Rethink Willets Point

Does the city really need two more convention centers? If so, does it make sense to build them in Queens?

In a letter to the editor, Benjamin Haber raises some interesting issues. Citing a study by the Brookings Institution, Haber writes, “You’ve got cities around the country building new or expanded convention space at a very rapid rate in a market that is already glutted and over supplied. … In an environment where every major center around the country is sharply discounting rental rates or giving space away and throwing in incentives, the likelihood of any succeeding is remarkably thin.”

There has been much talk about building convention centers at Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct Racetrack and Willets Point. But where is the proof that the city needs another convention center, and where is the proof that Queens will be an attractive destination for organizers?

Queens cannot compete with Manhattan, one of the best known tourist destinations in the world. And why should it? We are happy to hear and not at all surprised that the Aqueduct casino is doing well, but that doesn’t mean a convention center will also do well.

Add to that the reality that in these tough times corporations are cutting back on that kind of spending and opting for online alternatives.

Haber notes that Manhattan is “the cultural and entertainment capital of the world, not the boondocks of Aqueduct and Willets Point. As to Willets Point, there is also talk of a 1,000-room hotel, but this in an area choked with congestion ….”

We bristle at the term “boondocks” but do not believe Queens can or should compete with Manhattan. The Willets Point development should focus on the needs of Queens families.

Haber writes that “the Javits Center on the West Side of Manhattan, which, while structurally sound, is undergoing an extensive taxpayer-funded $1.4 billion renovation purported to make it more competitive.”

Nothing the city plans to build in Willets Point can compete with that.

Before money is poured down the drain, borough leaders and city economic development officials should discuss what is in the best interest of Queens and the city.

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