Lead Problems Elsewhere Prompt New York Schools to Show Drinking Water Is Safe

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Following the discovery of high levels of lead in the water in Newark’s schools, New York City is unveiling a website where parents can track the results of lead testing in its schools.

Trying to reassure parents, the Education Department was sending letters home with students on Wednesday describing the measures the city has taken to ensure the water in schools is safe and including the address of the new website.

“New York City’s water is extraordinarily safe,” reads the letter, which is signed by the schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, and the city’s health commissioner, Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “This includes water in the N.Y.C. schools.”

The letter says that between 2008 and 2010, the city replaced all known lead service lines in city-owned buildings, including schools. The lines connect a building’s plumbing system to the water main, and are one of the most common causes of elevated lead levels in water.

In addition, since 2002, the city has tested the water in all school buildings built before 1986, when Congress banned the installation of lead pipes or fixtures providing water for human consumption. Of the 88,956 samples taken, only 1.13 percent had levels of lead that exceeded the guidelines put out by the federal Environmental Protection Agency on what is called the first draw — the first water to come out of the tap, the mayor’s office said.

In the city, all schools that had a reading with lead levels exceeding the guidelines were required to remove any equipment, like a water fountain, from which the water showed an elevated reading, and also to flush the school’s plumbing system weekly, the mayor’s office said.

The city also treats its water with orthophosphate, a food additive that creates a protective film on the inside of pipes that prevents lead from leaching into the water.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/24/nyregion/new-york-schools-water-lead-testing-website.html

Unsafe Construction Site Shut Down After Eyewitness News Investigation

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A construction site that has been called one of the most dangerous in New York City and has been hit with thousands of dollars in fines was somehow allowed to stay active, until the Eyewitness News Investigators got involved and started asking questions about who was overseeing the site and its safety.

The site has a reputation for its unsafe operations, but the Department of Buildings thought they fixed it a few months ago when they kicked the contractor off the job.

That’s when a new builder took over, but as we discovered, workers were still taking huge risks. Earlier Friday, in response to our investigation, the city closed down the work site.

The seven-story, 25-unit apartment building being constructed in the Bronx ranked among the worst sites in the city, racking up so many fines for endangering its workers and the public that late last year, inspectors kicked the general contractor off the project.

But as video taken by residents as recently as last week showed, the risks and the dangers at the site continued.

It included workers doing masonry work along the edge of the building, leaning over the wall while lifting heavy concrete blocks. Some walked dangerously along the edge with a heavy cement-filled bucket, while others were wearing safety harnesses that weren’t attached to anchors to prevent them from falling.

It was a high-wire act without a net that concerned neighbors, who said they’ve repeatedly brought to the attention of the buildings department.

“That the city allows them to operate, it seems, allows them to operate without much consequence in that way is shocking to people,” area resident Jeremy Skehan said.

But the building owner, Ray Kahn, disputed that there were unsafe conditions.

Kahn: “I’m following all the procedures.”
Eyewitness News reporter Jim Hoffer: “That’s not what this video shows. These workers are without safety harnesses. I mean, if they would trip or slip here, they could fall to their death even. Sir, could you just take a look.”

While the contractors have changed, Kahn has remained a daily presence at the non-union work site. When we tried to get him to look at video of workers routinely taking risks, he refused.

Hoffer: “What do you have to say about this? You have tens of thousands of dollars in fines here. As the owner, don’t you have some responsibility?”
Kahn: “I have more responsibility than you.”
Hoffer: “Then why do workers continue to work unsafely?”
Kahn: “They are working safely. Please get away from me, because I told you they are working safely. Every step of the way is being followed.”
Hoffer: “Then what do you have to say about this video? This is proof they are not working safely.”

Experts didn’t have to think twice.

“If you’re going to work like that, you don’t belong in the business,” Mason Tenders Safety Director Sean Brenner said. “You just don’t.”

Brenner is the head of safety training for union mason workers, and he came to a quick conclusion.

“One wrong move, he’s dead,” he said. “At seven stories up, he’s dead.”

So why would a general contractor take the risk?

