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Islandia OTB casino opponents barred from village meeting

Islandia Mayor Allan M. Dorman presides over

Islandia Mayor Allan M. Dorman presides over a board meeting amid controversy over a Suffolk OTB casino proposed for the Islandia Marriott Hotel on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016. Deputy Mayor Diane Olk, left, was demoted by Dorman at the meeting. Photo Credit: Heather Walsh

More than 100 people — most of them opponents of a controversial plan to build a Suffolk OTB casino in an Islandia hotel — cheered, chanted and booed outside Village Hall on Tuesday night after they were barred from entering a village board meeting due to lack of space inside.

The board did not vote on the casino, which was not on the agenda, but more than a dozen speakers debated the plan during a raucous meeting at which Deputy Mayor Diane Olk was demoted by Mayor Allan M. Dorman a week after she criticized his handling of the controversy.

Dorman stopped the meeting after almost two hours as tensions rose inside the small meeting room. One person was removed by village security officers when he tried to confront village officials.

As the meeting ended, Olk grabbed a hammer that serves as Dorman’s gavel, saying she did not feel safe with Dorman wielding it.

During the meeting, Dorman referred to nonresidents who opposed the casino as “clowns.”

The meeting was held four weeks after a contentious public hearing at which most speakers opposed the casino, citing concerns about crime, traffic and lower property values. Dorman canceled a July 12 vote on the plan.

Delaware North, the Buffalo company developing the casino for Suffolk County Regional Off-Track Betting Corp., has asked the village for a special permit for 1,000 video lottery terminals at the Islandia Marriott Long Island hotel.

The meeting room, which has a legal seating capacity of 54, quickly filled more than a half-hour before the 7:30 p.m. meeting. That left more than 100 people standing outside listening to the meeting over loudspeakers.

Some people unable to enter the meeting said they were kept out because they opposed the casino.

Many casino opponents said they felt ignored by village officials.

“I think the residents of the village are not even being considered,” Fran Pekor said outside the meeting room during the meeting.

“I didn’t come to the village of Islandia for the money,” Steven Buckley said. “This is a community, not a business enterprise.”

Village resident Rosemary Speciale, who supports the casino, said some opponents are misinformed.

“This is not going to lead us down the road to perdition,” she said.

During the meeting, Dorman said most casino opponents appeared to be nonvillage residents. He said only village residents would be allowed to speak on the issue.

Referring to nonresidents, he said: “The outside attention doesn’t care about us.”

“After the smoke clears and all the clowns have gone home, we’re still going to be here,” Dorman said.

He removed Olk as deputy mayor and named Trustee Michael Zaleski to replace her. Olk remains a trustee.

“In order to have a deputy mayor sitting next to me, I have to trust this person,” Dorman said. “I don’t have that trust in our deputy mayor.”

Olk said after the meeting her demotion was “typical” of Dorman.

“If you don’t agree with him, that’s what he does,” she said.

She said Dorman allowed 30 to 40 casino supporters to enter the meeting hall long before the meeting began. Dorman did not address that during the meeting.

“I don’t understand it,” Olk said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Meanwhile, the Suffolk County Planning Commission voted 8-1 on Wednesday to refer the casino issue back to Islandia. Commission members said they could not block the casino, but they said Islandia officials should further study traffic and public safety issues before voting on the casino.

Commissioner Carl Gabrielsen, who cast the lone no vote, said the betting parlor may attract crime.

“I’ve always said that gambling facilities are a disgusting parasite that sucks the life out of our communities,” he said.

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