If a decision had been reached on the winning bidder for the re-development of Aqueduct Racetrack, New York State government would not have sacrificed nearly $350 million in 2009 or leave another $200 million check on the table. The Queens Chamber of Commerce, representing over 1,500 businesses and organizations doing business in the borough urges Albany to reach a decision now. In fact, it is a demand that all New Yorkers should be making.
For almost a decade, discussions have been held regarding the installation of video lottery terminals (VLT) at Aqueduct Racetrack. In that time, eight other racetracks across New York State have installed VLT’s adding thousands of jobs to local economies and millions of dollars into New York State coffers.
In 2008, we thought progress was being made when a bidder was selected, but alas, that bidder defaulted and the selection process came to a grinding halt. Now, several groups have re-introduced proposals that could make Aqueduct not only a revenue-generating, job-creating venue, but a destination point in our borough.
Located only a mile from JFK International Airport, plans include restaurants, meeting space, entertainment venues, and retail shops that all would add employment opportunities to our borough’s workforce and procurement prospects for Queen’s businesses.
It is time to select a vendor to rebuild an under-achieving, outdated racetrack. Let us learn from our mistakes and select a vendor with close ties to the local community. Select a vendor who has an established presence and a demonstrated record of success hiring local workers and sub-contractors.
So let’s start 2010 on the right track. Don’t gamble with our children’s futures or our senior’s health. The smart money says pick a vendor with a winning record. Start collecting the nearly $1 million a day that VLT’s will generate in new revenue. Collect the $200 million that will help towards balancing a budget that is waiting to be paid from the winning bidder. The results will be a win for Queens and for New York State.
Jack Friedman is the executive vice president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce.