Long Islanders on Monday called on lawmakers to say “no” to a proposed casino in Nassau County, but a local restaurant owner said the plan will be good for business. NewsdayTV’s Cecilia Dowd reports. Credit: Howard Schnapp; Anthony Florio; Photo Credit: Las Vegas Sands

A community group opposing the $4 billion plan for Las Vegas Sands to build a casino resort at the Nassau Coliseum site doubled down Monday with a 50-person rally outside the county government building in Mineola and pleas to Nassau County legislators to reject the project. 

The group, “Say No to the Casino Civic Association,” includes local residents, Hempstead community advocates, Hofstra University officials, members of the clergy and Garden City Village trustees.

They asserted the project would increase traffic and noise and light pollution, and bring prostitution and illegal drugs to the area. 

"We call on our county executive and the members of the legislature — Republican and Democrat — to go on record today and say 'no' to the casino," said Arthur L. Mackey Jr., senior pastor at the Mount Sinai Baptist Church Cathedral in Roosevelt.

"There are so many better ideas of how to develop Nassau County, leaving a much lighter footprint than a casino would leave," said Steve Rolston a resident of Baldwin, another group member.

 

The community group wants Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman and the Nassau County Legislature to reject the Sands' plan to build an "integrated resort" on the more than 70 acres of county-owned property in Uniondale.

Sands' plan would include outdoor community spaces, four- and five-star hotel rooms and "a world-class live performance venue honoring the long legacy of live music at the Nassau Coliseum," company officials have said.

Jennifer Solomon, a Sands spokeswoman, did not respond directly to a request for comment about the group's assertions that the project would bring crime to the area.

She forwarded a statement saying Sands was, "grateful for the community support we have received" for "our proposal for a world-class resort and entertainment center at the Nassau Hub — and we are proud that the coalition of Long Island supporters continues to grow through our meetings with civic leaders, small business owners, and youth empowerment programs."

The statement continued: "It is our goal to make this proposal a truly collaborative one that all Long Islanders can be proud of, and we are eager to continue the process and share ideas with all interested groups."

Uniondale Chamber of Commerce President Mariano Ugalde said he and the local business community support the project, because of its potential to create "transformative" economic opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses, while not creating new housing units. 

“The project is obviously a large-scale project, and we haven’t seen anything like it,” said Ugalde. “We’re one of the biggest business districts in Nassau County and we still won’t be able to supply them with everything they need.”

 

The Sands casino proposal, one of about a dozen in the downstate region, depends on securing one of the state's three gaming licenses available this year. 

Nassau County legislators would play an important role in the approval process before Sands sends a formal bid to the state. 

Any changes to the Coliseum lease would need approval by the 19-member legislature, where Republicans hold a 12-7 majority.

As of Monday afternoon, no county legislator had taken a public stance on the project. 

Republican Majority spokeswoman Mary Studdert said lawmakers had not yet received a resolution to transfer the Coliseum lease.

"When we do, we will review the details and offer the public opportunities to be heard including a public hearing," Studdert said.

Democratic Minority spokesman William Biamonte said his caucus "has not been presented with the necessary specifics of the Sands proposal and the associated lease agreement to render a decision." 

Executives of Las Vegas-based Sands in January announced their proposal to create a flagship resort on the Uniondale site. 

At the time, executives said they had secured preliminary agreements to take over the lease on the property and operate the 16,000-seat Coliseum. 

The site is one of the last major tracts of public land available in Nassau for development. 

Sands executives haven't explained precisely how the arena, which underwent a $180 million renovation in 2018, would fit into the resort plan.

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