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Paterson recuses himself from Aqueduct talks

New York State Governor David Paterson speaks to

New York State Governor David Paterson speaks to the media after holding a town hall meeting in downtown Brooklyn to discuss the budget. (Mar. 8, 2010) Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

As the Rev. Floyd Flake announced Tuesday he was pulling out of Aqueduct Entertainment Group's bid to operate a casino at the Queens horse racing track, Gov. David A. Paterson revealed he's recused himself from discussions of the project.

Paterson had been a defender of AEG's $300-million bid since he and some legislative leaders chose it in January. That process is being probed by Inspector General Joseph Fisch.

"I was recused on advice of my lawyers," Paterson said in Albany. "I'd rather not talk about the process or my role."

Flake, a Jamaica minister and former Democratic congressman, owned less than 1 percent of AEG.

"Unfortunately, my ongoing participation in Aqueduct Entertainment has become a distraction that has taken me and my attention away from the community projects I created and nurtured," Flake said.

Flake said he still supports the AEG bid, which Paterson Tuesday defended choosing.

"This is the decision I certainly thought was right at the time. Whether or not they are able to comply with the protocols is the same problem one of the other companies was unable to do last year," Paterson said, referring to Delaware North Cos.' inability to pay a $370-million upfront fee to the state.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) has said he won't agree to any deal before Fisch completes his investigation.

State Sen. Craig Johnson (D-Port Washington) said the state needs "a fresh start" on the Aqueduct-casino discussions. "It appears that the wheels are falling off this agreement," he said.

AEG chief executive Jeffrey Levine said the group aims to meet the March 31 deadline to break ground and pay the state its $300- million rights fee.

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