Public safety is one area where Floral Park has exerted its rights as a community. The quality of life we enjoy is a function of the sense of security we feel. This week’s principle from our 2007 Statement of Principles addresses safety and security. Safety and security may be the area of greatest concern, an area where the most negative impacts may be realized by the development of an Indian casino at Belmont Park.
Safety and Security Is a Necessity Not a Luxury
VI. The safety and security for the facilities and their neighboring communities must be maintained and increased. Safety includes the safe inflow of traffic to and from the facilities whether the sites are hosting an event or conducting ongoing operations. Security should include use of state-of-the-art technology, including requiring proper identification of all persons permitted in the non-public areas at the facilities. In addition, as these facilities have already been designated as staging areas should an emergency or natural disaster take place, there must be state-of-art readiness and facilities in place.
Floral Park is proud to be one of the few full service villages in Nassau County that maintains its own full-time police force. This commitment to public safety is a cornerstone of our community remaining a great place to live and raise a family. The potential introduction of a 24/7/365 full scale casino at Belmont Park will no doubt have a significant impact on our public safety resources. I have asked our Police Commissioner Stephen McAllister and his staff to consider the impact the Shinnecock casino at Belmont Park could have on Floral Park. The preliminary analysis is quite disturbing. In particular, according to a study authored by Grinols and Mustard, while the crime rates near casinos may initially remain comparable to historical crime patterns, after about three or four years, after the initial novelty of the excitement created by any new casino facility subsides, there appears to be a steady increase in crime, and the types of crime committed are quite different than what was taking place before the presence of a casino. The data suggests that casinos create crime and not merely move crime from one area to another. Now bear in mind that the areas where many casinos have been built were either in dire shape or desolate even before the casinos were introduced, so what a casino at Belmont Park could bring to our community in the way of criminal activity may not be predicted based upon the experiences of places like Atlantic City, Detroit or even rural Connecticut. One thing is for sure, however, introducing tens of thousands of additional visitors to any area will result in increased traffic, accidents and crime.
We also have the benefit of reviewing the comprehensive report prepared by the community leaders of Palmer, Massachusetts, a community of 12,500 that has been considering the introduction of an Indian casino into their community. They studied various issues, including public safety, and concluded that their police department needed to be dramatically expanded and additional public safety facilities needed to be built in order to accommodate an Indian casino in their area. While the Shinnecocks would surely have security to protect their own property and visitors while at Belmont Park itself; will or can the Shinnecocks also protect their neighbors and their homes once their visitors leave the secure confines of Belmont Park? Given that the Shinnecocks casino will be open and may be serving alcohol all hours day and night, will our roads see an influx of after hour patrons from all over the metropolitan area? Will those same all night revelers also be leaving Belmont Park about the same time our school children will be going to school in the morning? Having a DUI check point near Floral Park Memorial High School is not something our local police department should have to consider, but if so, our local taxpayers should not have to foot the bill to protect the community from unlawful activity emanating from Belmont Park! Will Floral Parkers be left with no choice but to depend on the benevolent protection of the Shinnecocks, the State of New York or Nassau County rather than the current peace of mind we enjoy with our own police department? Is that fair?
The studies suggest that casinos have a significant impact on the local community and bring “more work for police, courts and more filled jail cells.”(Miller and Schwartz 1998). As one community leader in Palmer has suggested “there needs to be some mechanism to ensure the host community does not end up as becoming a net loser in the process” and to “have a host agreement in place that will cover ALL the expense…so that no burden is placed on the citizens to cover any expenses associated with a casino.” (See Palmer Citizen’s Casino Impact Study Committee Report dated April 13, 2009).
We assume the Shinnecocks will install state-of-the-art security at Belmont Park. Floral Park must be assured that we will maintain and perhaps even enhance the safety and security of our community in a similar manner as a result of a casino at Belmont Park. We don’t want to find, like the citizens in New Orleans after Katrina did, that what was thought to be the community’s dream facility, their Superdome, turns out to be a nightmare of shallow promises and unfulfilled expectations.