“To save money, honestly,” Brenner said. “To save money.”

As a result of our investigation, the Department of Buildings slapped an immediate stop work order against the site Friday afternoon. A spokesman said the order will not be lifted until enhanced safety measurers are put in place.

The current general contractor, New York Fast, insists none of the workers currently at the site is employed by them.

The Department of Buildings issued the following statement:

“We will not tolerate contractors to allow unsafe worksite conditions for the sake of expediency. The failure of the construction site management on this job to enforce safety requirements, including ensuring that workers are tied off, is absolutely unacceptable. The Department has issued an immediate Stop Work Order for the site, and we will require enhanced safety measures be put in place before it is lifted. In addition, we have referred the matter to OSHA for potential violations of federal worker safety laws.”

Source: http://abc7ny.com/news/unsafe-construction-site-shut-down-after-eyewitness-news-investigation/1252220/

Lifting the middle: New York City’s economy is quite healthy — but we should take bold steps to ensure upward mobility for all

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Healthy, but can get stronger still

In the depths of the economic crisis, New Yorkers feared that New York City had forever lost its status as the financial center of the world.

In response, Mayor Bloomberg developed a long-term strategy to diversify and guide our city’s economy through the downturn. The strategy worked, leading to New York City being ranked first in job creation among the 10 largest U.S. cities in the three years following the recession, surpassing San Jose in Silicon Valley and even Houston during the oil boom. New York City recovered all of the local jobs it had lost in the recession at a much faster pace than did the United States as a whole.

Contrary to the fears of business and civic leaders, New York City has not sputtered under Mayor de Blasio. Quite the opposite; our economy is rather robust. Private sector jobs are at an all-time high and, in the first two years since de Blasio took office, approximately 250,000 private sector jobs have been created. Every industry sector has enjoyed job increases during this period. Even manufacturing, which had been in decline for years, showed a slight uptick.

But even with such growth across all job sectors, we cannot be complacent about the current strength of New York City’s economy. The areas of greatest job gains are still occurring at the high and low ends of the wage spectrum, and we still need to concentrate on growth of middle-class jobs.

At the high end, the professional services and tech sector enjoyed the greatest job gains, contributing over 37,000 new jobs since de Blasio came on the job. This sector supports jobs with average annual wages of over $120,000. Additionally, the finance sector, a mainstay of the city’s economy for decades, has added over 16,000 jobs at very high average annual wages of almost $300,000 (although this sector does include jobs across the entire wage spectrum).

During this same period, the low end of the wage spectrum saw significant job growth powered by two different sectors. Health care, which employs the most New Yorkers of any local industry, produced the most jobs of any sector overall, with about 47,000 new jobs, at an average annual wage of approximately $50,000. The food services sector was also a large job creator, contributing over 32,000 jobs at approximately $30,000 in average annual wages.

Job growth in lower-wage sectors is beneficial for the overall local economy, giving new opportunity to those joining the workforce or returning to it, and certainly placing many of these individuals above the current poverty line. But such jobs still face relative stagnation of real wages, compounded by a rising cost of living. These wages are inadequate to sustain a living for single-income families in New York City.

Despite the wide economic divide, there’s good news. Unlike the rest of the country, the city is starting to show positive gains in the type of jobs that more closely approximate much-needed middle class jobs. One example: the recent growth in the construction sector as a result of the ongoing residential and commercial boon.

Increasing middle-class jobs must remain a priority. In fact, with the recent momentum in the economy, it is time to double down on growing higher-paying middle-class jobs to add greater strength and diversity to the local economy.

This focus would provide greater mobility for those at the lower end to climb the pay scale in New York City. It could help buttress the local economy in the event that it starts to slow down after the longest period of growth in the city’s history. And it would help reverse the decades-long rise in inequality.

Understandably, middle-class jobs here have been constrained by quality of life challenges such as lack of affordable housing and quality of schools; employers are also reluctant to absorb higher costs here as opposed to placing these jobs elsewhere.

