A file photo of a blackjack dealer dealing on the...

A file photo of a blackjack dealer dealing on the Escapade, a luxury gambling vessel operated by Opus Casino Cruise LInes in Freeport. (July 25, 2010) Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

With tentative plans for two tribal casinos in heightened negotiations in Nassau and Suffolk, organized opposition is forming in lockstep.

Officials of both counties are said to have accelerated talks with the Shinnecock Indian Nation in recent weeks. The tribe has said it seeks to work with communities and will not go where it is not wanted.

Beverly Jensen, a tribal spokeswoman, said Wednesday that discussions of sites is premature. "We don't have a site in Nassau, Suffolk or anywhere," she said. "Until we say we have one, we don't have one."

Wednesday, Newsday reported that Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy is in talks with the Shinnecocks for the fast-track sale of land once slated to be his Legacy Village development in Yaphank. Reaction from residents was swift.

"I really think Levy is nuts," said Johan McConnell, president of the South Yaphank Civic Association. "Just as we had a major concern with Legacy Village, the traffic that would be generated by a casino is a major concern."

She said her group, working with another, is prepared to protest at the tribe's Southampton reservation, if necessary.

"They can put their casino on their own property," she said.

Levy countered criticism Wednesday: "With any project there will always be a small element that opposes development no matter what. But if it is a good idea, it is incumbent upon leaders to lead."

In Nassau, where the Shinnecocks are negotiating with County Executive Edward Mangano to buy 40 acres near the Coliseum, a coalition is forming to intercede on behalf of civic groups, churches and schools, including Hofstra University.

Richard Bivone, Nassau chairman of the Long Island Business Council, said Monday the coalition will meet next week. Bivone, who lives blocks away from the proposed site, called a casino there "a non-starter."

"There's no way anyone can tell us a casino in that location will benefit the quality of life," he said.

Hofstra last week issued a statement that it "remains adamantly opposed to the development of a casino at the Coliseum, within a mile of approximately 50,000 students and which will chill long-term economic development in Nassau."

The news that Levy is in discussions for a casino surprised Brookhaven Supervisor Mark Lesko, who has been negotiating with the tribe to sell Brookhaven Airport for a casino site.

Brian Beedenbender, Lesko's chief of staff, said those talks have been dormant for weeks. "We've presented all information we can, and the ball is really in the tribe's court," he said.

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