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Thursday, October 09, 2014

Casino News and Notes: Unions For and Against, Missing Houses, and Blandishments

Two top union leaders want to see casinos located in Orange County rather than in the Catskills.  But another one is lobbying against one specific project there.

The heads of the AFL-CIO and the Hotel Trades Council wrote to the Gaming Commission to opine that Orange County casinos "will create the most jobs while generating the most revenue for New York's schools." [NY Daily News] A Sullivan County official responded to point out the obvious - the union doesn't really care about the latter, and is only interested in the most jobs for its members.  And I think it's not really in dispute that a casino 50 miles from NYC will generate the most revenue; the question is whether it would comport with the original intent of the legislation.  So we'll put the union leaders' letter in the blah, blah, blah category.

More interesting is the continued and persistent campaign by Unite Here against Rush Street Gaming. As you may recall, they brought workers to the public comment hearings to complain about their treatment.  And then, they mailed postcards criticizing the company's involvement with social gaming for kids to 15,000 Capital District and Orange County residents.

Now, they have released this radio ad in the Albany market.

“There are casino companies right here in our state who offer good wages and benefits, and they don’t fight workers who want to union,” the worker says in the ad. “I just wish I worked for one of those other companies instead of Rush Street.” [Politics on the Hudson]
(How secure do you think Fred Lapka's job is right about now?)

Of course, the aforementioned Hotel Trades Council has no issue with this alleged mistreatment, nor the kiddie casino games, because they've reached an agreement with the company.  Rush Street responded with their usual statement that notes their "Best Places to Work" awards.  They are bidding for the Hudson Valley Casino in Newburgh (with Saratoga harness) and for the Schenectady proposal (with Galesi Group).

Could be that Saratoga Raceway & Casino's Jimmy Feathers may have a big problem here despite his political connections that we've felt make him a shoo-in for a license.  Besides Rush Street under this concerted attack, his East Greenbush proposal should really be a non-starter at this point, considering the sustained and righteous opposition from the community there.  Seems to me that he withdrew from a Saratoga proposal in the face of less strident opposition than he is facing here, probably with a grand scheme to monopolize casino gambling in the Capital District market with two facilities.  If he had any decency whatsoever, he'd graciously withdraw from East Greenbush too.

Those opponents were out in force again last night at a Town Planning Public Hearing where the environmental study (SEQRA) was discussed.  Amazingly, the developers have only recently started the process.  This is a strategy memo that was prepared for the occasion.  One humorous note I saw on the No East Greenbush Casino Facebook page: The developers came with a table model of the proposed site.  It was noticed that the model conveniently (for the developers) ignored 30% of the homes on the Thompson Hill Road, the road on which this facility is being proposed. 
When my wife questioned Saratoga's new design guy, Mr. Davis, he said she was wrong. Numerous witnesses were present. My wife pointed out that her own mother lives across the street, and that her mother's house didn't make it's way onto the model, nor did two others homes! When pressed, Mr. Davis said the map was still wet and that a lot of the model fell off on the way in.  [lol - ed.]  Again, my wife pointed out that the driveways embossed or painted onto the surface weren't even there, so no houses could have been there either. Julie Miner, of J. Strategies, was heard whispering to him that houses were in fact missing. Within moments another gentleman was asking us to step away so that the table could be covered.

If the map table was off by 30%, what else hasn't been correctly portrayed? I think lots of things. Rush job on the map table, rush job on the timetables for working the SEQRA process, rush job on telling the Supervisor a casino was coming, rush job on getting school Superintendent Nagle allegedly on board, on and on and on. Again, small point, I'm sure Mr. Davis is a fine engineer, and he probably didn't even make the model himself, but the small points sometimes point to bigger problems. Planning Board: Pay attention.
Not really that small of a point, in my opinion.   The inappropriateness of sticking a 24 hour casino on a quiet residential road is one of the key points here; and by falsely minimizing the number of residences that will be affected (fell off, my butt!), the developers are intentionally trying to distort the reality in order to mitigate negative effects that relate to two of the criteria included on the SEQRA form: Consistency with Community Plans, and Consistency with Community Character.

 - A majority of Tyre residents oppose the casino there.

 - More opposition to Genting's Sterling Forest casino based on environmental concerns; in the form of an editorial in the New York Times, and an appeal by the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.  I'm not familiar with the history, but it's clear that preserving that 22,000-acre parcel of green space was the subject of extensive efforts by environmentalists and politicians back in the 90s.  The Appalachian Group points out the casino site's proximity to the hiking trail. 
The casino would be visible from two prominent viewpoints on the trail, and would contribute to lower air quality and higher level of sound, and would have other adverse impacts, the group said.
The Times points out the risks to the "pristine" watershed which provides "clean drinking water for millions of people in New York and New Jersey."  Referring to Genting's outrageous offer of a $450 million up front payoff (far in excess of $70 million), the editorial notes:
These blandishments should be resisted and the application denied.
Yeah, I had to look up 'blandishments,' and I'm actually not sure that it's the right word in this instance.  It means: a flattering or pleasing statement or action used to persuade someone gently to do something.  Personally, I wouldn't put a voluntary payment of $380 million in the category of 'gentle persuasion.'  I will endeavor to use the word in what I believe to be a more appropriate manner in the near future.  Have a great day.


Anonymous said...

If you want some background on the preservation of Sterling Forest, check out these NY Times articles from 1998, 2000 and 2006:

It was a vey long, uphill battle to say the least.

Bonnie L. said...

Alan, Capitol View Developers model was an embarrassment. Yes, homes in a residential neighborhood was omitted, but they made darn sure they glued on a lot of greenery before the presentation. Everything about the casino process in East Greenbush is an embarrassment. Our story needs to go national. Our nice little fluent community will be plundered if a casino is built here. We the citizens have done our homework, but our reports fall on deaf ears. Cuomo should be embarrassed about the mess of a proposed siting of a casino on Thompson Hill Road, in East Greenbush. There is absolute NOTHING right in the whole process, the casino prediators are putting our town through. Heck this should be a good story for Bill O'Rielly on the No Spin Factor Show he hosts. Alan, I can only liken this whole process as to a hellish nightmare. Our town board failed in it's job to protect our community. We have a bull's-eye on our backs and we are fighting our damest to get it off. Money is our biggest hurtle as the casino perdators have an endless flo. We thank the many who sent donations to pay our attorney fees, but the court battle continues. Alan, our community should not be going through this. So much has gone into resisting the developers and our town's Zoning and Plannings Boards. We desperately want to preserve our quality of life. We want to be free of our oppressors. That includes our local town board. No way should East Greenbush be the " Sacrifical Lamb" to satisfy the casino developers, Albany's Mayor, Rensselaer County's Higher Uppies and local cash cows. This whole thing is totally sickening. Alan, can you feel some of my emotions here. All this being said, East Greenbush Residents will stand and we will not go away intil the casino goes away. Will others stand with us?