Proposed Queens Convention Center Is A Poor Idea

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to build the country’s largest convention center in Ozone Park, Queens near the Aqueduct racetrack- casino is a poor idea.

This new 3.8 million-square foot exhibition hall and hotel would presumably free up the 18 acres owned by the state and occupied since the 1980s by the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Governor Cuomo said the Javits Center which is in the middle of a $500 million renovation is too small to compete for the large trade shows now going to Chicago, Orlando and Las Vegas.

I believe that Gov. Cuomo’s proposal is a poor idea for the following reasons:

  1. Attendance at the Javits Center has always been good because conventioneers want to come to Manhattan.  They would not equally be motivated to attend a convention in Ozone Park, Queens. 

  2. Over the past 20 years, many cities across the U.S. have built or expanded existing convention centers in the hope of attracting professional associations.  But without success because of overbuilding, the recession and inadequate ancillary amenities such as cultural and historic sites, museums, theaters, restaurants, shopping choices, etc. 

The country’s leading expert on convention center economics, Heywood, Sanders, professor of public administration at the University of Texas, said he doubted that the Queens plan would succeed.  “The convention business is a disaster everywhere”, Professor Sanders said.  “Simply building more space gets you nothing more than a big empty building.  And to put it in a place where there aren’t any hotels, restaurant or amenities next door is to doom it to serving only a local metropolitan market.”  Sanders says that “city after city builds and expands their convention center.  Yet they end up doing less business than they did 20 or 30 years ago.”  Sanders points to Chicago’s McCormick Place, the nation’s largest convention center, which lost a million visitors from 2001 to 2010. 

The Javits Center is an enormous boon to hotels in Manhattan and has helped to boost hotel occupancy and average rates to the highest level in the country. 

Don’t be swayed by the siren song of a new Convention Center in Queens just because the Genting Group would finance it.  The loss of the Javits Center in Manhattan would be an unmitigated disaster

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