Even something as apolitical as New York City's annual boat show can become electorally charged during a campaign season.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo recently moved to shift the event -- formally titled the Progressive Insurance New York Boat Show -- to more desirable dates in January at the state-run Javits Center in Manhattan. That change drew applause from the marine industry, but prompted criticism from some who run other trade shows for which new arrangements needed to be made.
On Thursday evening, one such critic, identifying himself as Francis from Manhattan, raised the matter during a town-hall-style teleconference with Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota. "It's the first time that the governor stepped in to rejigger the calendar at the Javits Center," the caller asserted. "It was a lobbyist who got to him and said boating is an important industry. . . . This displaced four major trade events for the fabric and fashion industry here in New York City and the U.S."
Lhota, who said he doesn't own a boat but likes to attend the show, asked the caller several questions, explaining he missed news coverage of the topic while focused on running in the recent GOP primary. "I'll look into this," he said. "You're right. Somebody got to somebody here."
Or so the caller's account made it sound. But Friday, shortly after Newsday contacted Cuomo's office for comment, the former MTA chairman reached out to say that after researching the details, he believed this rescheduling actually worked out to be a "win-win" for the parties involved. In elaborating, Lhota said "it would not be helpful to the city" if it lost the boat show.
The Javits Center has fueled tension before between state and city officials. Lhota noted during his teleconference that when he was deputy to former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, City Hall clashed over bookings at the center with then-Gov. George Pataki.
Cuomo (who has endorsed his fellow Democrat Bill de Blasio for mayor) last year proposed a large convention center complex that was to be developed on state land in Queens by the Malaysia-based Genting company, which operates casino gambling at Aqueduct Racetrack. The project would have replaced the Javits Center on 11th Avenue, which opened in the 1980s, and which Cuomo called noncompetitive with other cities' facilities. But negotiations fell apart.
Nearly a decade earlier, Mayor Michael Bloomberg called for expanding the Javits Center, in tandem with a Jets football stadium on the West Side. That plan also died.