Recently, New York’s state government has been trying to legalize non-Indian casinos throughout the state. Current proposals are asking for the construction of seven “Vegas”-sized casinos throughout New York. Although lawmakers have pushed to keep the casinos out of New York City, this ideas competition aims to investigate what a casino would do to New York City and, likewise, what New York City would do to a casino. The New York casinos are being pitched by their supporters as “regional revitalization” tools.
Although Manhattan is arguably in no need of revitalization, it does have one clear zone that could use rethinking—Hudson Yards and the area around its neighboring convention center. The existing Jacob Javits Center remains an isolated structure surrounded by a no-man’s-land of parking and train tracks. Cut off from restaurants, hotels, and entertainment, it is hardly an inviting location for a large convention, nor does it allow for or engender connection to the city at-large. You might as well have your convention in Secaucus. There is talk of relocating the Center to Queens, to be sited next to the recently opened “racino” at Aqueduct Racetrack—a major financial success thus far, and example of the excitement people in the five boroughs have for gambling.
The proposed convention center would be the largest in the United States. This competition asks entrants to leave the convention center at its current location on Manhattan’s West Side, but replace it and add a hotel and casino to the complex. Entrants are asked to rethink this zone so as to create a dynamic destination in the city for tourists, residents, and convention-goers alike.
At the same time, the complex should become a draw for non convention-goers. If a Vegas-style themed casino clearly wouldn’t work in New York City, then what would bring New Yorkers out to gamble? Is it a family focused zone for tourists or an adults-only retreat? The proposed building should incorporate state-of-the-art facilities for both modern gambling and high-tech conventions. The convention center should be unique while remaining flexible, and the casino should shake off both cheesy Vegas aethetics and the dry desperation of Atlantic City to strive for something architecturally rich and complex—while simultaneously entertaining. The complex should also find a way to reconnect to Manhattan’s nearby entertainment districts. Madison Square Garden, Times Square, and the High Line seem cut off, despite their proximity. This complex should aim to recharge its surroundings in the same way the High Line did the Meatpacking District, bringing in pedestrians and cleaning up the area.
On the western, waters edge of Manhattan, the site also includes a large pier that can be used for a portion of the program or turned into outdoor parks and recreation areas. The site includes the land the current convention center lies on, the space over the West Side Yard train yard, and the aforementioned waterfront pier. The West Side Yard was designed to accommodate an overbuild in its air rights, and space was left between the tracks for columns to support a platform above the tracks. The history of proposals for the very same site includes the ongoing Hudson Yards Redevelopment and the IFCCA “Competition for Manhattan’s West Side.”