County should scratch Shoreham off casino list

05/20/2010 12:00 AM |

It was like something out of a time warp Monday, seeing civic, environmental and government leaders outside the gates of the defunct Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant voicing their opposition to a casino being built at the site.

After all, it was 31 years ago next month that the largest protest in Long Island history took place at the very same spot. On June 3, 1979, less than three months after the Three Mile Island plant meltdown, 15,000 protestors descended upon Shoreham to make it clear the $6 billion nuclear plant would be an unwelcome neighbor. More than 600 protestors were arrested and the rally has long been considered a turning point in the fight against the plant, which was commissioned to be closed 10 years later — before it ever produced any commercial electrical power.

Now, decades removed from the protest and many more demonstrations later, the community is concerned the property could once again be designated for a less-than-desirable use.

With the Shinnecocks weeks away from receiving federal recognition — a designation expected to jump-start the tribe’s search for an ideal casino location — the spotlight has again turned to the large parcel on North Country Road in Shoreham.

The power plant entered the discussion about a year ago when the county’s gaming task force considered it a candidate for a casino property.

But it’s not surprising to see community leaders vehement in their belief that the parcel is the wrong location for a gaming site.

Concerns expressed at Monday’s press event included increased traffic, the potential for an uptick in crime in the region, more drunken drivers on the road and even a heightened risk of more prostitution problems should a casino be built here. Not to mention that the bucolic Shoreham and nearby Wading River communities, mostly absent of industrial and large commercial development, don’t exactly seem like the sort of place where one would want to drop a massive Indian gaming facility.

Only on Long Island would such a scenic shorefront property in a quiet hamlet ever be considered for both a power plant and a casino. LILCO was way off base in 1965 when it declared Shoreham an ideal site for a nuclear plant. The county’s gaming task force is wrong today.