By Michael Kaufman
As local government officials throughout our region slobber, beg, and otherwise outdo themselves groveling in hope of landing a casino in their midst, area residents have few objective sources for information. Competition among the various bidders has been an advertising bonanza for local media outlets, which have tended to extol the benefits (even the “indirect benefits” to neighboring communities such as, say, Greenwood Lake and Warwick) and pay little, if any, attention to the potential negative effects. Too bad the developers are not required to include in their advertisements the same sort of warnings required of pharmaceutical companies when advertising their wares. At least a fellow with “low-T” or a flaccid penis, for example, can weigh the pros and cons of seeking a prescription if he listens closely to the staccato recitation of potential side effects at the end of the commercial or reads the fine print below the newspaper ad.
Negative publicity about any of the casino proposals thus far seems mainly to have been generated by the competitors themselves. Witness Orange County’s current legal counsel Langdon Chapman’s hatchet job on his former employer, Ulster County. (Chapman was at his sleazy best again this week as he joined Orange County Executive Steve “Pinocchio” Neuhaus in an ill-advised attempt to smear Judge Elaine Slobod because of her ruling about Valley View. But that’s a whole ‘nother story.)
Earlier this week Town of Tuxedo officials gave their approval to one of the most odious of the casino proposals—Genting’s plan to erect a Las Vegas style luxury resort casino hotel in Sterling Forest. Genting has outspent the competition in advertising as well as in goodwill gestures designed to generate local popular support. It’s “no strings attached” donation of hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Tuxedo public schools was a public relations coup.
Brushed aside were objections such as those made by James Hall, Executive Director of the Palisades Interstate Parks Commission (PIPC), whose letter to Tuxedo Town Supervisor Mike Rost was posted online by the Tuxedo Park FYI website June 16. Hall said he has “significant concerns regarding this proposal and potential impacts on our park land and critical natural resources we are charged to protect.
“Of most critical concern are the potential impacts on the water resources which were among the primary purposes that Sterling Forest was preserved under the unique partnership of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, the National Park Service, the State of New York, the State of New Jersey and many not for profit organizations. I am specifically concerned about how such a development will obtain its water supply and depose of wastewater and how such actions may impact park property, its water and other significant ecological resources.”
Although the plans include a promise to develop a new exit (15b) off the New York State Thruway, Hall noted that “such a plan would require the acquisition of park property. No one has approached the Commission regarding this issue and the Commission does not support such an acquisition and such a conveyance is not authorized under our Federal Congressional Compact.” (Genting has since responded, saying it is willing to work with all interested parties and will pay for everything so there is no need to worry.)
“Given the extremely limited information and preliminary nature of the proposal,” Hall continued, “I do not support the proposed plan and likewise feel it is inappropriate and premature for the Town to endorse such a massive project without a better understanding of the associated impacts and whether critical components such as exit 15b are even legally practical considerations underpinning the proposal, not to mention completely unknown impacts of the critical water resources of the area….
“The Commission’s properties are a significant asset of the Town,” concluded Hall, “providing significant tax payment in exchange for few services. I hope that the Town will take these concerns seriously as you make this critical decision regarding community support of the project.”
But last week, consultants hired by the town (with money generously donated by Genting) presented a rosy report citing the many positive impacts they predict will be forthcoming. The “significant tax payment” by the PIPC seems a mere pittance compared to all the goodies promised by Genting, along with some fine print that has yet to be revealed.
For more on the subject, including the full text of Hall’s letter, visit the Tuxedo Park FYI website.
Michael can be reached at email@example.com.