reviewed, she told International Business Times. Our area very much approaches issues like this carefully. We try to develop consensus.
She said that despite concerns over traffic, the November opening of Genting's casino, which is connected to the nearby racetrack, has been positive.
Genting has been extremely cooperative. They have been very conscious of community issues, said Bratton.
Under Cuomo's plan, the 18-acre Javits Convention Center site would turn into a master plan mixed-use redevelopment, following the Battery Park City model, which includes housing, hotels, museums, retail and office space. The state estimates over $2 billion in private sector development in the area, complementing the Related Companies' mixed-use development at Hudson Yards to the south of Javits.
We're very excited, said Hope Cohen, New York director of the non-profit Regional Plan Assocation (RPA). Last October, the RPA proposed a similar plan for the Javits Center to be sold and either Willets Point or Aqueduct to be developed as a new convention center.
The sale of the Javits Center, which is owned by the state's Metropolitan Transit Authority and Empire State Development Corp., could yield over $4 billion, funds that could go to cover redevelopment of the Moynihan Station, infrastructure on the West side, as well as a new convention center, said the RPA.
The Javits Center is undergoing a $463 million renovation, which is adding environmental features and expanding the center by 110,000 square feet, but Cohen said that the center remained inadequate.
Choosing Acqueduct as the site of a new convention center made sense, said Cohen, because it has the potential for large floor plates and access to John F. Kennedy Airport, the highway and subway.
Construction of the new center could take years to begin. But Cuomo's announcement was described as a return to large public-private development, which has stalled during the recession.
I think the governor actually made a point in ending his speech with a call to arms to build great things again, said Cohen.