Casino opposed at Shoreham nuke site

05/20/2010 12:00 AM |

The shuttered Shoreham nuclear power plant as seen from Wading River Creek. Brookhaven’s civic leaders have banded together in opposition to a potential Shinnecock gaming facility there. Calverton has also been discussed as a potential casino site.

Elected and civic leaders voiced their opposition to the possibility of a Shinnecock casino at the former Shoreham nuclear power plant during a press conference outside the property on Monday, citing concerns about crime and a lack of major highways with the capacity to handle the extra traffic.

Legislators Daniel Losquadro (R-Shoreham) and Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches), whose office organized the brief event, were joined outside the plant by Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner and members of civic and environmental groups.

Federal recognition of the Southampton-based Shinnecock Indian tribe is expected by July, after which its leaders will begin their search for a place to exercise their right to open an Indian gaming facility on Long Island or upstate.

Anticipating the eventual arrival of a casino, county officials two years ago formed a gaming task force that has compiled a short list of potential host properties — including the Enterprise Park at Calverton and the Shoreham property.

The press event, which lasted only a few minutes, was the latest expression of opposition to a casino in or near Brookhaven Town, and it came soon after news that the Shinnecocks had recently toured Brookhaven Calabro Airport in Shirley as another potential site.

Ms. Bonner said she was concerned that a casino at Shoreham could increase quality-of-life problems in the region, such as alcoholism, drug use and prostitution.

“Casinos invite crime to a community,” Ms. Bonner said.

A spokeswoman said the tribe would not comment on the press conference.

Ms. Bonner said she was looking into legislation that would block construction of a casino in Brookhaven Town and said it could be introduced as early as the May 18 Brookhaven Town Board meeting.

“We have a town supervisor who hasn’t met a development that he doesn’t like,” Ms, Bonner said after the press conference. “He just throws it all out there to see if it sticks.”

Brookhaven Supervisor Mark Lesko was not immediately available for comment.

Southampton Town officials are considering similar legislation, which was music to the ears of Pine Barrens Society executive director Richard Amper.

“What does Southampton get that [Mr. Lesko] doesn’t understand?” he asked.

MaryAnn Johnston, president of the Affiliated Civic Organization, an umbrella organization for more than 40 civic groups, said the community stands united in its opposition to a casino in the region. She added that there was to be a protest rally at the airport at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, May 19.

“One thing that a casino has in common with a nuclear power plant and incinerator is that they are both bad for everyone around them,” Ms. Johnston said. “Casinos are wrong for this town at this time.”

Ms. Johnston suggested the “smorgasbord” of options being offered to the Shinnecock be narrowed so that the people of the county could know where the casino really might end up. Their right to approve or disapprove a site “should be the final determination where it goes,” she said.

Richard Belsky, president of the Shoreham Civic Association, said he and his fellow board members passed a resolution opposing a casino at the property last week. Mr. Belsky said he wouldn’t want to see a casino nearby because Shoreham is a family community.

“We will fight to the end to make sure that it doesn’t happen,” he said.

Mr. Romaine expressed satisfaction that the tribe was finally on its way to receiving federal recognition, but he disagreed with the gaming task force’s recommendation that Shoreham would be a viable site for the venture.

“The infrastructure is not here,” especially highways, he said. Shoreham “is essentially a residential community. It is the wrong location. I cannot say that enough.”

Mr. Losquadro agreed. “The infrastructure here cannot even handle pumpkin traffic and we expect it to handle a major commercial entertainment use, such as a casino?” he said. “It’s impossible.”

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