Blakeman subpoenas Hofstra prez over casino claim

Susan Poser has been accused of conspiring with Sands competitors


The battle between Nassau County and Hofstra University appears to be heating up beyond the legal action between the two. County Executive Bruce Blakeman says he has subpoenaed Hofstra president Susan Poser, accusing her of colluding with a competing casino organization in an effort to derail plans by Las Vegas Sands to redevelop the Nassau Coliseum.

In a news conference Wednesday, Blakeman shared with reporters an email he says was sent by Michael McKeon — who he described as a lobbyist for Florida-based Hard Rock Café Inc. — to a Hard Rock senior vice president, Sean Caffery, as well as Michael Sullivan, who works for an asset management company purportedly connected to New York Mets majority shareholder and Hard Rock International partner, Steven Cohen.

McKeon reportedly sent a link to a news story in the email, explaining to Caffery and Sullivan that it “speaks to Sands’ efforts to control the site,” adding he will be “checking with Hofstra to see if they will oppose this move.”

Blakeman believes this email is evidence of Hofstra and Hard Rock working together to hinder plans by Sands and the county for Uniondale, and instead open the door to an alternative casino as part of a proposed $8 billion project by Hard Rock and Cohen to build a casino near Citi Field in Queens, where the Mets play.

With the limited number of opportunities to open casinos being made available by the state, many observers say a casino in Uniondale would derail any efforts to do the same in Queens.

“I believe this is evidence of improper behavior, and I am very troubled by this,” Blakeman told reporters. “If they are against all of the things they claim to be against — and all of the concerns they had — they certainly weren’t concerned about students in Queens.”

Last November, a New York State Supreme Court Judge ruled that the county violated the state’s Open Meetings Law and the State Environmental Quality Review Act when the Nassau County Planning Commission voted in favor of the Sands lease in April.

The lawsuit was brought forward that same month by Hofstra, led by Poser — who has spoken out publicly against the casino project in the university’s backyard. The county has filed muliple appeals, but if officials aren’t successful, it would likely mean the county planning commission and the legislature would have to repeat the process.

“Hofstra will respond to the Nassau County Legislature’s subpoena in compliance with applicable law,” a university spokeswoman told the Herald in a statement. “Hofstra, as a member of this community since 1935, opposes the casino siting at the Nassau Hub for multiple reasons that have been made clear in our public statements and court filings.

“This subpoena is just another spurious attempt to distract and impede a fair and open process regarding this transfer of Nassau County land.”

Hard Rock International — owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida — manages a chain of restaurants and hotels bearing the iconic brand name, as well as four casinos.

“Hard Rock has not had any communication whatsoever with Hofstra University or its president related to Nassau,” a Hard Rock spokesperson told the Herald in a statement. “We are committed to integrity, honesty and transparency in the (request for application) process for a downstate license in New York, and will not waver from that position.

“We made this clear to all of our vendors and partners, and will not tolerate any behavior that would counter that position.

The Sands has proposed a $4 billion redevelopment project across 80 acres of the Hub site — the former home of the New York Islanders hockey team — with outdoor community spaces, high-end hotels, and what Blakeman at the time described as a “world-class live performance venue honoring the legacy of live music” at the Coliseum.

The project would also include celebrity chef restaurants, a convention space and ballrooms, a day spa, a swimming pool, a health club, and of course, a casino.

Construction alone is expected to create 12,000 construction jobs, and the site would ultimately employ 5,000 people, county officials have said. Sands already has drawn support from other institutions, like Long Island University and Nassau Community College, which want to launch a hospitality program to help train people who might want to work at the Hub. And the Uniondale Chamber of Commerce has said the casino’s presence would help boost the local economy.

Poser, however, fears the project would increase crime, exacerbate gambling addictions, increase traffic around the Hub that the present roads can’t handle, decrease in the community's air quality, and an overall lower quality of life for everyone in the greater Uniondale community.

She’s scheduled to appear before county leadership Jan. 22 at 10 am.

Additional reporting by Michael Hinman