A newly formed group of East End residents hopes to leverage community opposition to a casino proposed for the Shinnecock Indian Nation reservation and work with the tribe and state to locate another viable site.
Those in the Hamptons Neighborhood Group, which says it has about 200 members, met virtually for the first time last Tuesday, to discuss the 76,000-square-foot gaming facility.
The group is chiefly concerned with already snarled traffic during rush hour on the two-lane section of Montauk Highway just west of Southampton Village. Member James Wacht, who lives a half-mile away from the proposed site, stressed that the group does not want to be an adversary for the tribe.
"We’re not here to fight the Shinnecock Nation," he said during the virtual meeting. "That’s not our objective."
The group is collecting signatures on a petition posted on its website, which it hopes to circulate among elected officials.
While it’s just an early suggestion, Wacht said county land at Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton, which is nearer Sunrise Highway and away from a residential neighborhood, could be an alternative.
The Shinnecock Indian Nation, which became a federally recognized tribe in 2010, has tried for several years to open a gaming facility. The tribe’s federal status allows it to open a class II facility — the classification of Jake's 58 in Islandia — on its own land.
Bryan Polite, chairman of the Shinnecock Nation council of trustees, met with the group last week and said he welcomes support in working with the state.
"If people want to encourage New York State to give us a more suitable location, we’re all in favor of support, but it’s not going to deter us at the moment," he said. The tribe’s plan includes 1,000 video-lottery terminals, 30 Texas Hold 'em table games and a bingo parlor.
"We’ve waited long enough" for state cooperation, Polite added.
The Shinnecock Nation expects to break ground on the reservation casino this summer, and complete construction in about two years.
The tribe has said revenues could fund a new tribal police force and court system, social welfare programs and help balance the tribe’s government.
Assemb. Fred W. Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) and State Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) on Friday introduced a bill that would require the governor’s office to negotiate in good faith with the Shinnecocks to permit a class III facility at least 50 miles from the Southampton reservation.
New York plans to award three down-state licenses for class III gaming, which allows for card games like craps and blackjack, in the next several years. The tribe working with the Seminole Indian Nation of Florida has said it would separately be interested in pursuing one of those licenses.
Representatives from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said residents have expressed concerns over the effect on property values.
"There are other things that they could do, and I think would be extremely profitable and not have adverse impacts on the community," Schneiderman said. "But I can’t tell them what to do on their land."
With Mark Harrington
Representatives for the Shinnecock Indian Nation said the casino would provide economic development for the tribe
The proposed 76,000-square-foot class II facility would include 1,000 video-lottery terminals, 30 Texas Hold 'em table games and a bingo parlor
The tribe has also said it would be interested in pursuing a class III license, which allows for card games like craps and blackjack.