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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

More Local Lawsuits As State Continues to Not Expand Casinos

 - On Tuesday, Governor Cuomo was asked about the impending casino closures in Atlantic City and Moody's downgrade of its outlook for the casino industry, and whether he was therefore concerned as "New York prepares to expand casinos."

It's funny sometimes with these occasional encounters that Cuomo has with the press corps....or I suppose in any similar situation with most any politician....that the reporters all seem to pick up on the same quotes - in this case: “The state is not building any casinos, and the state is not spending any money here......These are private companies which normally know what they are doing.....if they don’t, the market will tell them that," (which is a curious enough response in itself given that the question concerned those private companies that know what they are doing that are shuttering their businesses in Atlantic City) - and they ignore some of the best stuff.  You really have to go ahead and watch the full videos to get the full picture.

Here, when asked the above-mentioned question, the governor of New York went off on one of his rambling responses that may not quite reach the level of incoherency,  but which don't exactly give the impression that he's in command of all the facts (and makes you gasp in bewilderment that the man is mentioned as a possible candidate for president)....and delivered to reporters in a manner that may not quite reach the level of being condescending, but with the smug satisfaction of someone who believes that everybody believes everything he says.

"No," he responded.  "Because this is....the private market will decide to expand their casinos.  It's not the said the state will....has decided to expand its casinos.  We haven't.  First of all, we don't have any casinos.  We haven't decided to expand our casinos."

And, I'm like, what in heaven's name is this guy talking about??  First of all, we don't have any casinos.  Was that an attempt at humor?   We haven't decided to expand our casinos.  Seriously? He makes it sound as if he has just been an innocent bystander rather than the man who decided to expand casino gaming, and who is behind the whole sordid process!  Do we really have to get into a discussion here of the semantics of who exactly is expanding what?

Not going to waste my time.  We'll instead go on to another legal challenge to the local approval process required by the Gaming Commission (that I guess is not currently working to expand casinos) that were submitted along with the applications on June 30.  This one is taking place in Tyre, NY, where Wilmorite is hoping to build a $425 million facility just off Exit 41 of the NYS Thruway, north of the Finger Lakes about 50 miles west of Syracuse.  In a press release announcing the suit, Casino Free Tyre notes:
Actions by the Town of Tyre Board throughout the process to site and endorse the Wilmot casino, opposed by the majority of residents in the Town of Tyre, have been characterized by accommodation to casino developer Wilmorite’s wishes, time frames, behind-closed-doors interactions and private consultations, to the detriment of the citizens and environment of the Town they have sworn to protect.  The Town of Tyre Board has operated neither as public officers representing first and foremost the people of their town, nor as independent objective arbiters of information presented by both sides in order to arrive at fair, unbiased decisions.
The actions by the Town and ongoing ignoring of its residents and the law have left no other recourse than that which has now been taken to preserve the natural resources, rural and agricultural heritage, and citizen rights in our town.
The casino is to be named the Lago Resort and Casino; 'lago' being the Italian word for 'lake.'  So, as you might imagine, the Executive Summary is full of the usual stuff that these things are full of.
See this resort with an architectural design, style and ambiance that encompasses and highlights the majestic natural landscape of sprawling agricultural lands and picturesque lakes and shores.
And, the Summary notes that the site is "a good distance away from surrounding residential and agricultural areas, with plentiful green space on the property."

Well, some of the residents surely wouldn't agree with that last assertion.  The Petition, filed in the State Supreme Court in Seneca County, lists as the Petitioners several families who live near what would be the resort site. In fact, one of them, the Dawley family, lives on a parcel for which, according to the Petition, the "Northern boundary of the Casino Complex Site is also the southern boundary" of their property.  They are concerned about trespassers, the effect on wildlife, and that a casino "would substantially alter the character of their rural and agricultural neighborhood and community."

I hope the Dawleys don't mind, but I Google-Mapped their address which is included in the document. That would be their house on the right near the red marker.  Exit 41 of the Thruway, from which the Lago Resort would be located "steps from," is at the bottom left corner.  So I figure that the arrow should just about mark the spot.  Yeah, I'd be rather concerned about my little green paradise too.

Other Petitioners may not be quite as close as the Dawleys, but have a right to be equally concerned.  The Nearpass family "presently enjoy the seclusion, agricultural, and residential character" of the area.  The Morellis, who would be next door neighbors, fear that the casino would "destroy the privacy and seclusion that they presently treasure." Panning out to a wider view of the area, it's surely clear that a casino would drastically change the nature of the community.

Like the East Greenbush suit, the Tyre complaint concerns SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review Act); but unlike East Greenbush, which is being taken to task for not having taken that matter up in the required timely fashion, the Tyre action challenges the process by which the Town Board adopted a SEQRA Resolution.  In a nutshell, it contends that the Board did not make public a critical document which identified potential negative environmental impacts (to surface water, plants and animals, agricultural resources, aesthetic resources, transportation, energy, nighttime lighting, community plans and character); didn't consider the presence of a cemetery and a drumlin ("a unique glaciological landform") on the site; and didn't make the the Host Community Agreement and a host of other necessary approval documents available to the public in violation of the Public Officers Law.  Again, that's in a nutshell.  For more detail, you can read the Petition below.

Tyre Casino Petition

The group in Tuxedo led by lawyer Michael Sussman that we mentioned over the weekend has now filed their Article 78 action against the Town Board there.  Genting's proposed Sterling Forest Resort site is reported to be buffered by two miles of forest, so I don't know that there are any next door neighbors such as in Tyre. But the Petitioners there still cite environmental concerns, as well as, according to one resident behind the effort: "on grounds of social degradation, and as a practical matter that the way of life of this community will be dramatically changed.” [Sloatsburg Village Local News and Community Life]

Like in Tyre and in East Greenbush, the plaintiffs contend that the majority of residents actually oppose the casinos, and that the Town Board stealthily pushed through various approvals while bypassing processes required by the law.  That is certainly a common theme here.  Makes one wonder who these town boards are getting advice from.  We know that the one in East Greenbush has worked closely with lobbyist Morgan Hook and with Jimmy Feathers himself; but only because the meeting notes were obtained via an FOIL request and attached to the complaint.  Because of that convenient loophole that exempts lobbyists from having to report their activities in towns with populations of less than 50,000, we have no idea as to who is lobbying who or at what expense.  Not to mention exactly what is being offered to these board members behind the scenes. 


kyle said...

"Makes you gasp in bewilderment that the man is mentioned as a possible candidate for president." Are you new to the country? As to acting like he's had nothing to do with expanding casino gambling -that's the newest tack
(well, not so new as it's going on six years old) that they're taught in Ruler School. Did he throw in that he's just learned about the expansion through news reports?

Figless said...

Completely off topic, Panza discussing future of NYRA (ominous words for AQU, not that is surprises me) on;

"That being said, we have some questions to answer. Does Aqueduct stay open? If it closes, are we going to rebuild Belmont? If we rebuild Belmont, when does that take place and what is the time frame for that? If we're doing that, can we host a Breeders' Cup? Probably not.