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Suffolk OTB may build casino in Islandia Marriot Hotel, not Medford

Loretta Nastasi of Medford holds a

Loretta Nastasi of Medford holds a "No Medford CasiNO!" sign during an anti-casino rally in Medford Saturday Sept. 26, 2015. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

Brookhaven Town officials and Medford civic leaders on Thursday expressed relief that Suffolk Off-Track Betting may be diverting its plans for a 1,000 video slot machine casino to an Islandia hotel.

Suffolk OTB officials, fighting an uphill battle in Medford, are considering the move at the prodding of Delaware North, which is managing and financing the project. Delaware North is in talks to buy the 278-room Marriott Hotel on the north service road of the Long Island Expressway between exits 57 and 58, sources have said.

“That’s good news for us. The town board has been opposed to the casino. If they are considering it, that’s great,” Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said Thursday in a phone interview.

Islandia Mayor Allan Dorman said he hasn’t received official word from Suffolk County OTB. “I don’t have anything in front of me that tells me that anything is happening,” Dorman said. “There’s no sense in commenting on hypotheticals.”

The Islandia site sits about a half mile south of Veterans Way — a cul-de-sac off Motor Parkway with six homes where Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans live with their families. The site was subject to a criminal investigation by the Suffolk County district attorney’s office in 2014 when officials discovered contaminated debris had been dumped there during construction the year before. Two men arrested in connection with the dumping at that site are awaiting trial set to begin next month.

Talk of the casino possibly going close to the homes is not a concern, said Peter Creedon, an attorney representing five of the Veterans Way homeowners.

“If that happens, and I’ll believe it when I see it, it won’t affect them at all,” Creedon said.

More than a year ago, Suffolk OTB had plans to build the casino at the Medford site, on the south side of the Long Island Expressway at exit 64. OTB purchased the 31-acre site for $10.95 million in November 2014.

Since then, the project has faced heavy opposition from Brookhaven Town and the Medford Taxpayer’s and Civic Association, which filed a suit in State Supreme Court to block the project. The suit was dismissed this month.

“We as a civic [group] still stand by the fact that casino gambling is inappropriate,” said Brett Houdek, president of the civic association.

Suffolk OTB, a nonprofit whose board is appointed by the Suffolk Legislature, is banking on the lottery terminals to bring it out of bankruptcy. Reached by phone Thursday, Suffolk OTB president Phil Nolan said he couldn’t comment.

Brookhaven officials, who first heard Suffolk OTB was eyeing Islandia two months ago, said it could have taken Suffolk OTB up to two years to resolve issues the town planning department raised with OTB’s site plan.

For example, Brookhaven preferred for the facility to hook up to a nearby sewage treatment plant rather than use cesspools to treat water. Various approvals for landscaping, parking lots and a 100-foot sign were also needed.

Brookhaven Town Councilman Neil Foley, who represents Medford, said, “I didn’t think the Medford location was good from the start. The residents didn’t want it there. I hope it goes at the Marriott. After a year of hearing from us, they finally realized we weren’t supporting it.”

Nerina Sperl, secretary of the Medford Taxpayer’s and Civic Association, said, “I’m thrilled. But I sympathize with the next community that has to deal with this.”

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