The Aqueduct Racetrack in Ozone Park, Queens is getting a makeover. After several years of battling for the highest bidder, Genting New York LLC celebrated the groundbreaking ceremony amidst politicians and community members for the future site of Resort World, combination racetrack and casino.
Since its opening in 1894, the aqueduct, known as The Big A, has gone from being New York’s busiest thoroughbred racetrack to an empty lot full of memories and dust. Although it has been revived, hosting two races a year, many agree that it is in dire need of the $380 million being pumped into the casino transformation which will include 4,500 slot machines and electronic table games and several dining facilities. The first phase of the project is planned for a completion by May 2011. Political figures including Governor David A. Paterson, boasted of the 1,300 construction jobs and 800 permanent jobs the project will create.
Listen to a part of the Governor’s speech:
However, outside the gates of the racetracks’ rear parking lot stood residents and workers who expressed different concerns. Vendors of the popular Aqueduct Flea Market, open every Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday protested, saying they were being ousted. They believe that once construction starts in November, the hundreds of vendors at the market will be out of jobs. Stephan Friedman, spokesperson for Genting said the flea market will continue to operate through the holidays before making a final decision-a contrast to what some vendors have expressed, saying they have been left in the dark by both Genting and Plain and Fancy Shows, Inc. the Long Island based company that runs the flea market. They aren’t the only skeptics; several reports from New York Daily News and The New York Times question the real beneficiaries of the project.
What many residents believe to be the beginning of a brighter future for Ozone Park, is a nightmare to some.
A Good Change- These residents think the racino will help rebuild the struggling Rockaway Blvd. where the race track is located.
- Micheal McCabe, longtime Ozone Park resident isn’t afraid of the gambling environment coming into the neighborhood.
- Philip Salerno, owner of The Getaway Sports Bar and Grill on Rockaway Blvd. doesn’t think the casino poses any competition on his business.
An Economic Pest- Vendors and some businesses think the Flea Market is too valuable to lose.
- Yvonne Kissoon, vendor for 34 years feels she and her colleagues have been shut out of the process.
- Hazem Kassim, owner of two delis on Rockaway Blvd. doesn’t want to lose the business the flea market brings.