Racino Draws Plaudits As Revenue And Jobs Generator
State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D–Howard Beach) who helped to bring the first legalized gambling location into New York City—the racino at Aqueduct Racetrack in Ozone Park, in Addabbo’s district— is already beating the drums to upgrade the gambling choices at Resorts World New York by offering full casino gambling there.
Addabbo said recently that before the year ends, Governor Andrew Cuomo should call for resumption of the 2011-12 session to win approval of full casino gambling and get it into the legislative pipeline.
Addabbo noted that the racino, which opened on October 28, will soon be pouring “more than a million dollars a day into state coffers and we should add full casino status as soon as possible”.
The lawmaker feels, “Our state should no longer allow neighboring states to gain all that lost gaming revenue when its potential to affect our economy, education and local communities is seen as a more positive than negative proposition by our people.”
What’s more, he added, recent polls have Cuomo and the state legislature in agreement with most New Yorkers that the state should allow full casino gambling by constitutional amendment followed by a referendum on the ballot for the public to assent.
Last week, further support for a fullfledged casino at the new racino location, came from Assemblymember Gary Pretlow, Westchester County and chair of the Assembly’s Racing and Wagering Committee.
Pretlow’s support will be key to passage of the changes for the casino if and when it runs into some tough spots when it comes near a vote in the Assembly.
Meanwhile, visitors to the racino have their pick of 4,525 video slot machines.
Resorts also fulfilled a promise to hire local people to fill many of the jobs that are being created at the bet parlor, conditions that were set by Addabbo, former Assemblymember Audrey Pheffer and Betty Braton, of Community Board 10.
According to a recent report, of the 1,350 permanent racino employees hired thus far, 945 are from Queens, and make up 70 percent of the workforce.
Queens Borough President Helen Marshall was there to check out the gambling emporium, and commented that it was “as close as 20 minutes away for any Queens resident and an hour for anyone in New York City”.
Marshall commented further, “Resorts World has brought economic growth during a time when economic conditions have been stagnant, adding jobs, opportunities for small businesses, and tax revenues for the city and state with anticipated significant investments over the next 30 years.”
The BP also noted there are “grade A dining selections from all around the world…”
Another first day visitor was Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder (D–Far Rockaway), who succeeded Pheffer in office in the district where the racino is located.
Goldfeder observed, “This project has always been about the jobs” and it created 1,350 permanent jobs and had hired more than 1,500 construction jobs to build the racino.
Goldfeder said, “People want to get back to work. That’s why we must continue to partner with Resorts World Casino to create even more of these kinds of good-paying jobs that help lift our economy out of the rut.”
LIU FACES ANOTHER HURDLE: We wrote last week the City Comptroller John Liu made a good move, one that could help his mayoral ambitions, by joining with Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a new strategy to invest municipal pension funds while saving the city some money.
As part of the arrangement, Liu also agreed to surrender his powerful job of investing all those funds as part of his charter mandated comptroller functions.
However, almost at the same time that our column was going to press last Tuesday, the story broke that the city Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings upheld a ruling that Liu must pay $527,400 in fines for his campaign violations of postings on city property during his 2009 campaign for comptroller.
His attorney, Martin Connor, a former state senate minority leader, immediately challenged the ruling and said the comptroller would appeal.
Liu has been under criticism for first incurring the fines, which involved hundreds of violations, and then challenging the rulings and relying on technical grounds to try to evade paying the fines. This entire chapter in his career has cast serious questions about his mayoral hopes.
The very unfavorable ruling came at a time when some of Liu’s campaign collections for his mayoral campaign next year had been questioned. To deal with these questions about certain campaign collections, Liu had hired former state Attorney General Robert Abrams to audit his own campaign records and campaign finance reporting.
Another mayoral hopeful in 2013, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, had to deal with a $300,000 fine for the same offenses Liu was charged with. De Blasio fought them in court for several years, but recently decided to pay the fines so they would no longer cloud his mayoral ambitions.
GILLIBRAND FACING TOUGH CHALLENGE? U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand may be in for a tough re-election bid after reports that her opponent might be Harry Wilson, the Republican candidate who ran a very impressive race against Thomas Di Napoli for state comptroller last year, although he lost.
Wilson, a wealthy investor, is also the former member of President Barack Obama’s Auto Industry Task Force. Wilson, who calls Johnstown in Upstate New York his hometown holds an MBA from Harvard and is a very effective campaigner.
