2012-06-06 / Political Page

Amazing How Gov’s $4 B Convention Plan Dies

When Genting, one of the biggest casino operators in the world, agreed to put up $4 billion to build Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed largest convention centers in the world at Aqueduct Raceway in Ozone Park, they must have taken it for granted that they would also get to build and operate the first, full blown gambling casino alongside the convention facility, which the governor said was also part of the plan.

But last week, the governor suddenly announced the whole deal was off.

“The conversations hadn’t really worked out,” the governor simply explained as he sort of just cancelled out that grandiose plan to create thousands of jobs and get millions of dollars flowing into the state’s coffers from a new, full blown casino industry in the state.

But that’s apparently how it worked out. According to one story, Howard Glaser, the governor’s operations director, said talks with Genting had not produced a resolution that was satisfactory for the state and were only made more difficult “by the lack of certainty about the future of casinos in New York”.

The rest of the story was that Genting had asked for exclusive rights to future gambling activities near Aqueduct, where Genting is already operating a racino quite successfully, so why shouldn’t they have the inside track to run a fullfledged casino there in the future.

Genting had spent close to $800,000 in lobbying and campaign contributions in 2011, one report said, before the governor announced he had signed a nonbinding letter with Genting covering the $4 billion deal to build the convention center.

The fall back position for the governor now is that he’s still committed to building the convention center, which might include a full-scale casino.

“That’s my thinking now, but it’s evolving,” said the governor.

Glaser later laid out a plan to hold a single international competition, but only after the lengthy constitutional amendment to authorize casinos in the state, which at this point will require the second (of two) legislative approvals, to be followed by the public referendum, which takes us into 2014.

At this point, then, the single international competition will be held to select who will build the convention center, and/or the casino, and who will pay for what and who will get the casino. We’ll just have to be patient to get answers to these questions and we’ll also have to wait for the new job creation estimates.

Somehow, it was a lot more interesting and exciting the first time the governor announced it.

But the governor’s people assure us that there’s so much interest from other major casino operators to get in on the action so it might be a major bonanza for New York state and Governor Cuomo after all.

MAYOR ON RAMPAGE: Where does the mayor get the energy?

Last week he was waging battles against:

•Kids destroying themselves with 16-ounce cups of sugar-loaded soda.

•Public officials who were criticizing him over his failed 911 plan and the new taxi hail plan.

•School teachers behaving badly… really atrociously.

On the soda ban, he was fighting half of New York’s population, assuming half were with his half against. Hizzoner had Gov. Cuomo on his side, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn opposed. Wasn’t it Silver who led the opposition to similar sugar-loaded drinks about a year-ago in Albany— and succeeded?

Actually, the mayor was blasted with a speaker’s trifecta when House Speaker John Boehner panned the proposed ban. Seems to us the mayor wasn’t really serious about the 16-ounce ban, it’s so easy to get around; but he may be trying to merely warn about the danger of too much sugar consumption.

The mayor’s second battlefront was against City Comptroller John Liu (really a constant foe), and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. Both are prospective candidates to succeed him in 2013.

The Bloomberg-Liu spat was over Liu’s audit of the botched 911 call center overhaul, and called for the contractor involved to repay the city $163 million.

The mayor’s latest retort was that Liu was guilty of “intellectual dishonesty” because he (Liu) had approved the work several times. Getting nastier, the mayor barked: “It’s pretty hard to answer something that’s as stupid as his charge.”

De Blasio was in the mayor’s cross hairs because he had filed a suit to kill the new taxicab outer-borough service plan. The mayor called de Blasio the stupidest one for opposing the expanded taxi service, which he would ordinarily be expected to support since it helps consumers. The mayor also charged de Blasio was pursuing taxi owners to try to get campaign donations for his mayoral effort.

Finally, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to see the mayor beating up on teachers, but this was actually a fairly popular position at this time because he was eyeing teachers who engage with students in illicit behavior.

The mayor was saying he’d like to see a law giving school districts the authority to dismiss teachers found guilty of sexual misconduct with students in or out of school. Presently, such a charge is judged by an arbitrator, and they usually go soft on teachers.