So, setting other important initiatives to benefit those at the lower end of the wage spectrum aside, here are 10 ideas (some of which are already being considered) to drive middle-class job growth in New York City:

Develop and attract smart entrepreneurial talent. With many unfilled area jobs, we need to work very closely with local businesses, paying particular attention to supporting women- and minority-owned businesses. While developing local talent, we also need to proactively encourage young, talented individuals to build their careers and businesses here.

Increasing venture capital investment here is a strong indicator of the growing talent pool living and working here, as venture capital dollars chase talent. In 2015, local companies received almost $6 billion in venture capital funding, marking a 62% increase over 2014. But even that growing amount is not sufficient; one West Coast company, Uber, has itself raised more than $8 billion.

One prominent local entrepreneur believes the tech sector alone could immediately absorb 10,000 talented software developers.

Partner with high-impact industries. The local and national backlash against Wall Street is evident. But the finance sector, representing about 9% of New York City jobs, accounts for about 30% of our payroll taxes. Such revenues cannot easily be found elsewhere, not even in the fast-growing tech sector, which currently contributes almost 11% of payroll taxes. And since finance leaders understand the long-term economic effects of current trends, instead of isolating them, we should include them in the conversation and enlist them in being part of the solution.

Reduce regulatory burdens. New York City remains a difficult and expensive place to start and grow a business, particularly for entrepreneurs who lack access to venture capital.

We can level the playing field by streamlining our complex local regulatory environment. For example, eliminate conflicting regulations from multiple agencies and consider a change to procurement rules to help small- and mid-size businesses compete more effectively for government contracts.

Respected policy institutes, such as the Kauffman Foundation, have long advocated for reduced regulations. This would not only benefit lower-income entrepreneurs struggling to grow a business but also serve as an important signal to attract greater talent to New York City.

Invest in infrastructure. New York City lags behind other global cities with respect to investments in 21st century infrastructure. Among other areas, we need to prioritize access and availability to high-speed broadband. Infrastructure investments have always been a net job creator, especially if coupled with streamlined regulations in the construction field.

Tax incentives for job creation. Local and state tax incentive programs already subsidize both commercial and residential development. In particular, these programs seek to spur industrial development in certain areas or create more affordable housing. Given our willingness to influence economic behavior in these ways, we should devise similar programs that focus on job creation or growth in certain industries and provide incentives to companies to hire and train employees.

Build an export economy. New York must redouble its export-oriented economy to compete in an increasingly global economy. As such, we should identify and support New York City-based sectors or businesses that can sell items outside of the tri-state area. For example, many small and mid-sized businesses in food manufacturing are well positioned to increase exports of their products. A large-scale program to support small businesses in exporting their products would be beneficial.

Invest in emerging industries. New York City must continuously reinvent itself in an ever-changing world. We need to identify, incubate and support new industries here, such as life sciences, health-care tech, design, advanced manufacturing and film and television post-production. The investment in applied sciences at Cornell-Technion, the remarkable new campus taking shape on Roosevelt Island, will bring an estimated $30 billion in economic development over the next several decades. As an example to follow, Chicago is investing (with the assistance of the federal government) in advancing the next generation of battery and energy storage technologies.

Leverage our local anchor institutions. New York City’s anchor institutions, such as museums, universities, hospitals and medical schools, can more fully support local economic development. Possessing great scale and located in or adjacent to many economically distressed areas, they share a long-term perspective on our community. While they face their own internal constraints and priorities, they play multiple community roles as purchaser, employer, workforce developer, infrastructure builder and real estate developer.

In 2014, Chicago established the CASE model (Chicago Anchors for a Strong Economy) to build connections between anchors and local businesses. This model can also serve New York City.

Embrace the gig economy. Technology is fueling an emerging “on demand” economy that has profound implications for society, from work to pay to social contracts. Tens of thousands of New Yorkers are performing freelance work, and large companies here increasingly view freelancers as a way to tap people with the necessary skills for specific projects without the financial obligations of adding employees to their permanent payroll.

This disruption includes the rise of “sharing” companies, such as Uber or Airbnb, which have become integrated into the fabric of society. Some of this work can pay decent wages; Uber drivers, for example, reportedly earn over $20 per hour.

