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Cuomo’s Convention Center Nightmare: NYC — Not The State — Owns The Land

Latest Problem For Governor's Grandiose Plan Could Center On Bloomberg
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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)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There was more problems Friday for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s controversial Aqueduct convention center project.

It seems the state doesn’t control a large part of the land and might not get it, reports CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer.

For a politician who tries to never make a mistake, Gov. Cuomo has suffered a major “oops” moment with his grandiose plans to let the owner of the Aqueduct racino build a new convention center there.

When the governor made that sweeping statement that he wanted to “build the largest convention center in the nation” during his state of the state address, he apparently thought the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey controlled 22 acres of the land at Aqueduct, so it wouldn’t be a big deal to get the bi-state agency to sign it over.

But he was wrong. The land belongs to New York City and Mayor Michael Bloomberg might not want to sell it to him because, oops, he has plans to build a convention center of his own near Citi Field.

“This is not a game of egos. We need to make sure that there are good jobs created. That’s never going to happen if we don’t have our city and state officials working collaboratively,” said Bettina Damiani of the watchdog group Good Jobs New York.

Damiani wants to see economic development in New York City. She worries that the state’s rush to support the convention center and possible casino without dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s may stall it.

And she’s not the only one with concerns. Good government expert Susan Lerner of Common Cause said she’s alarmed at the number of high-powered lobbyists and friends of the governor who have been hired to push the project.

“I think it raises the entire specter of buying access to the to the decision makers,” Lerner said.

And here’s another problem: a change in the city lease could trigger an extensive land use review and City Council sign off. Just imagine how many lobbyists it would take to get that done.

CBS 2 reported last week that the casino project also faces another hurdle. Competitors were not allowed to bid on it, as required by state law.

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