WESTBURY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Some opponents of a controversial proposal for a gambling hall at the former Fortunoff store in Westbury, Long Island have said it should be built at the Nassau County Coliseum instead.
As TV 10/55 Long Island Bureau Chief Richard Rose reported, some neighbors of the coliseum don’t want the gambling hall in their backyard either.
Most nights, the vast parking lot of the Coliseum is totally empty, and will be even more so once the Islanders move out of the stadium and into the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
But now, state Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola) has said a video lottery terminal, or slots casino, would be perfect for the site.
In a statement to TV 10/55, Martins said, “The complex is an entirely commercial setting with ample parking, highway access, and is in the process of being redeveloped by Nassau County as an entertainment destination complex.”
He added, “It just makes more sense.”
Nearby Hempstead resident Shatavia Davis agrees.
“I think it’s a pretty good idea,” Davis said. “I would definitely go, instead of going over to Queens.”
But the Coliseum is already a long shot. Nassau Regional Off-Track Betting said Coliseum owners showed no interest when solicited for the new gaming parlor. It is part of the reason Nassau OTB chose the now-shuttered Fortunoff store at the Source Mall in Westbury.
But local civic groups have mounted fierce opposition to that plan.
“This is just not the right spot for it,” said Henry Cernitz of the Meadowbrook Merchants Concourse Civic Association. “There’s just too much traffic, too much congestion, and if you look across the street, there are homes.”
Heavy traffic on the Hempstead Turnpike by the Nassau Coliseum already has nearby residents saying no to the gaming parlor.
“It’d be more traffic,” said local student Bryan Dumas of Uniondale. “It’s already hard to get to school now, so it’d probably take 20 more minutes.”
Educators at Coliseum neighbor Hofstra University also worry that students could become gambling addicts. Other neighbors expressed worry that the mini-casino would not be the moneymaker officials are predicting.
“Some of the casinos have been declaring bankruptcy,” said Leslie Eyma of Valley Stream. “Some have been losing money, so we need to find other avenues.”
Meanwhile, Nassau OTB is finalizing lease agreements at the Fortunoff site in Westbury, and the president of the agency said his group wants to work with residents concerned about that plan.
“I certainly understand the concerns of the people, especially those who live in Carle Place and in the village of Westbury and right across Old Country Road,” Joe Cairo told WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall. “But I think that in all fairness, we have to listen to their concerns, identify the issues and then address them. And then hopefully, we will be able to satisfy the needs of the community.”
Cairo’s comments came after Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano voiced his opposition to the Fortunoff plan Monday.