We should embrace these companies but also determine how they can best co-exist fairly and safely in New York City.

Adopt a fiscally conservative city budget. In the face of greater mobility and a seemingly slowing global economy, we cannot assume that tax revenues, particularly payroll taxes, will remain unusually robust. The city should be cautious when adding costly new programs that may be difficult to eliminate if we face a downturn. We should look to preserve greater cash reserves so that government has additional tools and flexibility to weather any economic fluctuations.

As we face even greater convergence of technological capabilities (e.g., job killers like automation and machine learning) and a rate of change whose speed eclipses our capacity to adapt, we need all constituencies to collaborate. New York City can take advantage of the moment and find ways to create ever more middle-class and higher-wage jobs – by collaborating, exploring and experimenting as a community.

Gertler is chief executive officer of Ulysses Ventures, a private investment fund in New York City. He previously served as an executive vice president for the New York City Economic Development Corporation and managing director of its Center for Economic Transformation.

Source: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/eric-gertler-lifting-nyc-middle-class-article-1.2569763

Newser’s beloved mom Joanne Gennaro dies aged 64

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Joanne Gennaro (second left, with James Gennaro, first left, Rich O’Malley, second right, and other family members) “gave her family the gift of love, dignity and strength,” her son said.

Joanne M. Gennaro, 64, beloved mother of Daily News Executive Editor Rich O’Malley, and daughter Christina, and wife of former City Councilman James F. Gennaro, was born into eternal life Friday after a long illness.

Joanne grew up in Hollis, graduated St. Pascal’s High School in 1969 and began her career with the Port Authority. She married Dennis P. O’Malley, also of Hollis, who graduated the U.S. Naval Academy, and they lived briefly in Florida, Georgia and Virginia.

Lt. O’Malley was killed in an aircraft carrier landing accident in 1977, and Joanne brought their 18-month-old son, Richard, home to Queens.

As a single mother, she attended St. John’s University and earned her degree while working in the school’s alumni department.

On Halloween 1988, she went on her first date with Mr. Gennaro. They married in 1991 and were blessed with daughter Christina in 1995. Joanne worked as a sales representative for PartyLite while raising Christina, and became Director of Development at the Bishop Molloy Retreat House in Jamaica Estates.

Her support and wisdom enabled both her son and husband to achieve their professional dreams. Joanne inspired Christina’s promising fashion career as she now completes her junior year at F.I.T.

Mr. Gennaro served as a New York City Council member from 2002-13. He is currently a deputy commissioner at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Her husband and children, her mother, Susan Pryor, and five siblings survive Joanne: brothers James, Andrew, Jeffrey and Robert Pryor and sister Jo-Ellen.

Joanne lived for eight years with a degenerative neurological ailment, her son said. Upon her passing, Joanne made an organ donation to aid scientific research in order to spare other families from what she so bravely faced.

“Mom gave her family the gift of love, dignity and strength. With her donation, she becomes to the world what she always was to us — a hero,” O’Malley said.

A wake is set at R. Stutzmann & Son funeral home at 224-39 Jamaica Ave. in Queens Village, with a viewing from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday and from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday.

A funeral Mass is set for Thursday at 9:45 a.m. at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Jamaica Estates.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to the Dysautonomia Foundation.

Source: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/newser-beloved-mom-joanne-gennaro-dies-aged-64-article-1.2571565

NYC Seaport Redevelopment Commands $390M

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China Oceanwide Holdings paid a hefty price to acquire 80 South St. from The Howard Hughes Corp., with plans to create a 113-story tower.

Rendering of 80 South St. project in New York

New YorkChina Oceanwide Holdings has acquired 80 South St., a planned 113-story tower in New York City’s Seaport District, from the Howard Hughes Corp. (HHC), for $390 million.

“We are pleased to be welcoming our friends at China Oceanwide to the neighborhood and excited about the impact their building will have on the Seaport District,” David Weinreb, HHC CEO, said in a prepared statement. “This transaction is another sign that the Seaport District, with its unmatched views and distinct sense of place, is gaining recognition as one of the city’s hot spots.”

