Grassroots group appeals to BOT for village support
Floral Park residents can bet their bottom dollar that Mayor Thomas J. Tweedy and the Board of Trustees are not vying for a casino at Belmont Park. In his Mayor’s Message dated Jan. 9, Mayor Tweedy wrote, “I have worked diligently as mayor to avoid having a casino at Belmont Park, and that remains a top priority for this new year of 2012.” He reiterated that proclamation at the Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 17, which came on the heels of a Stop the Belmont Casino community meeting initiated by concerned residents the week before.
“I want to thank all of you for your support and for your efforts,” Mayor Tweedy said before opening up the floor to residents.
“Why do we need another casino built, while others are struggling for financial survival?” asked a Carnation Avenue resident, who suggested that the majority of Nassau County residents who live in the area around the proposed casino are against it. He also expressed concern over the negative social implications a casino in Floral Park’s backyard would bring, namely “exposing the local school children to alcoholism, gambling and prostitution.”
With regard to the proximity of the proposed casino at Belmont to Floral Park-Bellerose School and Floral Park Memorial High School, the Stop the Belmont Casino campaign is proposing its own constitutional amendment to the bill that will be presented in Albany to legalize gambling in New York State, aptly named CAERS, for Children Adolescent and Elderly Resident Safety Amendment. At the core of the amendment is that no casinos shall be built within two miles of a school, explained Edward Groshans, one of three residents who are spearheading the grassroots campaign. Once the amendment is finalized, the group plans to submit it to elected officials, primarily to Democratic Senator Jack Martins, from whom the group hopes to gain support and a voice to represent the best interests of the community, according to Groshans, who is a lifelong Floral Park resident.
“There have been many threats to the lifestyles that thrive here,” said Groshans, but “none has been this potentially devastating nor as reprehensible as the one that Democratic Governor Cuomo is planning for Belmont Park and the entire state of New York.”
Groshans and his group plan to push full-steam ahead. The campaign has picked up so much momentum that the group is seeking a larger meeting space. Groshans requested use of the Floral Park Recreation Center for future meetings, which will also enable handicapped members to more readily attend. He also requested the board’s endorsement of a petition, which was launched last week to garner as much opposition to the proposed casino at Belmont as possible.
While the Board of Trustees is also opposed to the proposed casino, Village Attorney John Ryan said, “The issue of Constitutional Amendment language, the issue of use of the Recreation Center, the issue of the petition for our support raises a lot of legal issues.” Duncan MacDonald, who is spearheading the campaign with Groshans and who spoke at the Board of Trustees meeting, will work with Ryan to resolve those issues.
To be sure, Floral Park will rally, as it did with “the third track…Stop and Shop … the Q79 bus … the New York Jets looking to go into Belmont Park … and [stopping a child care center from opening in the West End of Floral Park and opening it in the “backstretch” of Floral Park, where it was needed,” recounted Tweedy.
“I’ve lived [in Floral Park] for 55 years…and I have no intentions of seeing it changed,” Tweedy said. He vowed to work to see that the value of residents’ homes stay the same or rise.
In the meantime, he urged residents to take immediate action by writing to Governor Cuomo and local elected officials to express their opposition to a casino at Belmont Park and to legalized gambling in New York State.