Governor Andrew Cuomo gave his State of the State today, vowing to make 2012 the year "we must transform our government to once again become the progressive capital of our nation." He proposed a $1 billion economic development package for Buffalo, which has the third-highest poverty rate in the country, abolishing the state's requirements for fingerprinting food stamp recipients, deemed himself the "student's lobbyist," and pitched a slew of environmental and energy improvements. But Cuomo was also mum about transportation, spoke glowingly of legalizing gambling, declined to read his brief remarks on hydraulic fracturing, and announced an ambitious plan to build the world's largest convention center at the Aquaduct Racetrack.
“The State of New York’s public transit is poor,” Transportation Alternatives' executive director Paul White notes in a release responding to the governor's speech. "New Yorkers are losing affordable public transit options because of the fare hikes and service cuts that are the result of a chronic lack of transit funding." According to White, Cuomo, who spoke at length about improving infrastructure and creating jobs, "largely ignored the biggest job-creator of all: public transit."
If Cuomo said little about transportation and hydrofracking, he spoke at length about "gaming" in New York State:
When it comes to gaming, we have been in a state of denial. It's time we confronted reality. It's not a question of whether we should have gaming in New York -- the fact is we already do. Native Americans have five casinos in New York and we have nine racinos at our racetracks. We don't fully realize it, regulate it, or capitalize on it, but we have gaming.
Citing the $1 billion in "economic activity" that legalized gambling in New York would supposedly net, and how the state is losing it to other states and terrirories, Cuomo urged that Albany "amend the Constitution so that we can do gaming right." Indeed! Look at Atlantic City. Initially it was a slum by the sea. "Now it's a slum by the sea with casinos."
But Cuomo's biggest announcement was the $4 billion convention center and hotel/casino complex that would replace the Javits Center on the Upper West Side. "New York needs a larger, state-of-the-art venue to be competitive for the largest tradeshows and conventions," Cuomo said. In its place, will be a "new 21st Century neighborhood for the West Side" courtesy of an expected grant of $2 billion.
money pit convention center would be operated by Genting Group of Malaysia, which currently operates the racino there, and is slated to be 3.8 million square feet—smaller than the Mall of America but bigger than the current-largest convention center in Chicago. So, take that, deep-dish losers. No word on whether Cuomo plans to invite a Prozac factory to open up near the new convention center.