Monday, February 16, 2009

No Firm Date for Aqueduct VLTs by Stephen Geffon - Leader-Observer

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The members of Community Board 10 were expecting to hear at their meeting last week in South Ozone Park that construction had already been started for the long-awaited video lottery terminals (VLTs) at Aqueduct Racetrack in Ozone Park. However, their expectations were dashed when representatives of Delaware North Company Gaming and Entertainment, the group chosen by Governor David Paterson to run the casino, offered no start date during their presentation before the board.

Ronald Sultemeier, Delaware North’s vice president for Strategic Development, said that construction of the facility would take 14 months once the Memorandum of Understanding is signed with the state and the architectural work is completed.

The proposed $ 250 million, 328,000-square-foot gaming and entertainment center will have 4,500 slot machines and create in excess of 1,100 construction-related jobs and 1,000 permanent jobs. It is also expected to generate around $1 million in revenue daily.

In a press release, Delaware North said their 30-year agreement with the state is expected to generate $10.3 billion for education. In addition, the group said it plans to develop the surrounding area with a 350- to 500-room luxury hotel, 3,000- to 5,000-square-foot destination spa, 60,000-square-foot state-of-the-art conference center, 3,000-seat event center, and 15,000 to 30,000 square feet of retail space.

According to Sultemeier the updated plan calls for the gaming floor to now be on the first floor, which would bring the people directly into the casino without having to take two sets of escalators to get to the VLTs. The original plan had the casino on the second floor. He also noted that a parking garage has been added to the plans.

Sultemeier added that the first floor will also have a world-class international food buffet and the facility will contain a steakhouse, Asian and Italian restaurants, a large food court, several bars and lounges, and a stage for entertainment.

Future of Fineson Center

Chairwoman Betty Braton also informed board members that she attended a meeting last December to discuss the state’s plans for the Bernard Fineson Center’s property in Howard Beach with Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer and State Senator Joseph Addabbo.

The Fineson Center is expected to close in June. She said the state has expressed an interest in developing the property for senior citizen housing, and on Monday the state issued a Request for Proposals for no fewer than 100 units of senior housing.

Braton added that 80 percent of the units would be studio or one-bedroom apartments, not assisted living. Half of the units would also be set aside for seniors currently living in the Community Board 10 area. Twenty percent of the units would be reserved for assisted living for elderly individuals covered by the State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.

The building, which sites on 3.4 acres at 155-55 Cross Bay Boulevard, is not expected to be torn down, but will have major renovations made to the interior.

Braton said that contrary to rumors there are no plans for public housing to be built on the property. There will be a 30-year restriction for senior citizen housing.

Other Board News

Braton reminded the audience that block party applications must be submitted 90 days before the block party is to occur. She also said that this year NYPD-issued sound permits for music played at the party would expire at 7 p.m. Last year music was allowed until 9 p.m. Braton also issued a reminder that in the City of New York it is illegal to consume alcohol on the street or sidewalk. She added that police would be closely monitoring block parties for all Quality of Life violations.

Meanwhile, a representative from the U.S. Census Bureau told the audience that in spring 2009 and in early 2010 several thousand temporary census jobs will be available for qualified applicants. Assignments will last five to ten weeks. Bilingual applicants are encouraged to apply. To apply to take the test to become a census taker in Queens call (646) 233-2406 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays.