As a member of the Assembly Committee on Economic Development, Job Creation, Commerce, and Industry, I know the importance of moving Long Island forward with smart economic development. So, as Las Vegas Sands presents Nassau County with a proposed multi-billion-dollar casino project, it is both an opportunity and a challenge.
Undoubtedly, a project of this magnitude would create both temporary and permanent jobs in construction and operations throughout its multi-phase development. That certainly would be a win for our labor union workforce, which keeps our county and state running. I speak as a daughter whose mother’s union job helped put food on the table, and as a sister and wife of current union workers, I understand the importance of labor and its contributions to the various industries it represents. Labor is in my DNA.
As we face the imminent burden of costly congestion pricing to commute into New York City for our livelihoods, the need to ensure good-paying jobs here on Long Island becomes even more vital. Truly, I understand the advocacy for the Sands development around the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, but we must take into account the societal challenges it may bring and address them head on.
Whether you’re game for trying your luck at winning quick cash prizes or staunchly opposed to gambling, we all have to evaluate whether the location Sands is pursuing in Uniondale is ideal for this type of business. The current neighborhood landscape includes schools from kindergarten to higher learning institutions. It is also home to the Long Island Children’s Museum and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, one of the top cancer hospitals in the nation.
These and other institutions — centered on education, health, and family — are the heartbeat of the community. The hard-working people who live around the Coliseum take their children to Eisenhower Park for recreation, fitness and fun in this heavily residential area. Should a casino coexist in this family-friendly neighborhood? Some concerned residents who have contacted my office say no.
For a project that has lasting consequences, we owe it to Long Islanders to address community concerns in a fair, thorough and transparent way. Some who are opposed to a casino have expressed concerns to me directly and at public forums about potential negative impacts, including an escalated crime rate. The fear of larceny, drunkenness, prostitution and more is based on behavior that casinos around the country typically experience.
Others have trepidation about the possibility of increased traffic and congestion around the venue and along Hempstead Turnpike. Gambling addiction is another serious matter. It, unfortunately, can result in substance abuse, bankruptcy, divorce and even suicide. And for all the talk about the vision for development to also include a hotel, restaurants and an entertainment venue, skeptics worry that the latter phase may not materialize, leaving us with nothing more than a gaming institution.
While the proposed casino site doesn’t fall within the Assembly District that I have represented for three terms, it is in the Senate District that I hope to represent next year with a successful election this year. So I want to ensure that all constituent voices are heard. And as a mother who lives in the Uniondale School District and in close proximity to the proposed casino, I have a vested interest in exploring the pros and cons of the project.
I don’t want decision makers to ignore community concerns. We need to address them to the best of our ability. We need assurances that our children will be safe. We need to study the crime, traffic, noise, municipal, economic and environmental impacts of such a project while pursuing economic opportunities. We need to abide by State Environmental Quality Review Act and other state regulations when it comes to permitting. And we need to ensure that Long Islanders will not become casualties in the fight for a gaming license downstate.
The opportunity and challenge before us can combine to produce the best possible outcome. Community input can drive the developer to think critically about the project and mitigate any associated risks. It can result in a transformation of our region, positively impacting our tax rolls and the financial viability of local residents. Because I am pro-business, pro-labor, pro-good-paying jobs and pro-economic development, I hope this project — should it move forward — pushes us toward greater excellence on Long Island.
Taylor Darling represents the 18th Assembly District.