2009-04-03 / Top Stories

Aqueduct Plan Back At Square One

Bids Due, Pols Look For Up-Front Money
By Howard Schwach

Still steaming over the failure of Delaware North to pay its initial payment on a massive video slot facility for Aqueduct Racetrack in Ozone Park, state politicians are ready to try once again to pick a developer, this time demanding all of the initial payments before the bid is approved.

After years of delays and political infighting, bids were received on Wednesday for the video slot facility at the decaying racetrack.

The initial proposal to install the video slot machines at Aqueduct passed in the state legislature in October of 2001, and politicians have been trying ever since to pick a developer and get the project up and running.

Plans for the Buffalo-based Delaware North Company to develop the site died late last month, when it couldn't make the $370 million payment to the state that was mandated under its contract.

The company cited the deterioration of the credit and equity financial markets as the reason for its default.

A spokesperson for the developer told reporters that the company had asked the state to restructure the deal to give them more time to come up with the money, but that the state refused.

Errol Cockfield, spokesperson for Governor David Paterson, told reporters, "We are disappointed that Delaware North couldn't get the funding for the project, but the state is still committed to ensuring that Aqueduct is redeveloped."

Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer said at the time that the state can probably do better now that the present proposal has collapsed.

"Delaware North was never our first choice," said Pheffer. "There were others that not only had a better working relationship with our community, but also had a more fiscally viable project. Delaware North was chosen for their promise to pay $370 million upfront, and they have lost the deal because of their inability to live up to that commitment."

Planned for the racetrack is a 330,000-square-foot "racino," which would boast 4,500 video slot machines, a 25,000-square-foot buffet with seating for 600 diners, a steakhouse and both Italian and Asian restaurants.

In addition, plans call for a 3,000- seat area that could host concerts and sports events.

The facility, when completed, is expected to draw 20,000 people a day and generate $1 million a day in revenue for the state.

Officials say that there will be no comment on the new proposals until they have been checked out by officials of the New York State Racing Commission as well as state politicians.

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