By Michael Kaufman
By the time anyone is finished trying to unravel the seemingly endless tangled web of deceit involved, it seems nearly certain that Orange County will soon be home to a lavish, world-class casino resort hotel. The only question is where it will be built, and some of the options are frightening. Meanwhile, the folks in Sullivan County, who had high hopes that construction of one—or even two—casinos would revitalize that county’s flagging tourism business, are still scratching their heads like someone who’s been sucker punched and is just starting to wonder what the heck happened.
Ulster County officials, who support a proposal for a casino at the Nevele Hotel site in Ellenville, are still reeling from what they regard as a betrayal by Langdon Chapman, who was legislative attorney for the county in 2012 and 2013. In that role he helped draft at least one resolution adopted by the county legislature in support of the Nevele casino bid. Chapman has been singing a different tune, however, since January when he was appointed Orange County Attorney by County Executive Steve Neuhaus (who knows a thing or two about betrayal of the public trust). Chapman recently told the Woodstock Times there is “not a chance” the Nevele proposal will be successful: “Look at it from a businessman’s point of view.” This led Ulster’s current legislative attorney, the interestingly named Cappy Weiner, to fire off a letter to Chapman saying his comments were “inappropriate and a violation of your duty to a former client.” Weiner also insisted that “no further comments be made contrary to the interest of the Ulster County Legislature.”
Chances of the Nevele getting a casino have also been undercut in recent weeks by a sensational report in the May 1 edition of Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post that Michael Treanor, head of the Nevele investors’ group, had been accused in a lawsuit of sexually assaulting his sister. (The report would have been even more sensational if the alleged assault had not occurred in 2008 and the lawsuit had not been settled in 2009.) Treanor told the Woodstock Times he believes Chapman is responsible for leaking the sex abuse allegations to the Post because of Treanor’s longtime opposition to Orange County being considered as a potential site for casinos. Chapman denies he was the source. (Personally, I wouldn’t buy a used car from either Treanor or Chapman.)
Chapman has long had a close working relationship with the power-wielding (and constantly sending self-serving junk mail about himself) Republican State Senator John Bonacic, whose district includes all or parts of Delaware, Sullivan, Orange, and Ulster Counties. Bonacic had been an outspoken supporter of Sullivan County as a casino site but his more recent statements on the subject have been equivocal.
Chapman is also a partner in the Warwick-based law practice headed by Bonacic’s son Scott and Robert Krahulik, who was recently forced to resign from his post as chair of the Orange County Republican Committee because of some alleged Weiner-like (Anthony not Cappy) internet behavior. And Chapman plays a major role in determining who gets to run for office on the Independence Party line in the Hudson Valley (another topic that warrants further discussion). He is also likely to have been involved in the stealth campaign that subverted Democrat Roxanne Donnery’s bid to obtain the Working Families Party line on the ballot in last year’s election for Orange County Executive, which Republican Neuhaus won handily with the endorsement of the Independence Party. (Bonacic, Krahulik and Associates, LLP, is no stranger to successful stealth campaigns, as former Warwick Village Justice Richard Farina can attest.)
Meanwhile, the potential casino developers are tripping over themselves to show how civic minded they are and how wonderful it will be if we are fortunate enough to have them build near us. Genting, the Malaysian-based gambling giant that hopes to befoul Sterling Forest, just made a “no-strings attached” donation of $340,000 to the Tuxedo public schools to prevent substantial cuts in programs that would have been necessary as a result of the outcome of the May 20 school budget vote. As reported by Gittel Evangelist in the Times Herald-Record, “District officials stressed their acceptance of the ‘gift toward education’ was not an approval of the proposed casino.” Does this sound too good to be true?
The Record also reports that both the Town and City of Newburgh have endorsed the Hudson Valley Casino Resort proposal made by Saratoga Casino and Raceway. The town hopes to receive an annual host community fee of $6.8 million, of which $1.02 million (15 percent) would go to the city to use as it pleases. “I don’t think it’s enough,” said City Councilwoman Genie Abrams. “But we’ll take the $1 million per year.” Of course it is not enough. And it is they who are being taken. The proposed developer is the group that already operates a quasi-casino with slot machines at the Saratoga harness track. Voters in Saratoga County and the Village of Saratoga Springs voted overwhelmingly against having them put a Las Vegas-style casino in their midst. The news doesn’t seem to have reached Newburgh, however. That reminds me: Empire Resorts, which has already established an abysmal track record at Monticello Raceway, is one of the bidders for a casino to be built on the grounds of the old Concord Hotel. Theirs has to be considered one of the longest shots on the board, in a dead heat with Louis Cappelli, who has been promising to build on another piece of the Concord property for so long that few continue to take him seriously.
Sullivan County has indeed been sucker punched. And we in Orange are being played for suckers, and not just by the would-be casino developers. As Neuhaus and his cronies continue to rush privatization of the Valley View Center for Nursing Care and Rehabilitation, news comes that Valley View is scheduled to receive more than $4 million in federal aid than it received last year….but only if it remains publicly owned. The argument for privatization gets weaker by the day. Citizens for Valley View will hold a rally on Sunday, June 8, at 2 p.m. at Goshen Green. For more information visit Facebook.com/CFVVC. Be there if you can.
And isn’t it time for those of us who live in Tuxedo, Greenwood Lake, and Warwick, to raise our voices to save Sterling Forest?
Michael can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.