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Paterson leads groundbreaking ceremony for long-awaited Aqueduct casino

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The “racino” project at Aqueduct Racetrack in Ozone Park ceremonially broke ground after nine years of false starts and planning Thursday morning, attracting a slew of local leaders and union construction workers.

Actual construction work will begin on the project in about 30 days, but Gov. David Paterson led a group of stakeholders in the project in a ceremonial demolition, during which participants each broke a slab of rock with rubber hammers.

“With today’s groundbreaking, New York continues its confident march out of recession and back to prosperity and job growth,” Paterson said.

The casino project at the raceway will include 4,525 video lottery terminals, a three-story glass entry atrium, a center bar with stage, a food court and a 250-seat buffet, among other amenities. A new two-lane entry boulevard will run through the entire property from the Conduit to Rockaway Boulevard, encompassing a traffic circle at the entrance, a 7-floor, 2,800-spot parking garage connected to the facility, and possibly a bridge from the subway station nearby.

Builders expect to have 1,600 VLTs installed within six months. The project will bring 1,200 construction jobs to the area and 800 permanent jobs, and is expected to produce more than $300 million in annual state revenue, according to the New York Racing Association.

“Working alongside our elected officials, union representatives and our neighbors in the south Queens community, we will deliver a world-class tourism and entertainment facility that all New Yorkers can be proud of,” Genting Chairman K.T. Lim said at the event.

Dozens of elected officials and heads of agencies, unions and other groups spoke at the event, including Borough President Helen Marshal;, U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica); state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach); state Assemblyman William Scarborough (D-St. Albans); state Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Rockaway Beach); City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park); Community Board 10 Chairwoman Betty Braton; Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York; and Peter Ward, president of the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council.

“This long-awaited project couldn’t come soon enough for the people of Queens, as it will create exactly the right kind of jobs — good-paying, stable and local — that are in such high demand throughout this neighborho­od,” Addabbo said.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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