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Belmont Casino Plans Remains Dicey Until 2012

Local officials stress importance of jobs, economic development

New development plans for a possible casino at the Belmont Racetrack will have to wait until the year 2012 rings in, according to local officials. At an Elmont Chamber of Commerce meeting last month, Detroit developers unveiled preliminary development renderings of a casino on the property, which surrounds the communities of Elmont and Floral Park.

Sandra Smith, chairwoman of the Elmont Coalition for Sustainable Development, a strong proponent in favor of developing a casino on the Belmont property said that there are no plans to move forward with the project at this time.

“Not too much will happen just yet until the Legislature goes back in session in 2012, where they can really start to have communication with the governor and the legislators to see if things can move forward in terms of the Shinnecock Indian Nation getting a compact (agreement),” Smith said.

The tentative proposal calls to build a 500- to 600-unit hotel, a gaming facility and entertainment complex, which would include restaurants, a renovated Long Island Rail Road Station and a soccer field.

Shinnecock Nation representatives and developers are proposing additional Q&A sessions in 2012 to give members of the community a chance to see the proposed plans and ask questions, Smith said. “We’re still pushing forward and hoping that things will pan out as the community would like to have it, and economic development is something we desperately need and creation of jobs,” she added.

Whether or not the project moves forward, Smith stressed that the revitalization and development initiatives are essential to the future of the community. “It’s something we definitely have to have happen. So whatever prospect comes to be, but Belmont being such an underutilized property, some type of development will have to take place there, it’s just a matter of what plan is going to be overall accepted by state representatives,” she concurred.

Smith also emphasized that the casino development plan, which is expected to generate anywhere from 5,500 to 12,000 jobs from white-collar to blue-collar positions, could also help unemployed residents in other areas on Long Island as well.

“If this community is going to survive economically at all, we have to bring economic development. And it’s just not for Elmont, in the surrounding communities, I’m sure there are a lot of people who are unemployed in the immediate area surrounding Elmont as well, who could benefit from having economic development take place here.

“And since we do seem to have the available properties to really bring some worthwhile development here then I think it’s an important key for everyone,” she added.

Senator Jack Martins of the 7th Senatorial District commented on the potential development plans for property. “We are in the process of listening to input concerning the development of Belmont Park. I want to emphasize that nothing will happen on that site unless we have consensus from the communities surrounding the park on how we want to develop it,” Martins said.

In an article printed in the November 17 edition of the Floral Park Dispatch, Mayor Tom Tweedy wrote that one way to accomplish the goal of creating a new Coliseum for the county and a new casino for the Shinnecock Indian Nation is to “build a new Coliseum in the parking lot of the old Coliseum, and then turn the keys to the old Coliseum over to the Shinnecock Indian Nation to use as the location for its new casino.”

Additionally Tweedy maintained that Belmont Park should be updated as a world-class thoroughbred racing facility, which he said can be accomplished through the use of the revenue stream for capital improvements already set aside for NYRA from its Aqueduct VLT operation. “As for jobs, building a new Coliseum and casino consecutively at the Hub will certainly create more jobs than just a casino at Belmont Park alone,” Tweedy wrote.