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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Expect fight over Mangano casino proposal

The roulette wheel spins at Caesars Atlantic City

The roulette wheel spins at Caesars Atlantic City July 8, 2006 in Atlantic City. (July 8, 2006) Credit: Getty Images

Edward Mangano is the third county executive in a row to recognize the need to build on the last large public parcel in Nassau -- and the third to attempt having someone else pay for the privilege.

Too bad Mangano's learned nothing from the failures of former county executives Thomas Gulotta and Thomas Suozzi. Or of developer Charles Wang and the old Long Island Regional Planning Board, both of whom had plans for the site.

The missing ingredient all around was local support. Yes, much of the opposition was from NIMBYs; but more came from an inability to sell residents on the reality that development offered more benefits than drawbacks.

Now comes Mangano with a proposition of a novel sort: a public-private, inter-nation partnership with the Shinnecock Nation to develop a gaming and commercial center.

The Shinnecock Nation has worked long and hard to win federal tribal recognition. And the right to fuel economic development for the tribe.

But Mangano's proposal for a gaming casino near Nassau Coliseum -- which is within walking distance of two college campuses, Hofstra University and Nassau Community College -- will generate a fight unlike any that's come before.

Hofstra's already come out -- hard. And with good reason: A 2007 report by the New York Council on Problem Gambling noted that college-age gamblers were becoming addicted to gambling at alarming rates.

Monday, Mangano's administration provided no details on reported talks with the Shinnecock.

Instead, a spokesman referred a Newsday reporter back to Mangano's State of the County address.

In it, Mangano said, "Over the coming months, I will seek public input . . . and work with community leaders to address any and all concerns."

That's going to be one tall order because a casino is far different from proposals that have come before. Those were criticized mostly for being too big, which, in theory at least, left room for negotiation.

The Town of Hempstead, which has zoning authority, last year decided to support a smaller development plan, effectively killing Wang's proposal. The town's new development zone does not include a gaming casino, but that would become moot should Mangano strike a successful deal with the Shinnecock Nation.

Mangano -- like Gulotta and Suozzi before him -- has the right idea: Nassau desperately needs new revenue from an infusion of commercial development.

But Mangano's execution -- like his handling of red-light cameras -- is off. Mangano pushed red-light cameras for cash rather than safety; he wants a casino in Uniondale, rather than, say Belmont Racetrack, for the same reason. A spokesman for Mangano said Monday night that he has not ruled out Belmont.

The early emphasis on Uniondale is a flawed strategy that could, for the first time ever, put NIMBY's and smart growth advocates on the same side.

There's a better way. And a better site for a gaming casino: Elmont, home of the Belmont racetrack, where residents have said, repeatedly, that they would welcome a gaming casino.

"We're ready, willing and able," said Patrick Nicolosi, co-chair of the community redevelopment group. "We want it, we really, really want it."

A gaming casino at Belmont, which is on state land, would mean less cash for Nassau. But less at Belmont -- or some other more suitable site -- beats the gamble of getting nothing in Uniondale.

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