The development calls for 441,077 square feet of residential space and 376,707 square feet for hotel, office or retail use.

Although initially announced more than seven months ago, the deal was contingent on HHC transferring an additional 303,113 square feet of air rights to the site.

The 42,694-square-foot zoning lot adjacent to the Historic District at the Seaport is capable of supporting 817,784 square feet of fully entitled development rights.

HHC has made a big push for redevelopment in the area. Last August, it broke ground on an upscale mall at Pier 17 and soon after proposed more redevelopment at the site, including a new marina and a mixed-use 50-story hotel and apartment tower.

With the deal, HHC expects to recognize a pre-tax gain of approximately $140 million during the quarter ended March 31, 2016. HHC originally brought the site for $100 million in 2014.

The Seaport District is located on New York City’s East River in Lower Manhattan and offers unparalleled views of the Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty and the city’s iconic skyline. With the redevelopment, HHC is planning to make it a top destination for unique culinary, fashion, entertainment and cultural experiences.

Rendering courtesy of Morali Architects

Man injured in crane collapse to sue city for $30M

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A man injured in February’s fatal Tribeca crane collapse said he now plans to sue the city for $30 million.

Thomas O’Brien, 73, of North Easton, Massachusetts, suffered fractures to his spine and skull when the crane that collapsed Feb. 5 partly landed on his parked car while he was in it, the New York Daily News has reported.

RELATED: VIDEO: Crane collapse in Lower Manhattan kills one, seriously injures two

A legal complaint filed Friday by O’Brien claimed the Department of Buildings acted with “negligence, recklessness and carelessness” regarding its construction-monitoring duties at the crane site on Worth Street, the Daily News added.

“The city knew for several days that the wind gusts were going to reach 40 mph prior to the accident, and they could have acted sooner,” Gothamist quoted O’Brien’s attorney Jonathan Damashek, who added that officials should have heeded earlier weather reports of high winds for that day.

“This was not an act of nature. They forecast it for days. This wasn’t a tornado that came out of nowhere,” Damashek added in the Daily News article.

Damashek told Gothamist that, besides the Department of Buildings, O’Brien also intended to file suit against crane owner Bay Crane, contractor Glasso Transportation and Logistics and the owners of 60 Hudson, where the crane was set up.

RELATED: Audit, released hours after Manhattan crane collapse, faults city on worksite safety

A Law Department spokesman told the Daily News that the claim will be reviewed and that the cause of the crane collapse remained under active investigation.

Source: http://www.metro.us/new-york/man-injured-in-tribeca-crane-collapse-plans-30m-lawsuit/zsJpcu—k1XevKvdlFwGA/

Enough with the MTA’s multibillion-dollar bungling

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The MTA deserves credit for its effective operation of the world’s largest, most complex mass-transit system. The same can’t always be said for the MTA’s record in contracting for major projects.

Take East Side Access, which brings the Long Island Railroad into Grand Central Station. It’s years behind schedule and now, at about $11 billion, is projected to cost more than double its original budget of $4.3 billion.

As The Post observed in its March 17 editorial, there’s already flooding and mold at the Hudson Yards No. 7 line station, part of a $2-plus billion new subway extension that opened less than a year ago. It’s more evidence that the MTA process for bidding and building transportation projects simply isn’t working. Contributing factors include a huge bureaucracy that can’t get out of its own way and the inflexible terms of union contracts, state procurement laws and federal-funding requirements.

Similar problems plague most of the state agencies that build and maintain essential public infrastructure.

Reforming these agencies from within will be a slow and uncertain undertaking. Impatient with that process, Gov. Cuomo has come up with an alternative solution that he applied first to the new Tappan Zee Bridge and now intends to bring to other important projects, if state legislators agree.

In his Executive Budget for 2016-17, which will be negotiated with the Legislature over the next two weeks, the governor proposed a new state authority that would have broad discretion over infrastructure contracts that exceed $50 million. He plans to create a small, expertly staffed group that has the capacity to monitor, expedite and intercede in big projects that go awry. It would also be able to originate design and construction contracts for projects on behalf of agencies that aren’t able to live up to Cuomo’s expectations.

