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Murray, Ra Oppose Proposed Casino at Belmont

Politicians attend West End Civic Association meeting to offer support

The West End Civic Association of Floral Park welcomed political dignitaries to weigh in on the proposed casino at Belmont Park at a meeting held at the Atlantic Avenue Floral Park Fire Department on Thursday, Feb. 2. Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray and New York State Assemblyman Ed Ra each spoke before a standing-room only crowd.

Acknowledging the many letters she’s received from concerned West End residents since last December, Murray expressed her “pleasure in getting to know so many residents in Floral Park,” not only recently but also during her nine-year tenure as town supervisor. “Whatever I do when I get into the confines of Floral Park, everyone has been always very welcoming,” she said.

Residents opposed to a casino at Belmont can safely bet that Murray will stand “shoulder-to-shoulder” with them. “I’ll stand with Floral Park. I’ll stand with all of the communities that surround the Belmont Racetrack and unless everybody agrees, I won’t be for it,” she affirmed. In a Jan. 12 letter she wrote to West End Civic Association Vice President Marc Mullen accepting his invitation to speak at the Feb. 2 meeting, Murray wrote, “I remain poised to confront prospective casino plans that would impact Floral Park with the same determination and protective nature that surrounded my opposition to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s proposal for a third LIRR train track. That plan would have torn a chasm right through the heart of the village.”

In a similar fashion, she indicated that a casino at Belmont would taint the “suburban character” of Floral Park, and she vowed to work to “preserve the suburban character” of the community. “We know that you fight each and every day to keep that suburban character of Floral Park intact. There’s always that tug and pull … we want to be very pro-business and we want to be very pro-development, but we also want to remember why we all came out here to Nassau County,” she said.

Murray did acknowledge that a casino might bring in money, but she added that it might also bring in the “trickle-down criminality,” and quality of life issues for the surrounding communities, especially schools that are close to the border of Belmont. “You cannot think of revenue streams in a vacuum. You always have to think what’s the trade-off,” she suggested.

Assemblyman Ra echoed Murray’s sentiments on preserving the quality of life in Nassau County and the Town of Hempstead and Floral Park, in particular. “When you look at something like a large-scale casino, that certainly doesn’t fit into that,” he said.

There’s been debate over whether Governor Andrew Cuomo’s push for a constitutional amendment to legalize gambling in New York State, which could open the doors to a full-fledged casino at Aqueduct Racetrack, has killed the Belmont proposal. “I think that the Aqueduct proposal really does kill this one, but certainly there are some who will still push for Belmont. We have to remain vigilant and remain together in opposition to a casino at Belmont,” Ra said. “Anything that is going to go [at Belmont] needs the support of local communities.”

Longtime Floral Park resident Duncan MacDonald offered a different view of Aqueduct’s influence on Belmont, questioning the “deadness” of Belmont. “Nobody knows what the legislation is going to say, so it’s not dead; the devil is in the details,” he asserted. MacDonald also noted that “media criticism of the aqueduct proposal is getting uglier every day.” He referenced a recent article in the New York Post that said Cuomo is making some mistakes. “Depending on how the legislation is written, there’s always a possibility [of a casino at Belmont],” he said, adding that there’s a 50-50 chance that Queens residents will stop a casino at Aqueduct.

Murray also spoke to the “deadness” of the proposal, but said, “there’s always a chance it can be resurrected on a dime. [Assemblyman Ra] suggested vigilance. We’ll keep our ear to the ground, we’ll keep looking,” she resolved.