Shinnecocks: More than 30 casino sites have been proposed

07/22/2010 12:00 AM |

The three Calverton sites that have now appeared before Suffolk County’s Gaming Task Force as possible locations for a Shinnecock Indian Nation casino are not the only sites in Riverhead Town to have been presented to the Shinnecocks, according to Lance Gumbs, a senior trustee with the tribe.
He said other sites throughout the town, not just in Calverton, have been presented, although he declined to name them.
And overall, Mr Gumbs told reporters, there have been “upwards of 30 sites” in Suffolk County presented to the Shinnecocks as possible locations for a casino.
“We never realized how much land is available on Long Island until this happened,” Mr. Gumbs told reporters after Thursday’s meeting of the task force. “Everybody and their brother now is presenting different pieces to us.”
Representatives of two Calverton sites made presentations to the Gaming Task Force Thursday. One is a 131-acre parcel adjacent to Splish Splash on Route 25 in Calverton. It consists of two parcels, one owned by Bagatelle Associates of Brooklyn and the other by Eletag Associates of Brooklyn.
Joe Nehmad, a broker for Fillmore Real Estate of Brooklyn, which is representing the property owners, told the task force that one of the benefits of the site is that it has frontage on both Route 25 and the Long Island Expressway.
“This property gives you enough land to development the project and in the future to expand, if need be,” Mr. Nehmad said. He said the zoning was a negative, in that it is zoned for industrial uses, but Mr. Gumbs said later that zoning is not a factor, because for the Shinnecocks to build a casino on off-reservation property, they would have to first buy the property and then put it in a trust with the federal government, which would supercede zoning.
“That’s a very interesting piece,” Mr. Gumbs told reporters afterward. “Especially with Splish Splash and Tanger right there. That’s actually a very interesting piece. It would be even more interesting if the piece next to it was available.”
The piece next to it is 134 acres of farmland owned by Marie Tooker. Ms. Tooker and her attorney actually showed up at Thursday’s meeting to voice support for putting the casino on the 131-acres next to her property.
The second property discussed Thursday was the proposed Riverhead Resorts site at the Enterprise Park at Calverton.
That property, which totals 755 acres, is still owned by Riverhead Town, but the town is in contract to sell it to Riverhead Resorts for $108 million. Riverhead Resorts wants to build eight year-round theme resorts, each with a hotel and restaurant and condos, according to attorney Mitch Pally. Riverhead Resorts is committed to trying to finalize the contract before the end of the year, but whether that can happen is unclear, Mr. Pally said, since the property must be subdivided first, and there are issues with the state over which government agency would lead the review of the subdivision application.
Mr. Pally said that while the contract with the town contains a prohibition on casinos, he did have the consent of the Town Board to appear before the task force.
Whether the Town Board will actually consent to allowing a casino is not clear, based on interviews with board members.
And after Thursday’s meeting, Mr. Gumbs said there were other issues that remained unclear about a possible Shinnecock alliance with Riverhead Resorts.
For one, the Shinnecocks would have to own the land in order for it to be placed in a federal trust, and that would mean Riverhead might have to do another subdivision to sell part of the land to the Shinnecocks, and might possibly have to shrink the size of its proposal if it sells land to the Shinnecocks.
Mr. Pally said those issues are yet to be decided.
Mr. Gumbs said another concern with teaming with Riverhead Resorts is that its proposal contains many of the same uses the Shinnecocks are planning, namely a resort.
“We not just building a casino,” Mr. Gumbs said.
The third Calverton site to have been made public was a 95-acre parcel owned by Engel Burman Group in the industrial core of EPCAL. Jan Burman of that group made a presentation before the task force last month.
Meanwhile, John Paulson of the Manor Park Civic Association told the task force Thursday that 40 Brookhaven Town civic associations are now opposed to having a casino anywhere in Brookhaven Town. The town-owned Calabro Airport in Shirley is one site being considered.
“This is the people speaking, not the politicians,” Mr. Paulson said.
He said casinos will bring traffic, prostitution, crime and the draining of police and government resourses.
“The nation has property of its own and you can build your casinos there,” Mr. Paulson said. “But when you seek to build off your land, don’t get offended when we oppose it.”
Mr. Gumbs said afterward that the tribe was asked by local town, state and federal leaders to not build a casino on 80 acres it owns off Newtown Road in Hampton Bays.
“Our political people have to get behind us,” Mr Gumbs said “You can’t say you don’t want it in our territory, but then not support us moving it someplace else.”
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