NEW YORK—New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed plan to redevelop the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan and build the nation’s largest convention center at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens is getting mixed reactions from the city’s hoteliers.
The Aqueduct Racetrack venue is approximately 16 miles from Midtown Manhattan in the South Ozone Park region of Queens.
In his State of the State address Thursday, Cuomo said the Javits Center, 12th in the nation in size, is obsolete and not large enough to compete in today’s marketplace.
He said the US$4-billion private investment from the Genting Organization, a gaming development company, to help fund the new convention center would generate tens of thousands of jobs, in addition to the development of 3,000 hotel rooms.
The governor’s proposal for the Javits Center is to follow the city’s Battery Park development and revitalize the building as a mixed-use facility with housing, hotels, museums and office space
The Javits Center is in the midst of a major renovation and expansion that has added a new hall and meeting space and will replace the existing roof, curtain wall, skylights and enlarge and reconfigure the main entrance. Renovations are scheduled to be complete by the end of 2013, according to the Javits Center website.
Lisa Linden, spokeswoman for the Hotel Association of New York City, said the proposed plan to build a state-of-the-art conference center in Queens would create a win-win situation for everyone.
“It will surely bring more visitors to New York City, which will be good for the hotel industry. We suggest a high-speed link or rail-link between Manhattan and Queens. Many of the visitors who will come will want to stay in Manhattan as well,” she said.
Frank Nicholas, task force GM for Wyndham Hotels & Resorts in New York City, also believes the proposed plan would be beneficial for the city’s hotels.
Nicholas is not concerned about the city’s main convention center moving to Queens rather than staying in New York proper. Although some visitors will want to stay in properties in close proximity to the airport and the convention center, many more will want to take part in the Manhattan experience.
“It’s New York City. People want to be in it. People want to wake up in it. They want to walk out of their hotels and take part in the dynamic communities in Manhattan,” he said.
STR, the parent company of HotelNewsNow.com, forecasted in September negative RevPAR growth for New York City for 2012 as well as an increase of more than 4% in the rooms available because of the increase in room supply.
“We need to help feed the additional supply,” Nicholas said.
Year-to-date through November, New York’s occupancy edged upward by 0.2% to 81.2%; average daily rate increased by 6% to US$240.79; and revenue per available room jumped 6.2% to US$195.63, according to STR data.
Alan Gonzalez, director of distribution and e-commerce for Warwick International Hotels, isn’t so sure that what Manhattan has to offer is enough to influence guests to commute more than an hour on public transportation or pay higher cab fares to Queens.
A lot of the draw for people to go to New York for conventions is they are taking place in New York, Gonzalez said.
Because a great deal of the city’s convention business is out-of-state and global, Gonzalez also is worried Queens’s infrastructure will be a problem for many first-time visitors.
He said a free shuttle from downtown Manhattan to the new convention center would relieve the burden of commuting, but it’s possible hotels might have to start allocating funds toward shuttle services for their guests.
“If this plan does actually come into fruition, the New York City hotel market will feel some pain,” Gonzalez said.
Nicholas argued the city’s rapidly increasing room inventory means New York is ready for a new convention center that will generate more business.