I Want to Keep Aqueduct Racetrack

When will the long-awaited redevelopment of the Big A become the "Big Ah?"

It could be just 18 months away, if the last bidder is finally approved by the New York State Lottery.

The VLT bidding process is now eight years along, under three different governors. Recently, the general public heard from the remaining bidder, Genting New York. Could this be one of the last steps toward finally realizing the saving of Aqueduct? It better be.

I intend to continue working with whoever operates at Aqueduct on the issues that concern my constituents such as traffic patterns, jobs and public safety. Genting said they are committed to addressing the issues raised by the community and plan on being credible, long-term neighbors.

The local jobs potential and impact on local small businesses is a major issue when discussing the Aqueduct proposal.

According to Genting, upwards of 800 permanent jobs and 1,300 construction jobs are planned. They will offer employees a highly competitive wage and work with the city’s unions. Genting expects to buy goods and services in excess of $30 million annually, like laundry and taxi services, office supplies, flowers and other supplies from local businesses.

These businesses like restaurants, car washes, pizzerias, gas stations, card and gift shops, florists and many more could experience an opportunity for increased business not seen in decades. Construction alone will represent more than $200 million in capital spending, a good portion targeted to local workers. Genting also pledged to donate 1 percent of net profits to worthy area projects, which could result in $350,000 the first year and up to $500,000 for each following year.

Tax revenues will generate education funding in excess of $300 million annually and home values should rise. In Queens, the spike in home foreclosures and loss of jobs during this extended recession could be relieved.

For those who don’t want the casino at Aqueduct, the alternative use of its property could be far worse for the residents of the state, city and surrounding communities.

Forget for the moment the estimated 2,000 jobs. Put aside the tremendous financial gain to the city and state. Let’s not talk about the restaurants, shops and long-term benefit to local small businesses.

In order to keep Aqueduct as a beloved racetrack and icon in Queens and keep eager developers from building practically anything as-of-right, without any community input that would have a long-term detrimental effect, the Genting proposal seems to be a necessity.

With the Aqueduct property dangerously zoned C-8, the Genting proposal is better than the negative alternative, and we need to move forward with the Lottery selection process.

No matter which operator eventually wins out, my constituents need to let out a long-held sigh of relief, because they’ve endured this long bidding process waiting for jobs, waiting for a small business booster, waiting for help with foreclosures, waiting for increased property values, waiting for help with school funding and for community groups.

“And they’re off!” at the racetrack means the horses have left the gate; now we need to cross the finish line with the selection process for an operator at Aqueduct.

Joseph Addabbo is the State Senator for District 15 in Queens.


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