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Questions About Legality, Competitive Process Pouring Cold Water On Cuomo’s Convention Center Plan

Good Government Groups Upset About Transparency Of Gov's Letter Of Intent
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NYC Convention Center

An artist’s rendering of what the proposed convention center in New York City could look like. (Photo courtesy: Genting Americas)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Serious questions are being raised about Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plans to build the “largest” convention center in the country at Aqueduct racetrack – legal questions and whether promises of a casino gambling franchise are involved.

The pictures for a proposed new convention center at Aqueduct look great, but many are wondering whether Gov. Cuomo jumped the gun by having his administration sign a letter of intent to build the facility with the company that operates a racino there, reports CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer.

“This is not kosher at all,” the Manhattan Institute’s Nicole Gelinas said.

The problem, quite simply, is that Section 212 of the racing and wagering law — the law that set up the racino — states that any other development at Aqueduct “shall only be undertaken pursuant to a competitive process.”

That wasn’t done here and what’s more the agreement with the racino company says their plans to build the $4 billion convention center include building a casino.

That creates two problems: casino gambling hasn’t been approved by the voters and linking casino gambling with building the convention center looks to some look like a quid pro quo.

“How can you say we favor a project that depends on something that is not constitutional in the state yet?” Gelinas said.

The governor’s office said Friday there is no agreement to allow the racino company to build a casino, but good government groups are still upset.

“We’re opposed to a project by which an agreement of this size is arrived at behind closed doors. Not only is there questions about the transparency as a good government principle, but now there are questions about the legality,” said Susan Lerner of Common Cause.

A spokesman for the governor insisted that proper procedures will be followed but given the fact that an agreement has already been reached with one company it’s unclear whether this project will ever be competitively bid.

Questions are also being raised about another part of the deal — getting the cash strapped Metropolitan Transportation Authority to fund and build uninterrupted subway service from Midtown to the convention center.

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