Las Vegas and Orlando are two of the nation’s most popular convention destinations, for obvious reasons. Despite having more attractions than any other city in America, New York doesn’t even make the top 10.
But Governor Andrew Cuomo aims to change that. How? By opening the biggest convention center in the nation in Ozone Park, Queens. Yep, way out there.
But hey, why not? “What happens in Ozone Park, stays in Ozone Park,” right? What’s that you say? Nothing happens in Ozone Park? Ha! Don’t you read NewYorkGritty? (11-13-11). A huge new casino recently opened there, right beside pitiful Aqueduct racetrack, and is drawing big crowds.
The $4 billion NY International Convention and Exhibition Center would include gambling (pardon me, “gaming”), entertainment and thousands of hotel rooms, and would supersede the ill-planned Javits Center as the city’s premier convention draw, according to Genting Americas, which already owns the casino and would run this operation as well.
The bold plan would create thousands of jobs and millions in tax revenues. Most Queens residents and public officials have expressed cautious optimism about the plan, as long as they have some input into it.
“Our message is very clear,” said Queens state senator Joe Addabbo Jr. “We don’t move a single step forward without public approval.”
Good luck with that, Joe. Governor Cuomo did not have one single meeting with local residents or officials before signing off on the plan earlier this month. There was also no competitive bidding against Genting for the rights. Hmm…
Still and all, who could oppose building such an ambitious, potentially profitable enterprise in Ozone Park? For starters, those who say conventioneers want to be in Manhattan, not way out at the edge of Queens, and that Ozone Park is the last place to build such a center. The fact that it is over 25 stops from Times Square by the A train might factor into the equation.
Witty New York Post columnist (yes, there is such a being) Kyle Smith wrote a withering column questioning the choice of location, saying “as you might expect of a neighborhood named after smog,” Ozone Park is “known for auto repair yards and dead mobsters“, and that the neighborhood’s motto is “we make Flushing look good.”
Somehow this didn’t go over well with locals. “I have never read such a piece of garbage in my life,” said City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park).
Meanwhile, the state is so confident that the Ozone Park International Convention Center will be successful that Cuomo is seriously looking into the possibility of tearing down the Javits Center and developing a new plan for the west side no man’s land that would include housing, hotels and museums__ or selling the land to developers.
If successful, such a plan has the possibility of resurrecting an area that is kind of desolate by New York City standards. Sort of the way Ozone Park looks now.
“We look forward to working in partnership with Genting as the Ozone Park plan develops,” said longtime Queens civic leader Betty Braton.
Good luck with that, Betty.
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