HALLORAN OPPOSES SODA DRINK BAN: Councilmember Dan Halloran (R–C–Whitestone) called the mayor’s 16-ounce ban on soda drinks “embarrassingly easy to get around” and would not be effective.

Halloran also said, “New York City needs to trust its citizens to make their own decisions.” He said he’s also concerned about peoples’ bad health habits, but it isn’t the city’s job to tell people what to eat or drink.

ACKERMAN’S ENDORSEMENT SHOULD HELP MENG: Congressmember Gary Ackerman’s endorsement of Assemblymember Grace Meng, although expected, should help her effort to win the tough Democratic primary to run for the seat Ackerman held for almost three decades.

Assemblymember Rory Lancman, one of Meng’s primary rivals, virtually assured he wouldn’t get Ackerman’s support when his aggressive decision to jump the gun and announce he was going to seek to succeed Ackerman before he officially announced his retirement didn’t play well with Ackerman.

It didn’t show the proper respect for Ackerman, who deserved to bow out gracefully before the in-fighting to succeed him started, and it caused unnecessary confusion for the congressman, who read the riot act to Lancman.

Ackerman’s endorsement should help Meng to get a share of the Jewish vote in the primary, which might have gone to Lancman. Loyal longtime Ackerman supporters will follow his lead and get on the Meng bandwagon, if they hadn’t already made the move when Queens Democratic Leader Joseph Crowley and the party organization officially picked Meng as their choice for the new 6th CD seat.

The new district, covering the northern tier of the borough, is estimated to contain about 40 percent

Asian-Americans, which promises to make Meng’s election effort viable. Then Ackerman’s support, and that of other Jewish lawmakers backing Meng, will keep part of that segment of the electorate on her side, too.

Among other Meng endorsers is the powerful United Federation of Teachers (UFT). An estimated 13,000 UFT member families reside in the district, Meng said in a statement.

Lancman, a 43-year-old lawmaker from Fresh Meadows who has been endorsed by former Mayor Edward Koch, also has the backing of several labor unions.

Also in the Democratic primary is Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley (Glendale) and Dr. Robert Mittman, of Bayside. The primary will be held on Tuesday, June 26. The Republican candidate in the general election is Councilmember Dan Halloran of Whitestone.

TURNER BACKS ULRICH OVER ADDABBO: In what is shaping up as a close contest between incumbent state Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. and Councilmember Eric Ulrich, Congressmember Bob Turner (R–C–Queens/Brooklyn) has endorsed Republican candidate Ulrich. The district covers the Ozone Park-Howard Beach-Rockaways district in South Queens.

Turner said in his endorsement announcement, “Eric is part of a new era of political leadership that will make state government work again. I have the great fortune of serving alongside him and I’ve seen first-hand his commitment to the community. He understands the kitchen-table issues that Queens families are facing and he is by far the most qualified candidate to bring New York out of its economic decline and put people back to work.”

Ulrich responded, “I’m extremely thankful to Congressman Turner for his friendship and support. Bob and I both entered politics on a clear mission to fix the problems we saw wrong with government. Our challenges at the state and federal level are great, but with smart fiscal management and policies that enable job growth, we can make New York strong again.”

This contest is one of the several that will decide which party, Republican or Democrat, will emerge following the November elections with majority control of the senate. Republicans go into the fall elections with a two-seat edge over the Dems—three if you count last week’s GOP victory in a special election in Brooklyn.

The Addabbo district had been held for several terms by a Republican, Serphin Maltese, before Addabbo ousted Maltese. But the following City Council election to choose a replacement for Addabbo, who held the seat for several terms, resulted in Ulrich being the winner.

So for what had evolved into a swing district in past elections got favorable GOP treatment in the new districting map drawn by the senate majority in time for the November battle. As a result it appears that this one will be a nail-biter between Ulrich, who also has the Conservative Party line on the ballot, and Addabbo.

TURNER TO OBAMA: ‘TIME TO CHANGE COURSE’: Reacting to last week’s disappointing jobs and unemployment report, Congressmember Turner called on President Obama “to put the American people first, immediately end wild spending practices, and demand the Senate pass House approved bills to stimulate the economy and create jobs”.

