Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State speech is likely to address the future for the West Side convention center. There are two Queens sites eyed as a possible successor: Willets Point and Aqueduct Racetrack.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo will talk about the future of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on Wednesday afternoon as part of his State of the State speech focus on economic development, Crain’s Insider reported.
It’s unclear how much detail the governor will give, but observers believe his administration has an interest in the Regional Plan Association’s idea to tear down the approximately 1 million-square-foot convention hall on the West Side after building a much larger one in Queens.
Razing the Javits Center would leave a multi-block, $4 billion piece of waterfront property that could be parceled off and developed alongside Related Cos.’ planned Hudson Yards project. The redevelopment could be modeled after Battery Park City, where the state leases the land to developers in exchange for a percentage of their rental income. Revenue for the state would increase along with apartment values.
A new 3.8 million-square-foot international convention and exhibition center was a component of the city’s Regional Economic Development Council plan submitted to the governor last year. Willets Point is a possible site for it because of its proximity to La Guardia Airport and the infrastructure improvements that are already underway. But the Aqueduct Racetrack site in Queens recently re-developed by Malaysian firm Genting as a Racino, has clear advantages too, according to one observer. Genting could build a convention center on one story and, perhaps most important, finance it. An insider familiar with the issue said a constitutional amendment allowing casino gambling would not be a necessary incentive for Genting to build the convention center.
Infrastructure improvements, however, might be. Observers have discussed upgrading subway access to Aqueduct and possibly building an AirTrain spur to connect JFK airport to the site. Mr. Cuomo controls the authorities that manage those systems—the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey.
An Albany insider believes the Javits Center will serve to highlight Mr. Cuomo’s focus on job creation rather than legislative priorities, such as pension reform, mandate relief and redistricting.
“It’s going to be interesting to see whether he can generate excitement with this approach,” the insider said. “There are such high expectations after last year.”