Pundits: It's A Money-Losing Idea; Questions Arise Over Agreed-To Deal

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The signature piece of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2012 agenda is building a new convention center at Aqueduct racetrack.

But on Thursday questions were raised about whether it makes economic sense and whether the state followed proper procedures in selecting a developer, reports CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer.

“Thinking back on what we accomplished makes me tired,” Gov. Cuomo said.

With great bravado Cuomo on Wednesday touted Albany’s achievements and outlined his centerpiece for 2012 — a new $4 billion convention center at Aqueduct.

“Let’s build the largest convention center in the nation, period,” Cuomo said.

Even before the government made the announcement the Cuomo administration had quietly signed a letter of agreement to build the facility with the operator of the Aqueduct racino.

This as questions are being raised about the project.

“Convention centers all over the country are money-losing white elephants, so basically what the governor is saying is that we ought to build the nation’s largest money-losing white elephant in New York City,” said E.J. McMahon of the Manhattan Institute.

“When you figure that the biggest now is only at 55 percent of capacity, is that really the right way to go?” added Hofstra University law professor Lawrence Levy.

Others, however, are gung-ho over the idea.

“The fact is that bringing in a private investment, a $4 billion private investment, in a new convention center is going to be good for the five boroughs,” said Kathryn Wylde of the Partnership for New York City.

Now there are questions being raised about the deal itself. Sources told Kramer that the legislation authorizing the Aqueduct racino specifically states that any further development at the site has to be open to a “competitive process.” Other firms get to make proposals.

And what exactly did they agree to? Neither the governor’s office nor the racino operator would make the paperwork public.

“Any understanding you reach with somebody that involves the use of state land, some sort of concession from the state government, ought to be completely transparent from the very beginning,” McMahon said.

If the new convention center is built the Javits Center would be torn down, but right now its unclear when, or if, the wrecking balls should arrive.

Another question is whether the agreement gives the company the right to open a full-fledged casino if gambling is approved in New York.

Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below …

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