Turner said the latest jobs numbers “have proven that despite the arrival of summer, President Barack Obama is content on leaving Americans and small businesses out in the cold”.

The Rockaway Point lawmaker added: “Three-and-a-half years after the implementation of his spend-first economic policy, the unemployment rate remains steadfastly above eight percent. That number far exceeds the projections this administration promised while beginning its massive spending spree with America’s credit card. The free spending must stop now.”

Turner insisted the president’s policies were turning off small businesses and the “president must chart a new course to bring American families and businesses in from the cold chill of our frozen economy”.

The lawmaker said the Republican-led House has passed more than 30 job creating bills and Obama should put pressure on Senate Democrats to join Republicans in passing them.

ADDABBO EXPLAINS HOW LOTTERY $ GO FOR EDUCATION: Answering a question many constituents “commonly ask— “Does lottery money really go to education?”—Addabbo gave an answer drawn from comments made recently by the state’s Education Department Commissioner John B. King Jr.

Addabbo said King recently addressing the senate Education Committee, of which Addabbo is a member, said, “The lottery provides substantial resources for public education throughout New York—for example, providing almost $3 billion in school aid in the 2011-2012 fiscal year.”

Addabbo explained that a “common point of confusion” regarding the lottery-school and question is that the funds directed to school aid are not “a supplement to state education aid, but (are) part of the entire funding package”.

For instance, Addabbo went on, “After paying out prizes to lottery winners commissions to businesses that sell winning tickets, and some administrative costs, the remaining dollars go to education. For example, out of the $8.14 billion in lottery sales generated last year, $2.9 billion went to education—about 15 percent of the total education budget.”

KEEP CLOSE WATCH ON YOUR LIQUOR: Councilmembers Peter Vallone Jr. (D–Astoria) and James Vacca have introduced the Social Host Law which makes it illegal when an adult who owns or rents a residence knowingly allows the consumption of alcohol by anyone under age 21.

Vallone, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, explained; “Most parents realize that adults should not provide alcohol to other people’s kids. Unfortunately, there are some that prefer to look cool and endanger kids by turning their homes into underage clubs. While we can’t legislate against bad parenting, we can make sure these irresponsible parents don’t hurt other people’s kids.”

Violation of the proposed law, a Class A misdemeanor, would be punishable by a maximum prison term of one year, a maximum fine of $1,000, or both, Vallone said.

STAVISKY ENDORSED BY LABOR: State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky (D–Whitestone), running for re-election, announced she has been endorsed by four labor unions: Electrical Workers (IBEW), Local 3, New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council, Communication Workers of America (CWA), District 3, and United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), Local 1500.

Stavisky said she looked forward to addressing the needs of workers, which is still necessary, as she explained: “Just this month, senate Republicans killed a desperately needed increase to the minimum wage. They do not have the interests of hardworking New Yorkers at heart, and it is exactly for this reason that I am seeking re-election. We cannot give up on job creation and turn our backs on people who work for a living.”

CROWLEY TALK ON JOBS: Congressmember Joseph Crowley (D–Queens/The Bronx) addressed the Queens Workforce Development Task Force on Monday at Queens Borough Hall. Crowley gave a talk on the American Jobs Act and led a discussion on how workforce leaders can utilize that legislation to attract and retain jobs from a local perspective.

Under the Jobs Act, Crowley explained, America’s small businesses would receive a tax cut for hiring more workers while rebuilding America. Under the Jobs Act also job opportunities would be developed for Americans seeking them, and tax relief would also be provided for American families.

CARROZZA APPOINTED TO COURT COMMITTEE: Former Assemblymember Ann- Margaret Carrozza, an estate planning and elder law attorney, has been appointed to the Surrogate’s Court Advisory Committee. The panel is a standing Committee of the Chief Administrative Judge, and its function is to provide front-line perspectives on issues relating to the operations of the Surrogate Courts in New York state.

In the past, the Surrogate’s Court Advisory Committee has been instrumental in securing the enactment of legislation and recommending rule changes affecting the affairs of decedents.

Carrozza served in the Assembly for 14 years and retired at the end of the 2010 session.

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