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A casino deserves serious consideration

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Last week, freshman Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano laid it on the line for county residents. He told us that the county is facing a $286 million deficit, the largest in its history. Because Mangano is committed to not raising taxes, he must be proactive and think outside the box for ways to raise much-needed revenue.

And so, last Tuesday, Mangano announced that he was in the early stages of negotiations with the Shinnecock Nation regarding the possibility of constructing a casino and entertainment center on the 77-acre Nassau Coliseum site and the surrounding property. The idea may have shocked many of my fellow Long Islanders, but believe me, it deserves serious consideration.

Understandably, there are many questions about a project of this magnitude, but Mangano’s proposal has tremendous potential to create the job and revenue growth Long Island desperately needs.

In my opinion, in today’s economy, it makes a lot more sense than the previously proposed Lighthouse project. For six years, real estate developer Charles Wang, the majority owner of the New York Islanders, has been pressuring elected officials from the Town of Hempstead and Nassau County to authorize this $3.7 billion project.

Wang’s proposal encompasses 150 acres, and would transform the Coliseum and the surrounding property into condominiums, a five-star hotel, an athletics complex and corporate offices, highlighted by two 36-story office towers.

Although home prices in Nassau County have remained steady and property in many communities is still valuable, such is not the case for the commercial real estate market. Office space is being leased, but landlords have been forced to renegotiate contracts with tenants at remarkably reduced rates. There are also fewer leases being signed than in previous years.

Six years ago our economy was in much better shape. It might have been possible to finance the project and fill 36 stories of office space. Now, regardless of the developer, it’s impossible. Even though the commercial realty market has been creeping back, the current market would not be able to sustain such a grand endeavor.

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