Senator Slams Governor Over Aqueduct
By Patricia Adams
“It’s an absolute embarrassment.” That is how Senator Joe Addabbo described Gov. David Paterson’s failure to deliver on a promise made three weeks ago to finally name a Video Lottery Terminal operator at Aqueduct Racetrack. “If we judge the governor by the leadership decisions he makes he will not be judged well.”
And then there are the indecisions. The senator says that there is no reason in the world that the decision has not yet been made and he says at this point other action must be taken. “David Paterson is clearly not a person of leadership or decision. He’s in true jeopardy. He is in the process of tossing away 200 million dollars. It’s absurd.”
Now after eight months of waiting and procrastination, Addabbo contends there must be an alternative plan of action. “We are investigating any and all possibilities to settle this matter outside the governor’s office.”
The extreme urgency of the situation is further compounded due to the impending close of the state’s fiscal year—it’s slated to include the $200 million upfront money from the chosen VLT bidder. “Can you imagine if this deficit has to be applied to next year—it’s a state disaster in the making.”
According to Addabbo the governor is not paying attention; the consequences of his “fence parking” are presenting a grave danger to the financial health of the state. Widespread concerns from civic and community leaders throughout the Aqueduct community are being expressed in the form of letters, e-mail and phone calls to elected officials.
“We have to take action to address this issue outside of the governor’s office,” Addabbo stated. The senator says he will again speak to the Democratic State Senate Leader John Sampson and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. “They have to pressure the governor too—both sides of this decision have to force a decision.”
In the process to choose the vendor all necessary reports are in according to Larry Love, legal counsel to Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer. “All the information on these bidders is in. Their financials are in. The only thing missing is a decision.”
Love says the governor has put off the decision long enough and has to pick someone. “To be losing that kind of money—how foolish.” Pheffer maintains that she and Addabbo have been struggling with this process for what seems an endless time.
“We don’t know for sure that the vendor chosen will be the absolute perfect choice. But what we do know is that without any choice we are losing at least $1 million per day,” said the senator. And if Addabbo’s figures are on the money, the delay has already cost the state and the local economy almost $250 million in desperately needed revenue, since the last stall in the process ensued.
The Aqueduct situation was introduced for discussion at civic meetings this week in Ozone Park and again in Woodhaven. “The people here want answers,” Joe Addabbo told The Forum. “They’re certainly not being unreasonable—they—we all have waited patiently for far too long.”
To that end Addabbo says he will take action and will likely be joined by his colleague in the assembly and many civic and community organizations. “We’re in the process of having discussions about some plan of action for the very near future, and it could very well come in the form of a rally to be held at Aqueduct.”
As part of the trickle down-effect of the stunted process, an already struggling New York Racing Association has recently been hit with pollution violations for dumping manure into Jamaica Bay. The racing operator is recorded as having more than a dozen violations which could amount to fines totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The possible fines come on the heels of talk by NYRA about requesting a state bailout of about $30 million if a bidder is not chosen almost immediately to begin development of the property at Aqueduct.
Sen. Addabbo has stated that he is focusing on a tentative rally date no more than two weeks away.