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Caesars Presents Orange County Casino Proposal

Representatives from Caesars Entertainment Thursday night unveiled some details of their proposed casino resort for Orange County for the first time in public. Area residents voiced more support than not. And the main focus was a longstanding concern in the area – traffic. 

The $750 million resort casino would include a 300-room hotel, spa, restaurants, and meeting rooms with plans for an outdoor amphitheater for a summer concert series – all on a 121-acre site, adjacent to the Harriman Metro-North station and just a few miles down the road from Woodbury Common Premium Outlets. The Woodbury Village Board of Trustees heard the presentation from Caesars Entertainment, which is partnering with developer Flaum Management.  Of the roughly 200 in attendance, about 30 offered public comments, several more in favor than not. Woodbury Village Deputy Mayor Timothy Egan says this is in line with what he’s been hearing.

“Keep in mind that even if each Board member interviewed 100 people, that would be 500 people, that’s a tiny fraction of the population of the town. There’s 10,000 people in the town and village. “But the comments that we’re hearing are that it would be good for business, that it would be good obviously for tax revenue, and that can offset of the lot of their costs that people incur now. And one of the biggest problems in this community that people have in regard to staying here is being able to pay their taxes, so if we can do something to lower their taxes, that’s a good thing.”

As for revenues, Caesars’ Executive Vice President of Domestic Development Greg Miller says Woodbury would see $29 million annually in revenues, broken down into $10 million from the state gaming tax and $19 million for property taxes. An additional $10 million would benefit Orange County. These estimates are based on Caesers’ projections, which are higher than New York State’s. A major concern among residents and elected officials is traffic. A state plan to mitigate traffic problems off Route 17 with an Exit 131 interchange project has not been funded. Miller says Caesars would help fund the Department of Transportation project, but could not attach a dollar figure.

“So, if Caesars come to the community and are working to address this traffic issue, the one thing you can count on is that our interests are perfectly aligned,” says Miller. “If we don’t find a way to improve traffic, we won’t achieve our business goals here.”

Again, here’s Egan.

“Traffic is the number-one problem,” Egan says. “I personally identified to the Caesars representatives three problems that they need to mitigate. Number one is traffic, number two is sewer, number three is water,  or water and sewer, depending on what order you put it in.”

Democratic Assemblyman James Skoufis shares the overriding traffic concern.

“They, as far as I’m concerned, cannot open their casino doors unless they have the Exit 131 interchange upgrade in front of Woodbury Commons. It’s a non-starter,” Skoufis says. “I’d also love to see them contribute towards and move the timetable up for the Secaucus Junction loop down in New Jersey. This is a project I’ve been pushing since I got elected. Right now we have to transfer our commuters, our visitors, our travelers into the City [New York City], at Secaucus we have to transfer.  We want a one-seat ride into the City and I’m sure the casino would like a one-seat ride from the City up to the Harriman Train Station.”

Caesars’ plan is one of five proposed casino resorts for Orange County, and one of three that sits in Skoufis’s district. The other two are Greenetrack’s proposal in New Windsor at Stewart Airport and The Cordish Company and Penn National Gaming proposal in South Blooming Grove. Skoufis says he does not have a favorite.

“I’m open-minded towards all of them,” says Skoufis. “Wherever we can best mitigate the concerns locally and regionally, that’s where a casino should be.”

Credit WAMC, Allison Dunne

Caesars officials say their casino resort would create 1,500 construction jobs and 3,000 permanent jobs. Full-time employees could command average salaries of $50,000, including benefits and tips, according to Ceasars spokeswoman Jan Jones Blackhurst.

“This is a dream location both because if you fix the traffic – and I am making the assumption that we’re going to fix the traffic problem – you have access to highways, you have access to railways, you have a beautiful piece of land. You’re in a location where tourists are already coming because of Woodbury Common.”

Scott Doscher of Highland Mills, who says his father was a compulsive gambler, supports economic development and is confident Caesars could mitigate traffic and other problems, but does not want a casino in his backyard.

“Jan, when she opened up the meeting she says that the City of Woodbury is great. It’s not a city.  It’s a village, it’s a town,” says Doscher. ( Jones Blackhurst starts to interject.)

Can I finish please?” asks Doscher.

“Oh no, I was just going to tell you that coming from a city, I always forget. I apologize,” Jones Blackhurst says.

“I know, you forgot who we were,” says Doscher.

“No I didn’t forget who you were,” says Jones Blackhurst.

“We’re a town, we’re a village, but if we start to go down this direction, guess what, we will be a city,” Doscher says.

The Woodbury Village Board will accept written public comments on the proposal until June 2, with plans to vote June 12 on whether to support the project. Without the Board’s support, the project cannot move forward.

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