The way to get major projects built quickly, to the highest standards and at the lowest cost isn’t through large, intransigent bureaucracies. Ontario, London, Hong Kong, San Francisco and Boston have created nimble authorities that make decisions quickly, embrace innovative solutions and transfer financial and performance risk from government to the private sector.

Many of these authorities work with private-sector firms that are based in New York in order to deliver projects on time and on budget — firms whose skills go largely untapped by public agencies here at home!

Right now, the pipeline of necessary transportation improvements in New York exceeds $100 billion. The proposed new Design and Construction Corporation is intended to expedite big projects and reduce their cost, allowing the state to build additional projects within the budget and create thousands more jobs.

One would expect broad support for this proposal to accelerate modernization of New York’s aging rails, bridges and tunnels and to hold the governor accountable for the efficient investment of taxpayer dollars.

But Cuomo’s proposal has met some resistance, especially upstate, from employees of state agencies who fear loss of power and from private contractors who don’t welcome change in the status quo and fear that a new authority will simply add another layer of bureaucracy to an already-burdensome process.

Clearly, the choice of the Dormitory Authority as the place to house this new entity is troubling, since expanding its sway to infrastructure projects would make a bad situation worse.

It’s hard to blame the cynics, but New York is far behind its global counterparts when it comes to transportation development, and there’s no excuse for ignoring this opportunity to try a new approach to fixing a broken system.

New York should be the place where the world’s best compete to build our mega projects on time and on budget. This is in the interest of taxpayers and the public at large and deserves strong support from legislative leaders as they negotiate the final budget in the coming days.

Kathryn Wylde is the president and CEO of Partnership for New York City.

Source: http://nypost.com/2016/03/21/enough-with-the-mtas-multibillion-dollar-bungling/

NY contractor ordered to pay $3M to fix leaks at new Hudson Yards subway station

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Dive Brief:

  • A New York City contractor must pay an estimated $3 million to fix a leak and clean up mold at the six-month-old, $2.45 billion Hudson Yards subway station, according to the New York Business Journal.
  • The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has ordered Yonkers Contracting to hire experienced Australian waterproofing company Sovereign Hydroseal to do the repairs, which are expected to take no longer than three months.
  • MTA officials said Yonkers has tried unsuccessfully to fix waterproofing issues at the station since it was under construction in 2012. A representative of Yonkers said the original work was done by one of its subcontractors.

Dive Insight:

According to DNAinfo, the new station has been plagued with leaks, mold, bathroom flooding, water damage and broken escalators and visible water damage since its opening in September.

The station provides subway access to the booming Hudson Yards development in West Manhattan. In fact, the addition of the station was one of the factors onlookers cited as encouraging growth in the area.

Developers broke ground on Hudson Yards in 2012 and, since then, it has attracted builders and contractors who are changing the city’s skyline with new office and residential towers.

Tishman Speyer is building two skyscrapers — a 1.3 million square foot tower and the Bjarke Ingels Group-designed building “The Spiral,” which features a “snake” of greenery-filled terraces winding their way up the building’s exterior. In addition, Tutor Perini was just awarded two more contracts for Hudson Yards, along with a retail complex, for $1.2 billion in total.

Source: http://www.constructiondive.com/news/ny-contractor-ordered-to-pay-3m-to-fix-leaks-at-new-hudson-yards-subway-st/416151/

Casino border war shaping up between New York and New Jersey

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ALBANY – Donald Trump and other Atlantic City casino interests in 1997 spent a lot of money on a lobbying campaign to help kill a plan that would have allowed commercial casinos in Western New York, the Catskills and just north of Albany.

A generation later, New York gambling interests want the Empire State to return the favor. Or, at least, reduce the fiscal blow if New Jersey goes ahead with its own gambling expansion plans.

A gambling border war between New York and New Jersey is brewing in a debate that has financial implications for both states.

