Mayor, Chamber President Question Proposed Casino at Belmont
The Village of Floral Park boasts many sources of recreation and entertainment for residents, the hub of which is the Floral Park Pool and Recreation Center. It’s the concerted effort of village employees across multiple departments that keep things running smoothly and keeps residents safe. Many of those employees were recognized at the board of trustees meeting held on Tuesday, July 19. Also at the meeting, Mayor Thomas J. Tweedy said that the jury is still out on the proposed casino at Belmont Park, another possible entertainment venue for Floral Park residents.
Activities at the Recreation Center are in full swing. During a recent evening filled with baseball, basketball and strolls through the park, “a very large limb fell off a tree from a residential property that borders the rec center,” said Trustee Mary-Grace Tomecki. “The Rec Center staff was quick to respond,” she added. The incident occurred on Saturday, July 16, and many village employees “stayed late beyond their required hours to make sure that the tree limb was dealt with and that no one was injured,[and] to make sure that the park itself did not sustain any damage, which we are fortunate that it did not,” Tomecki reported. She recognized Superintendent of Recreation Kurt W. Meyfohrt ; James Clancy, who was the supervisor on duty at the time of the incident; and Joe Monahan and Vinny Modica, Rec Center employees who were on duty last Saturday evening. Tomecki also lauded Department of Public Works Supervisor Russ Mazzola, who “responded very quickly to make sure the limb was removed.”
Trees are integral to Floral Park’s charm and character, but they also create hazards. Trustee Dominick A. Longobardi piggybacked Tomecki’s report with a tree-related incident that occurred on Zinnia Avenue several weeks ago. During one of the fast and furious storms the village experienced early this summer, lighting struck a tree, the bolt actually piercing through the trunk. “Within no time, the tree crew was on the scene to secure the remainder of the tree and protect the surrounding residences. The tree was subsequently removed within the next several days,” Longobardi said. “Our staff at Public Works, our staff at the park, our police department, everybody works together to make sure that emergency situations like Trustee Tomecki spoke about, like the one on Zinnia Avenue [are controlled immediately] … our fire department responding, as well, when they have to. We are very lucky,” he said.
“We have very dedicated people,” Mayor Tweedy concurred.
Meanwhile, the heat of the summer has brought with it a hot-button issue for the village: the proposed casino at Belmont Park. Shinnecock Indian Nation officials had been in talks with Nassau County the past year to build a casino at Nassau Coliseum, but Nassau County’s announcement in early May about a new arena for the Islanders was bad luck for the tribe. All was not lost, however, as Republican leaders such as State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos of Rockville Centre and Nassau County Executive Edward Man-gano set their sights on Belmont Park. While the plan is still very premature, Floral Park residents and officials are not sure whether a casino in neighboring Belmont Park would be good or bad luck for the village. Floral Park Chamber of Commerce President Salvatore Bonagura cited a “misleading news release” put out by the Nassau County Council of Chambers. “It was unanimous [to vote in favor of the casino at Belmont Park] for the few chambers who were lucky enough to be at the June meeting, which I was not at. … They never notified me,” Bonagura said. “As a neighbor of Belmont, I am absolutely flabbergasted that we were not contacted by the Council of Chambers because Elmont is for it. We’re not for it or against it yet. We have absolutely no knowledge. We’re in the dark. I cannot even present a plan because I don’t know what the plan is … We did not vote unanimously with the other chambers for the [proposed Shinnecock Casino at Belmont Park],” he continued.
Bonagura, who grew up in Floral Park in a home adjacent to Belmont Park and now resides one block away, admits that having a casino in his backyard “affects him as a resident and as a businessperson. As a businessperson, it’s very hard to be opposed to a business, but as a resident I can’t even imagine that thing being that close. So this is going to be a tough vote because half the business owners in Floral Park do not live in Floral Park. And the people that were for this from the Elmont Chamber of Commerce do not live in Elmont,” he said.
“We are in the information-gathering part, so we’re kind of in the same place you are,” Mayor Tweedy said, addressing Bonagura’s concerns. “We don’t have a lot of information. We’re examining it and trying to be as deliberate and as forthcoming and forthright with our residents as we can be. That’s why input from our residents will be helpful [so we can present the consensus of our community when we do meet with those powers that be.]”
The mayor encourages all village residents to “provide insight or feelings as they relate to the casino” by submitting handwritten letters directly to Village Hall or via e-mail from the village website: www.fpvillage.org.