"Let's build the largest convention center in the nation, period."
Governor Andrew Cuomo
Much to the chagrin of the rest of the country, residents of New York State have always taken pride in our history. The glory days of being "the best" of almost any industry, service, technology, or even sport. Number one with even our baseball (NY Yankees). We became so accustomed to being the best for so many decades that New Yorkers took it for granted.
But the truth of the matter is, excluding Wall Street, NY's glory days haven't been that way for a very long time. Look at the demise of one-time world leader Eastman Kodak in Rochester. High taxes, expensive lifestyle, whatever the reason may be. In specific areas, not only have other states surpassed New York, but other countries as well.
For example, turn your attention to the airports in New York, and compare them to some of the nicer airports in some other cities like beautiful Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. For the record, in 2011, Hong Kong International Airport was rated number one. None in New York were even in the top ten. Don't take my word for it. Look at the Best airport ratings. This is what is said in a Travel and Leisure article.
"The Big Apple has long made a tradition of outdoing its fellow American cities, and its area airports -- JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark -- indeed stand out, at least in terms of being miserable. Food, entertainment, on-time performance, and staff efficiency all occupy the last-place ranks in the AFC survey."
Even with the spectacular lights of Time Square in New York City, I was completely blown away visiting Times Square's equivalent in Tokyo, Japan while on assignment for NY 1 News. No comparison, hands down, the "Times Square" there, known as Shinjuku was much brighter, bigger, and better. It was also amazing, riding the Japanese bullet speed train to Osaka.
Some of us yearn for the days when New York was considered the best, and that's why the words of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, at a minimum, have been enlightening. He's correcting the dysfunction with Albany politics. Dare I might say he could possibly bring back some nostalgic memories, and restore New York to its great days.
"Let's build the largest convention center in the nation, period." Cuomo said during his state of the state address January 4th.
"It will be all about jobs, jobs, jobs -- tens of thousands of jobs," Cuomo said as he called NY's current convention center, the Javits Center, "not competitive."
Cuomo went on to say convention centers are "economic generators" and the Javits Center in Manhattan is not big enough to attract the best shows and conventions.
Say whatever you want. At least Cuomo is thinking big, and at times, that can be half the battle.
Okay. The first question, how much will this convention center cost?
The governor said $4 billion would be needed but the money is coming from the private sector to build the convention center/several thousand-room hotel at the Aqueduct Racino in Queens.
Genting Corp., the Malaysian company, that operates the Aqueduct Racino, would put up the $4 billion, and says the massive project would create 10,000 construction jobs and 10,000 more permanent jobs. Genting, would bear all the risk of building and operating the convention center.
Jobs must be a top priority for any governor in this economic climate. Call me biased in New York's favor, but I thought: what a novel idea, that the convention center just might start a reversal of fortune for the state. Why shouldn't New York have the biggest convention center when people come here from around the world? New York is well, New York.
Of course there are negatives, some thorny political and financial questions.
Were competitors allowed to bid on it?
Why build a massive facility when convention centers around the nation seem to be struggling?
Steven Malanga, an editor at City Journal and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, pointed out in a Wall Street Journal article that convention center business declined from 126 million attendees in 2000 to 86 million in 2010, and more importantly, that to chase after the convention business that remains, cities such as Boston, Chicago and Baltimore are expanding their convention centers at taxpayer expense.
"Convention centers all over the country are money-losing white elephants, so basically what the governor is saying is that we ought to build the nation's largest money-losing white elephant in New York City," said E.J. McMahon of the Manhattan Institute.
"When you figure that the biggest now is only at 55 percent of capacity, is that really the right way to go?" added Hofstra University law professor Lawrence Levy.
But if we go based on Cuomo's success thus far, he might be on to something. Initiatives to not only turn around downstate, but to also bring jobs to tremendously hurt upstate cities like Albany, Binghamton, Rochester, and Buffalo. As well as areas like the Catskills.
Maybe, just maybe, we should have a little faith collectively. Whatever happened to build the biggest, the best, and they will come?