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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

East Greenbush Opposition Should Seal the Fate of Capital View

The public comment hearings go on, Tuesday in Poughkeepsie for Catskills/Hudson Valley, and Wednesday in Ithaca for the Southern Tier.

During Monday's session in Albany, two groups took center stage: supporters of a casino at Howe Caverns, and opponents to one in East Greenbush.  The two groups seemed to become fine friends as the day went along!  There were 28 people who spoke about Howe Caverns, and not a single one was opposed, according to WNYT.

If you recall, during the oral presentations a couple of weeks ago, Saratoga Racing and Gaming's Rita Cox, when asked about the opposition in East Greenbush, indicated that she didn't know where it was coming from.  One of the many speakers against the casino - 50 out of the 61 who spoke on the topic - asked the board whether they now know exactly where it's coming from.  Board chairperson's Kevin Law's answer was quite affirmative. 

[Law] told the crowd during a day of 145 speakers and 11 hours of testimony that "we have no doubt that Schoharie County wants a casino," drawing hurrahs from the crowd of Howes Cave backers. He also said he got the message from opponents of the East Greenbush plan for Thompson Hill, thanking one of the foes of the project for educating the board.
The speakers opposing the Capital View casino, proposed by Saratoga harness and Churchill Downs, covered all of the bases: conflict of interest, the inappropriate location in a residential area next to a girl scouts camp, the complete story behind a Wall St Journal article that the developers deceptively used (a portion of) to try and make it seem as if town residents are needy (the article in fact blamed the town's poor finances on "questionable employment contracts and illegal payments to town officials"), the bait-and-switch which resulted in a far smaller project (and the resulting defection of one of the board members who voted for the plan), and behind-closed-doors maneuvering by a town board being guided by the developers' lobbyists.....who, for example, told them to have only one presentation to the town because "any more continues to promote 'negative' side more than anything."  (The lobbyist who gave that advice, Morgan Hook, tweeted pathetically and sophomorically early on in an attempt to discredit the opponents.  He asked the group to disclose its donors, which is absolutely precious considering that, in East Greenbush, he is operating in a legal-loophole netherworld in which his clients are not required to report their lobbying expenditures.  Not surprisingly, he shut up as it became quite apparent that the opponents are genuine residents acting quite genuinely.)  One resident told the board that she has a letter confirming that the NYS Attorney General's pubic integrity board will investigate the complaints about the conduct of the town board in supporting the plan.

Almost as pitiful as Hook was the appeal by Albany mayor Kathy Sheehan, on hand to support the East Greenbush casino after reaching an agreement with the developers for an $11 million bribe.  As if this is really any of her business.  I think she has a lot of damn gall.

It surely appears as if the location board got the message.
"I've learned a lot today," Law said. He noted that 70 percent of the ranking of a project involves its economic development impact, 20 percent on how the locale will be affected and 10 percent on workforce issues. "For that 20 percent, hearings like this are tremendously helpful," Law said.
At this point, it seems almost inconceivable that this board would go against what appears to be the overwhelming sentiment of the town's population.  Whether the Capital View developers either couldn't round up more people to talk in favor of the casino, or they didn't do so out of overconfidence, arrogance, laziness, or incompetence, it seems to me that they should be DQ'd at this point.  If there's any remaining doubt amongst the board members, they should do as was suggested and go visit the site.  (Actually, it also seems almost inconceivable that they haven't already visited all of the proposed sites.)  

Robert Williams, the acting executive director of the Gaming Commission, wants us to believe that the board is truly independent and that the process is not rigged.  This would be a good test.  Given the involvement of the prominent Albany lobbyist James Featherstonhaugh (and his personal ties to Governor Cuomo), this is one of the proposals on my list of those that are politically favored.  If it is selected over the insistent cries of opposition (and the threat of the project being held up by lawsuits), then that would, in my opinion, put the lie to any claims that the outcome of this process is not, at least to some extent, preordained.

More on the hearings in Odato's piece, and this one from WNYT, and this one from the Troy Record.  There was broad support for the Rivers Casino in Schenectady - 43 out of 50 speakers in favor (though some angry stories from Rush Street Gaming employees in Illinois) -  and not much comment on Rensselaer - only 13 speakers, 11 in favor, including that city's mayor Dan Dwyer spoke in favor. 

In other news, it was revealed that a consultant for Genting was offering $75 to recruiters for each resident they could get to go to Poughkeepsie on Tuesday and declare their support for the Resorts World Hudson Valley proposal in Montgomery, NY (while wearing a pro-casino T-shirt).  Here is the memo.  "Similar to a presidential election, the choice we make, or don’t make, will have far reaching consequences."  Well, it seems that we end up involved in Middle East wars no matter who we elect as president, so this is probably even more consequential to those people living in the immediate vicinity of a casino.  The recruitment website was taken down after Capital New York questioned Genting about it.

Senator John Bonacic weighed in - once again - to urge the board to shun Orange County in favor of the Catskills. 
The four-page letter repeatedly notes the intent of the amendment to expand casino gambling as outlined by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Bonacic himself in New York beyond Indian-run gaming halls was to boost the economic outlook of financially strapped regions.