Depending on the outcome, New York is at risk of losing hundreds of millions of dollars in state revenues earmarked for 700 public school districts from Buffalo to Long Island if the Garden State goes ahead with casino expansion.

New Jersey lawmakers last week approved a referendum for voters this fall that seeks to permit two new casinos that likely would be located in communities just across the Hudson River from New York City – easy access for gamblers across several bridges and tunnels.

The move in New Jersey has stirred a group of New York gambling interests into action, and they hope to awaken state officials about the fiscal danger the New Jersey plan poses.

If the two New Jersey casinos open, the association representing racetrack-based casinos in Queens and Yonkers, as well as Hamburg, Batavia and the Finger Lakes, projects a loss of $200 million in revenue-sharing money they send to Albany for the state’s 700 public school districts.

“New casinos in northern New Jersey would present a significant threat to New York’s gaming industry, risking hundreds of millions of dollars in critical education revenue and jeopardizing thousands of family-sustaining jobs,” the New York Gaming Association said in a statement. “New York must ensure that its successful casinos can continue to compete on a level playing field.”

Two casinos in New Jersey could cannibalize revenues at two racetrack-based casinos in Queens and Yonkers as well as a future full-scale casino under construction in the southern Catskills in Sullivan County, said Michael Wilton, the group’s executive director. The fear is gamblers from New York City and its suburbs will take the short drive to New Jersey to play in full-scale casinos rather than the more limited facilities in Queens and Yonkers or the 90-minute drive to the Catskills.

The impact beyond those three New York gambling halls comes in the form of revenue sharing that casinos provide to state and local governments. Two full-scale casinos in northern New Jersey could hit downstate casino revenues at a level that would result in $200 million in lost revenue-sharing proceeds for the state’s education aid program, Wilton said.

The state constitution requires that money going to the state Lottery Division, including the racetrack-casino revenues, be directed to schools. Since its start, though, the gambling money has supplanted, not supplemented, money for education from the state’s general fund.

Overall, total gambling revenues in New York could drop by as much as 25 percent, he warned, a level that would hit localities that now share in casino proceeds, as well as state Lottery Division funding and revenue-sharing for the state’s horse racing industry.

The Gaming Association is not saying what its plans might be to try to address the New Jersey bid to add two new casinos so close to New York City. A direct advertising campaign in New Jersey could, of course, backfire if Garden State residents take offense that New Yorkers are trying to influence their November ballot.

For certain, though, it could put pressure on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and lawmakers in Albany to change the terms of New York’s 2013 casino legislation. That bill called for four initial casinos to go upstate. Three licenses – in Seneca, Schenectady and Sullivan counties – were awarded last year and a fourth in Tioga County is pending. Lawmakers and lobbyists have long assumed at least one or two of the remaining three licenses would go in or near New York City.

Approval of the New Jersey casinos could pressure New York officials to undo the seven-year time-out before approving the remaining three licenses. That, in turn, could have its own potential negative effects on the existing downstate racetrack-based casinos or the one under construction in the Catskills.

Atlantic City saw the closure of four casinos in 2014, and two big Connecticut Indian-owned casinos have seen revenue drops in recent years.

The state’s nine track-based casinos provided $888 million in proceeds to the state on the losses by gamblers who play the video lottery terminals. Over the last 10 years, Albany has gotten more than $6 billion in revenue sharing funds from the VLT facilities, Wilton said.

The Gaming Association said the state is trying to “maintain a competitive edge in an increasingly crowded industry,” but that it must “take the necessary steps to preserve our market.” The trade group is not yet stating what it believes New York State should do in the face of the possible New Jersey casino expansion.

The Gaming Association’s members include Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack, which is owned by Buffalo’s Delaware North Cos., Hamburg Gaming at Buffalo Raceway, which is managed by Delaware North, and Batavia Downs Gaming, which is owned by Western New York Off-Track Betting Corp., which in turn is owned by counties in Western New York as well as the cities of Buffalo and Rochester.

Source: http://www.buffalonews.com/city-region/state/casino-border-war-shaping-up-between-new-york-and-new-jersey-20160323