Javits Getting $1B Expansion Amid Big Infrastructure Push


A day after he announced a lofty goal to essentially rebuild Pennsylvania Station, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has put forth an ambitious plan to expand the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center by more than half its current size.

“Javits is the busiest convention center in the country right now,” the governor said at the sprawling 11th Avenue complex this morning. “But like anything else, it’s a competitive industry. If you want to remain competitive, you have to grow.”

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The Javits Center, which is controlled by the state-run Empire State Development Corporation, will foot the bill for the expansion, which Mr. Cuomo estimated will cost $1 billion. While the announcement cements the 30-year-old convention center as the main venue for trade shows in New York City, it also kills hopes of a convention center near either of Queens’ airports.

Mr. Cuomo has been on an infrastructure tour, unveiling projects daily as he gears up to next week’s state of the state address. Between the Javits Center, Penn Station and an expansion of the Long Island Railroad, the governor has rolled out more than $5 billion worth of infrastructure work since Tuesday.

The 2.1-million-square-foot convention center will be increased by roughly 1.2 million square feet, Mr. Cuomo announced. About 344,000 square feet of the new space will be used for convention and meeting spaces, another 400,000 square feet is going to be dedicated to operations space and nearly 480,000 square feet to four levels for garage space. Work is expected to begin later this year.

Currently the Javits Center spans six blocks from West 34th Street to West 40th Street between 11th and 12th Avenues.

Although he in the past called for a new, larger convention center in New York, Mr. Cuomo touted the importance the Javits Center has played to the city’s economy. The Far West Side center was home to 177 events in 2014, according to the governor’s office. As a result, conventions at the center generated almost half a million hotel guest nights during that time.

But hotel trades groups have argued they’ve faced steep competition from other cities that have newer, larger convention centers.

“We’ve watched cities like Chicago, cities like Orlando, build massive state-of-the-art convention centers that attract convention that we can not,” Peter Ward, the president of the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council, said at this morning’s press conference. “We’re going to make Javits into that state-of-the-art convention center to compete.”

The emphasis on the center’s influence on hospitality comes a week after news that the Big Apple had a bitter Christmas in the hotel market. Occupancy, the average daily rate and revenue per available room were all down between Dec. 20 and Dec. 26 this year compared with the same time a year earlier. A strong dollar against other currencies was considered a major factor in the drop.

An expanded Javits Center is expected to increase New York City economic activity by $393 million a year, according to the governor’s office. Subsequent events would increase the annual hotel night reservations by 200,000, which would be a 42 percent increase from the current number booked by almost 500,000 guests.

For a time, the governor had argued for a bigger center in his native Queens. Mr. Cuomo in 2012 proposed what would have been the country’s largest center to be built at the Aqueduct Racetrack in South Ozone Park. But talks broke down between the state and Genting—the Singapore-based developer that had exclusive rights to build on the land—in June 2012 and a plan was tabled.

Queens business leaders then began pushing for Willets Point as an alternative. They cited the proximity to LaGuardia Airport, a slew of hotels in nearby Flushing and a mixed-use development by the Related Companies and Sterling Equities.

But since that time, the Hudson Yards-34th Street station for the 7 train has opened nearby the Javits Center. Related, Brookfield Property Partners and Tishman Speyer are all developing in the immediate area, bringing in new office and residential stock.

A rendering of the expanded interior (Photo: Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office via Flickr).
A rendering of the expanded interior (Photo: Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office via Flickr).

Mr. Cuomo has been rolling out a plethora of infrastructure improvements to New York City and the surrounding area. On Tuesday, he pitched adding a third rail to the Long Island Railroad’s service from Long Island to alleviate some commuter congestion. And yesterday, he proposed a $3 billion overhaul of Penn Station that would expand the rail hub and rename it the Empire State Complex.

Even beyond New York City, work is underway for a new Tappen Zee Bridge to cross the Hudson River and link Rockland and Westchester counties. And Tuesday, the governor announced more funding to improve MacArthur Airport in Suffolk County.

Since entering his second term last January, the governor has focused on infrastructure and mass transportation improvements. He unveiled in July a massive proposal to essentially rebuild LaGuardia—adding to the existing plan to construct a new central terminal.

“Penn Station is the analog to LaGuardia,” Mr. Cuomo said Thursday. “We are launching this entire aggressive development program.”