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Cuomo Calls for Biggest U.S. Convention Center in Queens

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Photographer: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called for replacing the Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan with a 3.8 million-square-foot complex in Queens to be built by the Malaysian gambling company Genting Bhd.

Cuomo, who grew up in the New York City borough, said the center at the Aqueduct Racetrack would be the largest in the U.S., eclipsing Chicago’s McCormick Place. The $4 billion “private investment” would include as many as 3,000 hotel rooms, Cuomo said today in his State of the State speech in Albany, the capital.

“The Jacob Javits Center is not competitive,” Cuomo said before an audience of more than 2,000. “That hurts the New York economy because we’re just not getting the shows here. It will all be about jobs, jobs, jobs -- tens of thousands of jobs.”

The state would turn the site of the Javits Center, which opened in the 1980s, into a mixed-use development -- possibly with housing, hotels and museums -- to revitalize Manhattan’s far west side. Genting, based in Kuala Lumpur, opened the city’s first casino at Aqueduct on Oct. 28.

2012 Agenda

Cuomo, a 54-year-old Democrat entering his second year, proposed the plan as part of a 2012 agenda that includes $25 billion in state, federal and private spending. He also called for a constitutional amendment to expand casino gambling; a $1 billion development program for Buffalo, which suffers from the third-highest poverty rate of any U.S. city; and raising the retirement age for future workers.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the Aqueduct plan “a great idea.” He also said he backed the governor’s plan for pension overhaul. The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

Steve Malanga, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a nonprofit research group that favors lower taxes and reduced government spending, questioned the wisdom of a building a convention center at Aqueduct.

“There’s no incremental business to be gained, even by the top players in the business,” he said in an e-mail, noting occupancy at McCormick Place is stuck at around 55 percent. “Additionally, the lure of New York is of course the attractions of Manhattan, but I question whether putting a big facility in Queens would be effective in luring major conventions.”

Education Commission

On education, Cuomo said he would appoint a bipartisan commission to work with the Legislature to improve teacher accountability, student achievement and school management.

“I’m taking a second job” as a lobbyist for students, the only group in the education system without one, he said.

Cuomo called for improving or replacing more than 100 bridges, including a new Tappan Zee bridge, and 2,000 miles of roads. He also said the state should stop requiring the fingerprints of food-stamp recipients.

Appearing in his prepared text, though not in his spoken remarks, was a call for independent redistricting and his intention to wait for the Department of Environmental Conservation’s review of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, before he decides how to proceed.

First Year

In his first year, Cuomo erased a $10 billion deficit, got New York’s two biggest government-worker unions to agree to pay freezes and furloughs, instituted a property-tax cap and legalized same-sex marriage in the third-most-populous state. Today, he pledged to work with the Legislature to close this year’s $2 billion budget deficit with no new taxes or fees.

Last month, the Legislature passed a Cuomo-endorsed tax package that raised rates on those earning $2 million or more, and cut them for the middle class. The extra revenue from the new brackets cut the estimated fiscal 2013 deficit to $2 billion from $3.5 billion, leading the governor to say “the budget is 50 percent done,” at the time.

A poll by Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut, conducted after the tax changes put Cuomo’s approval rating at 68 percent, two percentage points higher than the record set in July 2002 by Republican Governor George Pataki.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, said before Cuomo’s speech that his top priorities for the year included raising the minimum wage, cutting taxes for the working poor and boosting support to community colleges.

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