After weeks of protest by Westbury, Carle Place and residents from neighboring communities, plans to develop a casino at the former Fortunoff property were called off by Nassau OTB management. It seems the rallying cries of thousands of residents were heard by either the politicians who appoint the Nassau OTB or the board members themselves when they announced Saturday, Jan. 30, that they would no longer pursue the Fortunoff property as a site for a casino.
With the sights off the Westbury location, some continue to speculate that Belmont Park might still be considered for a casino.
On Tuesday, Feb. 3, Legislator Carrie Solages (D-Elmont) held a press conference on Hempstead Turnpike, near the entrance to Belmont Park, joined by several local leaders and community activists to send a united message to Nassau OTB board members, “There’s a NO in CasiNO in Elmont too.”
Although hundreds of anti-casino activists seemingly helped end the plan by Nassau OTB to bring the casino to Westbury Solages believes that his constituents would not have a fair and transparent process, if the focus were redirected to Belmont Park again.
To echo the legislator’s concerns, the Village of Floral Park released its statement on Wednesday, Feb. 4, reiterating its near-unanimous disapproval for Belmont Park to be reconsidered for a casino. Floral Park Mayor Thomas Tweedy said his village and its administration has opposed two major gaming proposals for development at Belmont Park in the past eight years, once in 2007 and again in 2001 (see page 3).
Local resident Patrick Nicolosi shared with Anton Media Group, his ongoing support for a casino at Belmont Park, since the 2011 Shinnecock development proposal.
“The only logical place for a casino in Nassau County is Belmont Race track; no one can argue against gambling at a race track,” said Nicolosi. “Belmont race track use to be a place where 20 to 30 thousand people would come to place bets on race horses.”
He added, “Today the largest race track in North America is empty; it’s time to bring back the people the money, revitalize the community and business.” Nicolosi believes that there would be less crime in the area if there were more people using Belmont Park.
While Legislator Solages does not want a casino at Belmont Park in Elmont, he additionally wants there to be a process that is created to give any and every community a voice if Nassau OTB proposes the plan in any community.
“It’s clear they [OTB] are casino-shopping and Elmont is the next stop,” said Solages. “My concerns are similar to those of the people of Westbury and Carle Place and frankly I think any community would have reservations before willingly taking on this kind of burden. That is exactly why we first need a minimum commitment by the Nassau OTB Board, appointed by Norma Gonsalves and the Republican Legislative Majority, to hold a public hearing giving the local community a chance to express their concerns.”
In addition to his call for a public hearing, Solages also called upon the Nassau OTB Board not to repeat the same mistakes they made with the Westbury Casino proposal.
“It’s about transparency and being honest about the process with the community,” said Solages. “They are the ones who live here; they are the ones who will have to deal with the day-to-day burdens a casino would bring and they deserve an honest dialogue.”
A proposal for Belmont Park has not been made according to the Town of Hempstead. “It is premature and speculative at this point to comment on a proposal that has not been made yet,” said Michael Deery, spokesperson for the Town of Hempstead. Additionally, OTB representatives had no comment when asked about a proposal for Belmont Park.