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Casino Public Hearing Draws Large Crowd In Poughkeepsie

WAMC, Allison Dunne

There was a large turnout Tuesday for a public hearing on the nine proposed casinos for the Hudson Valley and Catskills. A constant stream of people continued throughout the New York State Gaming Facility Location Board’s 12-hour session in Poughkeepsie.

Supporters and opponents of the various projects arrived sporting their views via T-shirts. The room at the Grandview was often a sea of green – T-shirts espousing support for Genting Americas’ proposed Sterling Forest Resort in Orange County, the most moneyed and perhaps controversial project of all. Genting bused in a number of supporters from surrounding areas, including Brooklyn and Queens. Genting Spokesman Michael Levoff says they were not paid to attend.

“We have made sure that our supporters are able to get their voices heard,” says Levoff. “We’re happy to help them get here today and show their support by wearing our shirts and speaking to the Gaming Commission. And we’re proud to have them here.”

“No one was paid?” asks Dunne.

“No one was paid by us,” says Levoff.

“What about outside consultants?” asks Dunne.  

“Not to the best of my knowledge,” says Levoff.

Sterling Forest Resort opponent Mary Yrizarry:

“I just felt so offended by the crassness of it all.”

Cathy Herbert is a 20- year resident of Laurel Ridge in Tuxedo who says the proposed Tuxedo resort is the way to revitalize the area.

“I feel like this really has to happen economically. And when you think objectively about what else could go into the forest and complement it, there are not a lot of options,” Herbert says. “It’s been vacant for 50 years. So if anybody was going to build a great place for outdoor activities, that would have happened.”

On the other side:

“I’m Dena Steele, Tuxedo Park, New York.  And I have three concerns with respect to the Sterling Forest Resort -- water, water and water; that is, storm water, water supply, and water quality.”

Credit WAMC, Allison Dunne

Opponents of the resort donned yellow T-shirts along with buttons that read “No Casino in Tuxedo”, holding up signs competing with those in favor of the Sterling Forest Resort. Another group sported yellow T-shirts with a different message – yes to casinos in Sullivan County. There are two proposals remaining in Sullivan. Democratic Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther says Sullivan County has been waiting for this opportunity for decades.

“I think it’s time and I hope it’s before election that we say, Sullivan County, you got it,” says Gunther.

Sullivan County Legislature Chairman Scott Samuelson champions awarding two licenses to Sullivan, to the two remaining competitors – Mohegan Sun at the Concord and Empire Resorts/EPR Properties' Montreign casino.

“We believe that we can, first of all, honor the intent of the legislation to put them in a disadvantaged area,” says Samuelson. “And, second of all, by putting the two together a revenue generator that would be comparable to a large casino in Orange County.”

Credit WAMC, Allison Dunne

Both Gunther and Samuelson point to something Governor Andrew Cuomo said when he visited the Catskills the day after the casino referendum passed in November last year, that casinos would fundamentally change the trajectory of the Catskills. One Sullivan County resident reeled off a Top Ten list to the Board, saying the number-one reason to site casinos in Sullivan County is that Sullivan has been waiting some 40 years for this and Orange County, zero years. Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus says a lot has changed in 40 years.

“My hat goes off to Sullivan County. They’re friends, they’re good people, people in Ulster County, same way,” says Neuhuas. “But I think that Orange County’s casinos will be the strongest and they will have a ripple effect that will help the entire region.”

Six proposals are on the table in Orange and one in Ulster County. The board can award up to four licenses across three regions, so one region could receive two licenses. The Hudson Valley/Catskills region is seen as most likely to receive two licenses. Liberty resident Maria Scherer says Sullivan should receive both licenses.

“It would be amazing. It would be nothing but prosperity I see,” says Scherer. “When Orange County climbed in and they’re claiming it’s Hudson Valley/Catskill area, this is a problem for me.”

There is a division not only between counties but within Orange, with three proposals in the southern portion and three in the northern. City of Newburgh Mayor Judy Kennedy makes the distinction, and pleads her case in support of the Hudson Valley Casino & Resort proposed for the northern portion, in the neighboring Town of Newburgh.

“It’s all economics,” says Kennedy. “And the real message is here, 26,000 people under the poverty line in a 20-mile radius around the City of Newburgh.”

Credit WAMC, Allison Dunne
City of Newburgh Mayor Judy Kennedy

She says a casino in northern Orange and one in Sullivan would help two economically disadvantaged areas, and could co-exist. Sullivan County officials disagree, saying any casino in Orange would keep visitors from travelling to Sullivan. The Gaming Facility Location Board says a decision will come this fall. The board held a public hearing Monday for proposals in the Capital Region, and was holding one Wednesday in Ithaca, regarding proposals for part of the Southern Tier.

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