“Voters throughout New York state relied on these statements, and others like them, when they passed with over 57% support, the constitutional amendment necessary to bring about this process,” Bonacic wrote. [NY State of Politics]
- The New Jersey State Senate......that's right, New Jersey!....has asked New York to drop any plans for the Genting casino at Sterling Forest in Tuxedo.
The resolution, sponsored by state Sen. Paul Sarlo, D-Wood-Ridge, says the proposed Tuxedo, N.Y., casino “would impart an incalculable environmental footprint on this preserved area, threatening New Jersey’s drinking water, and bringing substantial traffic and pollution into the area.” [Bergen Record]
Genting responded....and in this particular case, it's hard to argue much with what they said!
"We aren't shocked that politicians in a state struggling to save its very existence in the gaming space would object to a destination resort that would heavily compete with Atlantic City and future North Jersey casinos,"
Tuxedo is less than 20 minutes from the Jersey border, and around 45 minutes from the Meadowlands.


Future Vermont Resident said...

I imagine a scenario where Capital View gets only 2 out of 20 points on community support but 78 out of 80 in the two other areas (80 total). Whereas, Rivers in Schenectady might score 18 out of 20 on community support, but then fall short by scoring only 60 in the remaining areas (78 total). Cuomo's team has already written the press release "Location Board chooses economic development over NIMBY opposition." And, the Location Board will be applauded statewide for being objective and not giving in to an emotional argument. This is the reason Capital View blew off the hearing: They know this part of the process is all theater. It is just like the East Greenbush public meetings where people pour their hearts and souls into speeches while the real decision makers are daydreaming counting money in their head. The real dilemma for me is this: Do I move from East Greenbush to Vermont or Oregon? I've heard Burlington VT has more native New Yorkers than native Vermonter.

Jack Conway said...

Alan -

As an East Greenbush resident fighting virtually every day to stop the Capital View Casino from destroying our town, I can't thank you enough for your consistent insight and clear thinking on this issue. You hit the nail on the head: if East Greenbush gets that license, the process was rigged from the start.

Save East Greenbush has submitted a petition with 3,058 signatures opposing the casino while the developers submitted 678 signatures in support. Morgan Hook can make any excuses he'd like but they have done three glossy mailings to every home in EG, taken out full page ads, run radio and TV ads, and provided yard signs at no cost to local residents and all they got for their money was 18% of the signatures. Save East Greenbush is self-funded. People pass the hat and pay for the things they use by themselves and we got 82% of the signatures.

Not only are the numbers clear but the emotional commitment of the No casino people is deep as an ocean while support is puddle thin. That's why your writings have been such an encouragement here. All we ask is that an objective assessment be made of the situation and you have provided that on a more consistent basis than anyone else. Thank you

Alan Mann said...

>>This is the reason Capital View blew off the hearing: They know this part of the process is all theater.

Could very well be. Kinda like Jeff Gural at Tioga having already constructed a new parking garage there. However, I don't see why Capital View would necessarily outscore the competing proposals in the other areas to the extent that you suggest. Hope you're wrong!

You can say that something is 20% of a decision process....but I think it can get to the point where it warrants a DQ no matter how the other scores play out. One might say that a football player is judged 80% on athletic ability, and 20% on his personal attributes. But if the latter is judged to be so extremely negative, then it outweighs his ability, as we've seen. Maybe that's a bad analogy, but you get the point!

Alan Mann said...

Thanks Jack. Hard to see how any reasonable or objective person could vote in favor of this project at this point. While I think these guys do seem reasonable, it remains to be seen whether they are free to act objectively.

jk said...

> One might say that a football player is judged 80% on athletic ability, and 20% on his personal attributes. But if the latter is judged to be so extremely negative, then it outweighs his ability,

Do not forget the group behind the Rivers Casino has a track record of funding African dictators! I guess NIMBYism will prevail over dictatorship.

Anonymous said...

Good analogy Alan.

Let's hope that rationale applies to Genting and their offer of a license fee, which exceeds the entire annual projected revenue ($430 million) generated for the state by the casino gaming legislation.

Future Vermont Resident said...


I hope you are right about Capital View not being able to outscore Rivers by 20 points. Or better yet, I hope you are right about the DQ option.

But, here is why I think Capital View wins:

1. Getting out-of-state gamblers is huge.

2. Being 3 miles from downtown Albany.

They are right in between the Capital Region's population center and the I-90 Eastern gateway. This location was so good that they felt they could win even in a somewhat affluent neighborhood with much opposition.

Figless said...

Alan, a terrific job of investigative journalism, you deserve a Pulitzer or the upstate NY equivalent thereof.

The world needs more honest journalists and you would be my first hire if I were running a newspaper.

Good luck to EG I hope your passionate activism pays off, would be a victory for the common folk over the connected.

Anonymous said...

"Getting out of state gamblers is huge." Capital View ' s own economic analysis admits that this will not be a destination project. I believe it says that 90% of revenue will come from people who live within a one hour drive. So their own presentation about being the best location because they are the eastern - most site (by all of two and a half miles) doesn't seem to have any relevance whatsoever.
Thank you for keeping an eye on this process Alan.