2009-10-16 / Top Stories

Fear That Aqueduct Bid Process Is Rigged

By Howard Schwach

Queens political activists have begun to believe that the bid process to provide a gambling "Racino" at Aqueduct is rigged in favor of one of the strongest political and religious leaders in the city - the Revered Floyd Flake, who once served as the area's congressman.

Flake has close ties to one of the consortiums bidding for the multi-million dollar project, the Aqueduct Entertainment Group (AEG).

One of AEG's several partners, insiders say, is the Empowerment Development Group, founded by Flake, who is the spiritual leader of the massive Allen AME Church in Jamaica.

One Queens Democratic insider, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution from Flake, said, "Flake has close ties to State Senate President Pro Tem Malcolm Smith, who is a deacon in the church. He has close ties to Congressman Greg Meeks, who took his seat when he left Congress. He has close ties to [Governor] Paterson and his father, Basil."

The insider added, "A few weeks ago, Paterson said that the AEG Group was not qualified to bid because one of the partners had a mark on his record. This week, Paterson announced, without explanation, that AEG could bid on the project. What else can anybody believe but that politics is in play?"

Another insider, who also asked not to be identified, added that Paterson had made promises to Flake, and that he was now prepared to make good on those promises by giving AEG the project.

The final decision, officials say, will be made by three men: Paterson, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senator John Sampson, the Democratic Conference Leader.

Flake has longtime political ties to all three of the men, insiders say.

The video lottery terminals slated for the racetrack are expected to bring the state at least $100 million in immediate cash and as much as $400 million a year once the facility is constructed and open to the public.

Among the other bidders on the project are Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn, MGM Mirage, SL Green (which is partnered with the Hard Rock Café) and Delaware North, which had the contract all sewed up a year ago, but could not come up with the necessary front money to seal the deal.

A decision was expected by Labor Day, but insiders now say that the final decision may be several weeks off.

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