Racino leaves area biz in the lurch

In April 2013, I was in the area of Rockaway Boulevard, a neighborhood street just outside the gates of Aqueduct Racetrack and the racino. There were at least a half-dozen enormous restaurants with about 40 tables each and a dozen more smaller dining places along Rockaway Boulevard in back of the racino gates. The same went for nearby Lefferts Boulevard.

But the large ones appeared closed, unused or abandoned. The smaller ones looked empty. What happened? Some neighborhood residents said the large and small restaurants and lounges were built or done over, back when the talk of the racino was hot news. The investors’ thoughts were that customers of the racino would frequent the “outside the gates” motels, restaurants and bars before or after their racino visit.

That did not — and probably never will — happen. The racino and racetrack visitors do not wander out of the gates for food, drinks or recreation. The bus people are dropped off and picked up inside the racino grounds. The cars are parked in there as well. No one comes out or goes in for dinner in the neighborhood.

You, the reader, might ask, “What does the racino not bringing business to the area have to do with Citi Field and Willets Point?” I am safe in saying that after or before a Citi Field event, people will not be hanging around as customers for any restaurants, clubs or hotels outside the Citi Field gates.

Are they kidding: $30 million just to begin the plans? Who is going to patronize these new restaurants, hotels, etc.?

One more observation, which seems to be overlooked. First, the racino lesson. It is open every day and night and does nothing for the outer area except bring noise and traffic. No money for the area, but perhaps a gas station or two might catch a racino car or bus.

Now apply that to less than 60 ball games at Citi Field, and maybe one or two concerts. Does this Willets Point improvement gang believe that before or after a night game a dad with three kids, having hot dogs, ice cream and soda, would want to stop a half mile away to the “developed area” for dinner?

No way. Will any of the 55,000 people at the game think to spend money in the new development area? Whoever did the survey or estimate that the 55,000 fans would be strolling around outside Citi Field, the parking lots or subway station spending money is dreaming the impossible dream.

Joe Rizzo


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