Cuomo Seeks Less of Something for Nothing

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo dreamed last year that he would generate massive revenues from a new convention center in Queens. One year later, that dream has deflated, but Cuomo remains upbeat.

In last January’s State of the State address, Cuomo described his plan to build a new convention center near John F. Kennedy International Airport. The proposal, which included tearing down the 26-year-old Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, was to rely on the partnership between the public sector and Malaysian Genting Group, a private company that operates a casino which would have been the proposed convention center’s neighbor.

It turns out, however, that there was no pot of Malaysian gambling gold at the end of a rainbow in Queens. Superstorm Sandy may have caused a rainbow or two in the area, but the only thing at the end of it was a major mess to clean up.

The governor’s dream of getting a very big, if mostly useless, something for nothing was dead months before the superstorm. A spokesman for Genting told The Wall Street Journal last January that the company’s funding plans were not predicated on a constitutional amendment legalizing table gambling in New York. My skepticism on that point was borne out soon after; by mid-2012, it was already clear that the Genting Group had no intention of building a $4 billion convention center just because it really bought into the “I Love New York” campaign. Crain’s New York Business reported in June that Genting blamed the breakdown in talks on several issues including – unsurprisingly – the uncertain passage of the gambling amendment.

At around the same time, it became obvious that the business community was not going to just stand by and watch the governor tear down the Javits complex. The trade-show industry stepped in to advocate the expansion of Javits to include new satellite buildings connected to the old facility soon after the original Genting plan fell through.

Now the other shoe has finally dropped. Cuomo still loves gambling, but is willing to move it upstate for the time being.

In his 2013 State of the State address last week, Cuomo called for three casinos, all upstate, should an amendment allowing them pass in November. (The bill for the amendment would eventually allow up to seven full-scale casinos in New York.)

The governor is still looking to get something for nothing, only less of it. Gambling is the first resort of every politician who wants to raise money without raising taxes. It is supposed to magically revitalize communities. Most often, as in this case, it is sold as a boon to schools (who can be against the little children?) and to property tax payers (in New York, they need all the help they can get). Cuomo’s plan calls for a 90-10 split between education and property tax relief, respectively. But as each state turns more and more to gambling revenue, the golden goose has been whittled down to a starling with shiny feathers.

The governor wants New Yorkers to vote yes on a constitutional amendment to legalize a few casinos on non-Indian land upstate. I suspect, this time, he’ll get what he wants. But while a few casinos upstate probably won’t do the state much good, they’ll do much less harm than his earlier scheme to build a $4 billion white elephant in the far reaches of Queens, and thoughtlessly tearing down Manhattan’s largest convention venue to do it.

Maybe the Javits should stay and maybe it should go, but the discussion should be centered on whether New York City needs a convention center at all, not whether it needs one in Jamaica. We all know the answer to that.

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About Larry M. Elkin 564 Articles

Affiliation: Palisades Hudson Financial Group

Larry M. Elkin, CPA, CFP®, has provided personal financial and tax counseling to a sophisticated client base since 1986. After six years with Arthur Andersen, where he was a senior manager for personal financial planning and family wealth planning, he founded his own firm in Hastings on Hudson, New York in 1992. That firm grew steadily and became the Palisades Hudson organization, which moved to Scarsdale, New York in 2002. The firm expanded to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 2005, and to Atlanta, Georgia, in 2008.

Larry received his B.A. in journalism from the University of Montana in 1978, and his M.B.A. in accounting from New York University in 1986. Larry was a reporter and editor for The Associated Press from 1978 to 1986. He covered government, business and legal affairs for the wire service, with assignments in Helena, Montana; Albany, New York; Washington, D.C.; and New York City’s federal courts in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Larry established the organization’s investment advisory business, which now manages more than $800 million, in 1997. As president of Palisades Hudson, Larry maintains individual professional relationships with many of the firm’s clients, who reside in more than 25 states from Maine to California as well as in several foreign countries. He is the author of Financial Self-Defense for Unmarried Couples (Currency Doubleday, 1995), which was the first comprehensive financial planning guide for unmarried couples. He also is the editor and publisher of Sentinel, a quarterly newsletter on personal financial planning.

Larry has written many Sentinel articles, including several that anticipated future events. In “The Economic Case Against Tobacco Stocks” (February 1995), he forecast that litigation losses would eventually undermine cigarette manufacturers’ financial position. He concluded in “Is This the Beginning Of The End?” (May 1998) that there was a better-than-even chance that estate taxes would be repealed by 2010, three years before Congress enacted legislation to repeal the tax in 2010. In “IRS Takes A Shot At Split-Dollar Life” (June 1996), Larry predicted that the IRS would be able to treat split dollar arrangements as below-market loans, which came to pass with new rules issued by the Service in 2001 and 2002.

More recently, Larry has addressed the causes and consequences of the “Panic of 2008″ in his Sentinel articles. In “Have We Learned Our Lending Lesson At Last” (October 2007) and “Mortgage Lending Lessons Remain Unlearned” (October 2008), Larry questioned whether or not America has learned any lessons from the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s. In addition, he offered some practical changes that should have been made to amend the situation. In “Take Advantage Of The Panic Of 2008” (January 2009), Larry offered ways to capitalize on the wealth of opportunity that the panic presented.

Larry served as president of the Estate Planning Council of New York City, Inc., in 2005-2006. In 2009 the Council presented Larry with its first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award, citing his service to the organization and “his tireless efforts in promoting our industry by word and by personal example as a consummate estate planning professional.” He is regularly interviewed by national and regional publications, and has made nearly 100 radio and television appearances.

Visit: Palisades Hudson

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