By State Senator Jose Peralta
It was tremendously disappointing to learn that Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to build the country’s largest convention center at the Aqueduct Racetrack will not come to fruition.
No sooner had the governor announced the plan during his State of the State address in January than I endorsed the idea and offered to help however I could in making the governor’s vision for the Aqueduct venue a reality.
Fortunately, there is another viable venue in Queens that has numerous significant advantages over other locations reportedly under consideration elsewhere in the city. That site is Willets Point.
Willets Point is, quite literally, across the street from some of the city’s most popular destinations: Citi Field, the National Tennis Center and Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. The No. 7 train runs from these locations westward, all along Roosevelt Avenue, to Grand Central Terminal. Millions of New Yorkers and visitors to the city each year take in a Mets game or U.S. Open match, or participate in a festival or recreational activity in the park.
And there perhaps is no more diverse a culinary experience to be enjoyed anywhere on the planet than along neighboring Roosevelt Avenue, which is lined with restaurants specializing in a nearly mind-numbing array of cuisines from all over the world.
In addition, the area, which is also accessible via multiple bus lines and the Long Island Railroad, is just minutes from La Guardia and Kennedy Airports. The extension underway of the No. 7 line, already one of the city’s busiest, will add greatly to the area’s commercial appeal and potential.
Whether by plane, train, subway, bus or car, you can get to Willets Point relatively easily from anywhere in the world. The transportation infrastructure already servicing the area dwarfs what other potential venues in and around the city have to offer.
Making the case for Willets Point even stronger are the plans to develop the area, long an eyesore that includes the Iron Triangle, a maze of auto repair and scrap businesses. To the east of Citi Field, plans call for retail, hotel and commercial spaces to go along with a residential community of 2,500 housing units, 875 of which will be affordable housing.
Immediately to the west of Citi Field, a stadium parking lot will be converted into a one-million-square-foot retail and entertainment center, complete with more than 200 retail stores, movie theaters, restaurants, entertainment venues, a parking structure and surface parking for 2,500 cars.
Not surprisingly, Crain’s New York Business reported last week that Willets Point “is seen as the trade show industry’s first choice for a huge convention center.”
I trust that the governor will give Willets Point the serious consideration its many advantages warrant. I look forward to a meaningful discussion of why the site would make an ideal home for the largest convention center in the United States, as well as the opportunity to help bring thousands of construction and permanent jobs to Queens.