Monday, February 8, 2010

Rev. Floyd Flake Defends Aqueduct Racino Pick as Fair, Praises Project as Job-Creating Godsend by Jill Colvin and Erin Durkin - NY Daily News

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The Rev. Floyd Flake defended the state's pick of Aqueduct Entertainment Group to run Aqueduct's racino, saying it was a fair decision. Egan-Chin/News

The Rev. Floyd Flake took to his Queens pulpit Sunday to defend the state's controversial pick to run the Aqueduct racino slots - a company in which he has a stake.

"I know you must have read a lot about this in the tabloids," Flake told the congregation, worshipers said.

Flake, an influential former congressman, owns a .06% stake in Aqueduct Entertainment Group, a politically connected company that won the lucrative deal to run the slots.

The Aqueduct slots could bring in as much as $6 billion a year, experts predict, with AEG taking home about $180 million annually.

Flake insisted the company beat out other bidders to win the racino deal fair and square - and he touted the project as a godsend that will bring much-needed jobs to the community.

Gary Billings, 57, of West Babylon, L.I., who attended Sunday services at Flake's Greater Allen African Methodist Episcopal Cathedral in Jamaica, agreed.

Flake "just happened to be on the winning side, and the losers are bitter," Billings said.

Gov. Paterson has drawn fire for picking AEG days after Flake left open the possibility he'd support the governor's likely opponent in the Democratic primary, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

A source with ties to a failed bidder said the selection process "smacked of favoritism" toward AEG.

Other bidders described chaotic, secretive dealings and said state officials seemed to be "making the process up as they went along."

Flake declined to comment as he left church and drove off in a black Mercedes-Benz.

"Why would I talk to you?" he snapped at reporters.

Flake repeated his defense of the Aqueduct deal at three Sunday morning services, worshipers said. His remarks triggered applause.

"I don't believe in gambling. However, that's something that your conscience has to [guide]," said worshiper Costella Liggins, 67, a retired social worker from Rockville Center, L.I.

"The jobs are needed. They're definitely needed."

Paterson has denied the powerful minister's involvement influenced the selection.