Officials believe Queens has convention potential

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Developers have begun to make pitches to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for a new casino and convention center in the state, but officials still want Queens to be a viable option.

“The need for a convention center in Queens has not diminished,” Borough President Helen Marshall said. “I remain hopeful and optimistic that something will get built. We have the labor force to build it, and we need the thousands of jobs that would be generated.”

Cuomo announced June 1 that talks between the state and gaming giant Genting, which developed Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct Race Track in South Ozone Park, had broken down amid the uncertainty surrounding gambling legalization in the state.

The governor’s announcement came days before The New York Times published a story revealing that Genting had made contributions of $400,000 of its own money and $2 million by the New York Gaming Association to the Committee to Save New York, a business and labor coalition that has advertised heavily in support of Cuomo’s push for legalized table gaming in the state.

While the breakdown of negotiations reopened the door to a possible convention center at Willets Point, many other potential builders are lining up to bring gaming — and perhaps a convention center of their own — to areas besides Queens.

“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 Corp., said in a 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.”

Even if development happens outside the borough, Albany insiders said it is unlikely Cuomo will completely abandon development in Queens, his native borough.

“Queens is not out of the equation,” said Jerry Kremer, president of Empire Government Strategies and a state assemblyman for 23 years. “The potential for jobs is crucial and the tax revenue the state could get from a development in Queens is too much for Cuomo to turn his back on.”

Willets Point, a 61-acre site adjacent to Citi Field and slated for redevelopment by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, could be the site of a convention center, though officials believe any movement on that site is still years away.

“Before any work can be done at Willets, environmental, traffic and soil studies must be completed. Resorts World has already had such studies,” said state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach). “The Resorts World site has been the generator of millions of dollars in revenue to the city and state, while contributing over $100 million to our educational system. The site has been the provider of thousands of jobs. Our state government would be irrational to not explore the possibility of thousands of more job opportunities and extensive revenue to be created there.”

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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