ISLANDIA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The village board in Islandia called a last-minute meeting Friday morning where it approved a new video casino to be built inside a Marriott Hotel.
The meeting only lasted about three minutes, but many in the crowd were not happy with the board’s decision, with some shouting, “No casino!”
As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, some claim officials tried to sneak the vote in at an inconvenient time with little public notice.
If it was designed to fly under the radar, that didn’t work. Word got out and opponents packed in.
“I think it’s ridiculous. I mean, most homeowners are at work. The motive was just to do a sly deal behind the scenes and just get it passed,” Eric Fernandez said.
Opponents like Mellie Aponte said she has lived in the area for nearly 40 years and she said she has loved every minute until now.
“I think it’ll bring in a lot of traffic, I think it’ll bring in a lot of drinking, I think it’ll bring in prostitution,” she told WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall.
Residents like Apryl Meyer took off work, undeterred by the vote timing.
“This is where my children are going to be raised. They can’t play in the street like they would. I’m concerned for the the people, the additions, the traffic,” she said.
“Everyone can tell you that property values are going to go down, crime, drugs, prostitution,” Kevin Montano said.
Others were for the plan.
“It’s not a casino, it’s just a video lottery machine,” resident Robert Hyde said. “There’s no dice games, no card games and to insist that it’s going to bring prostitution and suicide, I don’t see that Foxwoods did this.”
Delaware North, the company developing the casino for Suffolk Off-Track Betting, requested a special permit to operate 1,000 video lottery terminals inside the hotel, which is located off Exit 58 of the Long Island Expressway.
In a statement after the approval, Mayor Allan Dorman said it will help bring tax relief to the village and create hundreds of jobs.
“It will have a real impact on local village families and their ability to withstand the high cost of living on Long Island,” he said.
Officials said there will be around-the-clock security at the hotel and roving patrols in the parking lot. New traffic controls will also be implemented to minimize congestion on local streets.
Residents said nothing can be done to offset plummeting property values. They’ve hired a lawyer to challenge the vote as rushed through improperly.
“They can’t make an argument that encouraging gambling is good for a community. They have to resort to subterfuge, and secret episodes,” Paul Sabatino II said.
Some residents have demanded an investigation by the DA or attorney general — claiming village leaders are ignoring the people who elected them.
The vote allows work to begin in the fall, for an opening date some time next year.
The special use permit will be reviewed by the village every two years.
New York voters okayed casinos in a 2013 referendum, but critics say it was a lose-lose for Long Island and that gaming parlors were included either way, imposed by an appointed OTB board that bypasses local zoning laws.