Queens Borough President Helen Marshall State of the Borough Address on January 25, 2011. In this clip, she talks about the Aqueduct Racino and its economic impact.
Add another place on your list to hit this summer – the new racino at the Aqueduct racetrack.
The gaming facility is said to open this summer after the installment of 1,600 video lottery terminals. That’s just phase one.
Phase two is said to be completed shortly after and it will bring in all 4,500 VLTs as well as two restaurants – an Asian restaurant and a steak house. The facility will also house an indoor spa.
The new gaming space is said to be open 7 days for 20 hours to attract tourists, new customers and local residents.
It’s safe to say that Aqueduct vendors have a new home. The 25,000 square foot space at 221-02 Merrick Boulevard, which used to be an old warehouse, has been converted into a new flea market – the Merrick Flea Market.
Some aqueduct vendors have already made their way over to the Springfield Gardens space that was opened last fall but Brian Baxter, the current manager of the Merrick Flea Market who also managed the Aqueduct Flea Market for 33 years expects to see more.
“Aqueduct had between 600 – 800 vendors at any given time. With about 125 – 150 total spaces here, we’re about 75 percent full and we can attribute about half of them to the old Aqueduct vendors,” he said.
Many vendors at Aqueduct are either out of a job or hoping for another space and the Merrick Flea is located conveniently in Queens where they wouldn’t have to travel far and where customers, who receive free parking at the market, could also follow.
Although promises were made by Senator Addabbo and the Queens Borough President, Helen Marshall, to find a new space for the vendors, Baxter said that to find a place similar to Aqueduct would be almost impossible.
“It’s so big, any property that large is not going to be zoned for a flea market,” he said.
The Merrick Flea Market is only five miles away from Aqueduct, a perk which Baxter says can only benefit Aqueduct vendors once they find out – through word of mouth – that the Merrick Flea Market is open.
The Plain and Fancy company that used to run the Aqueduct Flea Market has a confidential client list so Baxter has to promote the Merrick Flea Market to vendors using the contacts he has formed and is close with.
“I have to depend on my own contacts as well as word of mouth to spread the word to vendors out of work. But many of the vendors know one another, like a big happy family,” he said. It’s a workable strategy to get more vendors there in the coming months.
The Merrick Flea Market is an indoor market that will be open year-round on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Avneet Bindra packs up for the day. As dark sets in at 5:30 p.m. on a windswept evening in early winter and vandalized trucks pull out of the Aqueduct racetrack parking lot, the 22-year-old upstart folds up the wares from his blanket business. He motions to his father, Rumpy Bindra, who has manned a separate blanket business in the market for 25 years, asks the older Bindra if he needs space on his truck. They are among last few vendors who have held out on this bitterly cold December day in Ozone Park.
Bindra has grown up in this flea market, learning the tricks of the trade from his father. The iconic flea market, which has operated out of the parking lot of Aqueduct in Southwestern Queens for 30 years, is a noisy and sprawling hub for 500 vendors, many of whom are Indian, Guyanese and Caribbean immigrants making their way up the economic ladder by hawking cheap bargains to other immigrants. Now Bindra, who is paying his way through college with this business, is bracing himself for December 31, when he has to uproot his shop…
Several racinos are calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York State to re-evaluate a casino compact made between former governor Paterson and an out-of-state Indian Tribe toward the end of his tenure in November.
The compact, agreed upon between Paterson and Wisconsin’s Stockbridge-Munsee Community Band of Mohican Indians, involved a land settlement, which would enable the tribe to develop a casino with games and slot machines in the Catskills.
Racinos, including Resorts World New York, Saratoga Gaming& Raceway and Empire City/Yonkers Raceway, sent a letter yesterday to the Governor’s office, the NYS Department of Budget and Division of Lottery, calling for an immediate reevaluation of the agreement.
The state could lose $400 million in revenue, $200 million in state education dollars and roughly 1,000 jobs, endangering New York’s racing industry.
If built, the casino would also pay far less taxes on slots and table games, which are more attractive than video lottery terminals and are state-sponsored. Racinos pay taxes of 60-70 percent on video lottery revenues while Indian casinos pay 18-25 percent.
“The reduced tax structure provided not only immediately reduces state tax and education funding, but creates a structural competitive advantage that cannot be overcome because Indian casinos have the ability to offer free room, food and beverage because of the low tax rate … Racinos cannot and will not be ale to effectively compete,” the letter stated.
As the Aqueduct Flea Market sold its final bits of affordable vintage clothing, jewelry and other necessities during the last two weeks of December, vendors still find themselves with nowhere to go.
The market was forced to close its door before Jan. 1. because it didn’t fit in with construction plans scheduled for this year. Malaysian company, Genting, broke ground in October to start construction of the new racino gambling complex. As vendors rallied outside the flea market entrance during the groundbreaking ceremony, their protests were futile.
One vendor, Melissa Steadman, is unsure of what will happen. Her family has been selling used clothing at the market for over 10 years.
Queensborough President, Helen Marshall and Senator Joseph Addabbo, who represents the Howard Beach and Ozone Park area, are working on finding a new space for the 1,000 plus vendors.
Live racing will occur as scheduled on Friday, January 7.