Last week, the Center published a commentary by Hugh O'Neill which called on the governor and the Legislature to scrap the state's problem-plagued effort to add video slot machines at Aqueduct Racetrack and consider a completely different use for this massive, publicly-owned site located next to one of the nation's busiest airports. Today, in its lead editorial, the Daily News quotes the Center's "sharp study" about the racino project and endorses our commentary's conclusion: that the state should end its bid to turn Aqueduct into a racino, consolidate local racing at nearby Belmont Park and consider other uses for the 192-acre racetrack site that would have a bigger economic development impact.
In the Center's commentary, titled A Bad Bet for New York, O'Neill argues that video slot machines will probably not be enough to save the dying racetrack, pointing out that between 1990 and 2009, the number of racing days at Aqueduct dropped from 162 to 117 and total attendance fell by 82 percent. The commentary suggests that state officials look into the possibility of redeveloping Aqueduct into one or more uses that capitalizes on the proximity to JFK Airport, noting that several other cities in the U.S. and around the world are using their airports—and the land around their airports—as focal points for a new wave of development. O'Neill, president of local economic development consulting firm Appleseed, writes: "With a total of 192 acres, its own A-train station, and the potential for easy access to the airport, the Aqueduct site could easily support millions of square feet of low- to medium-density development (such as office buildings, distribution facilities, hotels or a conference center) and still have plenty of room left for community uses—open space, recreational facilities and other public uses."
Similarly, the Daily News editorial argues: "Franchising the track for slots makes limited economic sense and, far worse, would steal from the city the chance to devote Aqueduct's many acres to residential or business development. The site could become, by far, the city's largest cleared-ground building project, offering vast possibilities for affordable housing, schools and commerce... Move what's left of racing 8 miles away, to Belmont, scrap the slots and put the Aqueduct property to genuinely fruitful use."