The Belmont Park Task Force has received many questions from concerned community members. Below we provide some answers.
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"QUALITY OF LIFE IN NEIGHBORING COMMUNITIES WILL BE AFFECTED, MORE TRAFFIC, POSSIBLE INCREASE IN CRIME, AND WHAT FINANCIAL GAINS WILL THESE HOST COMMUNITIES RECIVE?"
Based on what we know as of now, Floral Park and Elmont will receive $0 in benefits as host communities. While the law requires that monies be paid to municipalities, the $2.25 million dollars promised by Nassau OTB will go directly to the Town of Hempstead. While proponents make the claim that a percentage of the profits will benefit school districts, the money goes into the greater pool that is Nassau County's education fund, which then gets distributed to schools across the county, resulting in a vastly decreased allocation to host communities' portion. The Task Force has done a great deal of research on the history of funds promised to schools as a result of gambling (such as lotteries, VLTs, etc). While we are still researching, we have found NO evidence that the education budgets receive any actual benefits in their budgets: the "new money" is allocated for schools, but it only supplants an "old money" item and the result is net zero in the schools' budgets - there is never any new money added to education budgets as a result of these gambling gains to county and state budgets. The only evidence the Task Force has found of actual gains for education has been in Yonkers, where a private corporation promised to support school districts; currently, this is the only school district we have found with a true financial increase to benefit districts and their students.
"The casino and 3rd rail initiative should be collectively and individually opposed. Is there value in considering both together or separate?"
Certainly, the LIRR’s 3rd track proposal and OTB’s casino proposal would both have significant and negative impacts on the Village of Floral Park. However, the Village will be addressing these issues separately, for a variety of reasons. Just as the Belmont Task Force is focusing on the casino issue, the Third Track Task Force (which already exists, but will have additional members appointed) will focus on the 3rd track issue. However, there is another pending development issue that the Village will insist be considered in conjunction with OTB’s casino proposal. That proposal is the soccer stadium proposal, or any other proposal for development in the Belmont parking lot south of Hempstead Turnpike (the “South Lot”). No matter what your opinion is of the proposals for the development of that lot, the impact of the development of that lot together with the proposal for a casino, will have a combined effect on the communities surrounding Belmont. Further, we believe, and we are advised, that legally the impact on the surrounding communities from the casino proposal and any development in the South Lot must be considered together, because the impact of both development proposals will be felt in the surrounding communities. For example, development of both parcels within the existing Belmont Park complex will result in increased traffic and congestion along key corridors and intersections nearby. So the impact of the video gambling casino cannot be considered in isolation.
"What will the impact be on vehicular use getting in/out of the Village?"
Our Police Commissioner has consulted with security executives in the gaming industry and he is advised that we can expect traffic to increase exponentially on our major roadways inside the Village. One reason is simply the increased volume of cars going to Belmont. The other reason is that the Cross Island is closed to commercial traffic, including buses that will bring gamblers to Belmont. Also, an increase in traffic by that amount will inevitably lead to a delayed response time for emergency services. Winthrop Hospital already raised the same objection for the placement of a VLT casino at Fortunoffs (read about it here). The increased traffic and the need for increased police patrols because of the potential for increased crime will inevitably lead to a dramatic spike in police costs for the Village. And none of this will have any offsetting positive effects. These gamblers sitting in traffic are not likely to be frequenting the stores and restaurants of Floral Park. As OTB states in Newsday, their plan is for stores and restaurants to be built inside Belmont to cater to gamblers. Indeed, it is certainly in OTB’s interest that the gamblers not leave OTB’s premises. Rather than the increased traffic attracting additional customers for Floral Park businesses, to be contrary, the increased traffic to, from and around Floral Park, has the potential to make Floral Park a place to avoid for shopping and dining.
"In addition to the many concerns already raised, what measure will be taken to prevent gamblers from using the Bellerose train station and walking through the West End?"
This is a very good question, and we wish we could tell you that it is addressed in OTB’s plans, or in the “exhaustive study” OTB claims to have conducted prior to selecting Belmont as the site for its video gambling casino. However, OTB has not provided this “exhaustive study” to us. Further, and more alarmingly, despite the fact that County Executive Ed Mangano, and Legislators Richard Nicolello and Vincent Muscarella have stated their support for OTB’s plans, each of them state that they have not received any study or even a plan from OTB regarding OTB’s plan to put in video gambling casino at Belmont. Even if OTB claims that the Mayfair Gate will be closed, we all know that it will be an ongoing battle to keep it closed. The LIRR train station inside Belmont is in terrible disrepair and it has been estimated that it will cost over $150 million to repair. If OTB ever were to open a casino at Belmont, you can be certain they will be seeking to open the Mayfair Gate to allow their gamblers to come to their casino by LIRR. It may not be opened at first, but OTB would soon look to have it opened “temporarily” while the Belmont Station is fixed. Once opened for this purpose, the odds of ever getting it closed again would be slim.
"What is the impact of a 24 hr. operation on our community?"
If permitted to be sited at Belmont, the law permits a video gambling casino to operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Currently, Belmont operates approximately 8 hours a day, until dusk, on 92 race dates a year. The impacts of this change in operation are too numerous to list, and some of the impacts are discussed in response to other questions.
But just consider this, New York State appears to be going forward with plans to also build a soccer stadium on the South Lot (see here). Putting aside for a moment the impact on Floral Park and Elmont from the soccer stadium as well, that plan removes a significant amount of the available parking at Belmont Park. Consequently, all the parking from the casino gamblers and soccer stadium spectators will be jammed into the north lot bordering the West End of the Village and the Floral Park Bellerose School. Further, that parking lot will now be servicing a facility that operates 20 hours a day. This lot will now need to be lighted. The neighborhood will be lit up all night and the sounds of slamming car doors and drunk and angry gamblers leaving the casino will disturb residents through the night.
"I hear this is a “Done Deal”. Do we really have any chance in fighting this?"
This certainly is not a “done deal.” OTB has many significant hurdles to overcome to place their video lottery casino at Belmont. First, Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) are currently expressly prohibited at Belmont by New York State Law. That is why it is very important that you contact your state representatives and let them know you want and expect them to do everything in their power to make sure the law is not changed to allow VLTs at Belmont. The State representatives for Floral Park are Senator Jack Martins, Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages and Assemblyman Ed Ra. Assemblywoman Solages has come out publically against the casino at Belmont. Senator Martins and Assemblyman Ra have not made their positions known. Next, even if OTB manages to get the law changed or has some plan to circumvent the clear requirements of the law, there are local zoning issues that OTB must overcome. Finally and very significantly, OTB will also have to comply with all the environmental laws and review processes prior to commencing work. The Village of Floral Park has retained a law firm to oppose OTB at every step of the way. This very well may be a long fight, but don’t be discouraged. Floral Park and the surrounding communities have overcome threats before by staying united and we can do so again.