Protesters want development, but not gambling


Residents from several Nassau County communities protested the proposed $4 billion casino and entertainment resort to be built by Las Vegas Sands on the 72-acre Nassau Hub area.

About 150 members and supporters of the Say No to the Casino Civic Association gathered at the Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building in Mineola to voice their opposition.

Their concern was not with the new entertainment complex or the vast hotel or possible housing units that would be part of the deal, but the casino itself, which is projected to attract 20,000 people per day, seven days a week, year-round.

LV Sands claims the project would create more than 12,000 construction jobs as well as 5,000 permanent jobs, and bring in vital revenue for Nassau County. 

The residents opposing the casino are not swayed by the numbers.

“We live on the border with East Meadow,” said Corinne Zarou of Cunningham Avenue, directly across Hempstead Turnpike from the Hub area. “You don’t need a casino in a residential neighborhood. Put it down by the beaches, where there’s miles of open land.”

Manhasset resident Allison O’Brien Silva, a founder of Say No, explained, “Studies have shown, when a casino comes to a suburban community like ours, crime goes up, rates of gambling addiction go up, and property values go down. There is no value to the surrounding community.”

When the rally got fully under way, residents heard from mayors, village trustees, civic associations, and church leaders.

“I respectfully ask our town and county officials if they want their legacy to be that they brought a casino into the last 70-plus acres of prime redevelopable land in Nassau County,” said Westbury Mayor Peter Cavallaro.

Mineola mayor Paul Pereira agreed, adding, “This is the county that became the Cradle of Aviation … that put a man on the moon with the lunar module from Grumman and Republic. And this is going to be our legacy now, the county that put up a casino?”

Pearl Jacobs, president of Nostrand Gardens Civic Association, Uniondale’s oldest civic association, told listeners, “Uniondale, Roosevelt, Hempstead and Westbury have been identified by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation as communities that are adversely affected by air pollution … so putting a casino at the Hub 24/7 would increase traffic and exacerbate medical issues for our youth.”

Nostrand Gardens Vice President Heidi Sanft, who owns a travel agency, concurred. “Motor coaches are going to be riding Franklin Avenue, Glen Cove Road, Merrick Avenue,” Sanft said, “from the Long Island Expressway to Hempstead Turnpike and the mega-casino area. It’s a Nassau County issue.”

Longtime Uniondale activist Mary Kreye spoke briefly but pointedly.

“I just say to the legislators, come to the people,” demanded Kreye. “Put this to a referendum in November. I ask the people that they not be dazzled by the money.”

Referring to a $54 million initial payment that LV Sands has promised the county, “Isn’t it bizarre,” said Garden City Trustee Charlie Kelly, “that they’re ready to sell out Garden City and central Nassau County for a one-time payment that would not pay a week’s bills for the county?”

Garden City Trustee Bruce Chester said there is strength in numbers. “All the organizations in our villages, with the boards of education, the PTAs, have to come out and say they’re against the casino, not just the mayors and village trustees,” he said.

“We are here to say, ‘Hell, no to the casino,” said Reverend Arthur Mackey, pastor of Mt. Sinai Baptist Church Cathedral in Roosevelt,  “because hell is where this proposal needs to go,” adding that people at the Hub’s Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the students of NCC and Hofstra “don’t need to be dealing with the pressure of a gambling casino.”

After the rally, Ingrid Favelus, a three-decade resident of Uniondale, told the Herald that the county and town officials have not sent notices of the meetings about the casino complex, the way they do for elections or recreational events.

“They should have called and said, ‘This is our plan, and please come to the meeting and this is what we want to do,’” Favelus said. “Nothing!”