West Siders Vent About Casino Proposals During CB4 Hearing

Three gambling licenses will be awarded in the downstate area, with formal applications coming down the pipeline soon. Three developers–Related Co., Silverstein Partners, and SL Green–are looking to plant casinos on the West Side of Manhattan. On March 19, Community Board 4 gave nearby locals a chance to opine on the matter.

| 22 Mar 2024 | 04:01

Three developers–Related Co., Silverstein Partners, and SL Green–are looking to snag a gambling license to operate a casino on the West Side of Manhattan. On March 19, local residents offered their thoughts on the matter at a Community Board 4 public hearing.

CB4 chair Jessica Chait explained that the board has made “no specific decision on casinos,” and that no details of any of the proposals would be discussed that night. Instead, she encouraged residents with preexisting takes on the proposals to express their thoughts, and maybe blow off a little steam in the process.

Related’s $12 billion dollar Hudson Yards proposal, which would be located on W. 44th St. & 11th Ave., is being advertised as “the biggest thing” that would ever come to the West Side (a writer for The Spirit noted that the Westway highway, if built, would’ve been larger). SL Green is looking to construct a Caesar’s Palace on Broadway & 7th. Ave., while Silverstein hopes to construct the “Avenir”–which is French for “future”–on W. 33rd St. & 11th Ave., near the Javits Center.

Jerry Smurnik, who serves on NYS’s Gaming Commission, updated the community on where the proposals stood from a procedural standpoint. Developers are currently answering a bevy of questions, he said, and the clock will start ticking on a formal application process after said answers are submitted. An application comes with a fee of $1 million.

A “Community Advisory Committee” made up of public officials would then consider the applications. If they finally get through that process, they will be required to pay an additional $500 million gambling licensing fee to the state.

Eager locals were then allowed to speak. The first resident that went up to the mic, David Stuart, vouched for SL Green’s Times Square proposal. He said that while he was initially “skeptical” about a casino coming to the area, he had later met with SL Green and found his concerns assuaged by an “economic impact report.” It was an entirely positive report, Stuart claimed, and demonstrated that a new casino could have a positive “ancillary effect” on its surrounding neighborhoods.

Other residents were not as quick to jump on the gambling bandwagon. Aleta LaFargue expressed concern about a zoning text amendment that would allow casinos to bypass stringent ULURP (Uniform Land Use Procedure) rules: “The notion that any of these groups–or the Mayor–would have the ability to usurp the ULURP, or any zoning process that we’ve come to trust, is kind of frightening.”

LaFargue went on say that she believed proponents of the amendment were “skirting the system.”

Maria Ortiz, a Community Board 4 member, went out of her way to clarify that she was not speaking on behalf of the board. However, she did point to her day-job as a social worker, which has led her to “lean towards not being in favor of a casino.”

”I’m a social worker, I work in the community, I was born and raised in the community. I work in mental health,” Ortiz added. She had recently been discussing gambling addiction at work, which she said would be “something that we’ll have to face and address if there is a casino nearby.”

Elke Fears, the president of The 47-48th Street Block Association, echoed LaFargue’s concerns about zoning. She pointedly said that she believed that any ULURP changes would be “insane, and would open up a Pandora’s box.”

“It’s just not realistic in this neighborhood,” Fears concluded.

There are two additional proposals being pitched to the borough’s residents in other neighborhoods. Hudson’s Bay Company, the owner of Saks, wants to devote the top three floors of their Fifth Ave. flagship store to a casino.

On Manhattan’s East Side, Soloviev Group has teamed up with Mohegan in an $8 billion bid to develop a casino complex just south of the United Nations, on land that it has owned since 2000.

There are also bids in other NYC boroughs. Steve Cohen, the billionaire financier who owns the NY Mets, wants to develop a casino at Willets Point.

The owners of Yonkers Raceway and Aqueduct Raceway, venues that already host “racinos,” are vying to transform the attractions into full-blown gambling meccas. Bally’s, which took over a golf course in the Bronx from the Trump Organization, has offered a bid. The Las Vegas Sands, owned by Miriam Adelson, wants to plant a casino at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.