Gillibrand was appointed by former Governor David Paterson in 2009 to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was running for president at the time. Gillibrand is working hard to be an independent lawmaker, but has had to contend with U.S. Senator Charles Schumer as her senior senator.
Although Gillibrand has tried to emerge from Schumer’s shadow and has taken care to build her legislative record and take care of constituent matters at the same time, polls show the former congressmember still does not have the voter recognition necessary to win a tough re-election race against an opponent of Wilson’s caliber.
PERALTA: ‘SAVE FORECLOSURE PREVENTION SERVICES’: State Senator Jose Peralta (D–Jackson Heights) has written to Governor Andrew Cuomo to request that he include $25 million in next year’s executive budget to continue the state’s Foreclosure Prevention Services program.
Peralta argues that foreclosures are still in a crisis mode, but continuation of the prevention program could stave off some of those and prevent their foreclosure.
The housing counseling and legal assistance funded through the program, Peralta said, “have been an incredible asset” in his district.
As for the crisis condition of homes facing the prospect of it, Peralta says a recent study by the New York City Federal Reserve Bank shows “that one in nine home mortgages in Queens are seriously delinquent (90 + days late or in foreclosure).
The lawmaker’s district, he says, “encompasses some of the Queens neighborhoods that have been hit particularly hard by this crisis”.
In Jackson Heights, ten percent of homeowners there are currently 90 + days delinquent on their mortgage or already in foreclosure.
It is worse yet in East Elmhurst than in Corona he adds. But by having counseling and legal assistance, chances improve that a homeowner can continue living in his home.
Peralta makes the case that investing in foreclosure prevention saves money. Foreclosures drive up crime, children are badly affected by it and affordable rental housing is negatively impacted.
VALLONE VOTES ‘NO’ ON IMMIGRATION BILL: After voting against a bill which would end the longtime practice of turning over to federal immigration officials all undocumented immigrants who end up in the Riker’s Island jail, Councilmember
Peter Vallone Jr. explained:
“This bill will absolutely make our communities less safe—it not only puts illegal immigrants who have been charged with another crime back on our streets, but makes no distinction [of] arrests for violent crimes and other crimes.”
The bill is presently awaiting action by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Vallone, who is head of the Public Safely Committee added, “The only thing that makes immigrant communities cooperate less with the NYPD is irresponsible statements from elected officials. They are well aware that the NYPD is not allowed to share immigration status information with federal authorities. In addition, the president [Barack Obama] has stated that only the ‘worst of the worst’ will be deported, so it is clear that no innocent victim or witness has any reason to be concerned.”
MILLER ANNOUNCES SENIOR ID CARD: A new Senior Citizen Identification Card program was announced by Assemblymember Mike Miller (D–Woodhaven), who declared:
“It’s a great service for the people. The cards offer a sense of safety for seniors. In the case of Alzheimer’s or any accident where someone loses the ability to speak for themselves, it is important that physicians or EMT’s can get the proper information on a person immediately.”
The cards include a photo of the individual, their contact information, allergies, prescriptions and any current medical conditions. The cards have been distributed at senior centers, and will continue to be, he said, at AARP meetings and at several community functions.
Anyone interested in having a card can visit Miller’s district office at 83-91 Woodhaven Blvd. in Woodhaven, N.Y. 11421, or reached by phone at 718-805- 0950.
IMPROVEMENTS DUE AT GATEWAY REC AREA: The Gateway National Recreation Area out in the Rockaways is due for improvements under an agreement reached by city, state and federal officials, according to Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder (D/I/WF Far Rockaway).
Goldfeder says Mayor Michael Bloomberg, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) have signed on for the project.
Goldfeder said, “After decades of community efforts, the water quality in Jamaica Bay and the overall quality of the parkland around it will be improved. I’ve worked on this issue for years and spearheaded a task force to address the lack of public access to Floyd Bennett Field and Jacob Riis Park, both part of Gateway. It’s great that the community’s voice has finally been heard and the park will get the restorative attention it deserves.”
The improvement plan for Gateway, the only national park in NYC, calls for city and federal officials to work out a plan to streamline the park’s management, namely to operate it as a single urban park and not as the separate city and federal lands it has heretofore been recognized as, Goldfeder explained.
As a single entity, he continued, the huge park will benefit from coordinated research and restoration planning to better conserve the health of Jamaica Bay. Additionally, the park’s infrastructure will be improved to allow easier access by visitors regardless of whether they come by car, bus or train.
The improvements will give tourism a boost and make the park more attractive for New Yorkers, too, Goldfeder said.