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Medford residents ratchet up opposition to casino proposal

MaryAnn Johnston, of the Affiliated Brookhaven Civic Organization,

MaryAnn Johnston, of the Affiliated Brookhaven Civic Organization, speaks against a proposed Medford casino during the public portion of a meeting of the Suffolk County Legislature in Hauppauge, NY, Feb. 3, 2015. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

Medford residents, led by local civic groups, are ratcheting up their opposition to a proposed $65 million video lottery parlor in the community, contending it would threaten their quality of life.

The Medford Taxpayers and Civic Association is hosting a community meeting on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Medford firehouse, 171 Oregon Ave., to voice its concerns and invite other input.

MaryAnn Johnston, president of Affiliated Brookhaven Civic Organizations -- an umbrella group that includes the Medford civic association -- said calls have been placed to more than 3,000 homes, and she's optimistic about a large turnout.

"I don't want them [video lottery terminals] in Suffolk County at all," she said.

Suffolk Off-Track Betting has acquired the former Brookhaven Multiplex movie theater site near Exit 64 of the Long Island Expressway for $10.95 million. It plans to offer about 1,000 video lottery machines and 1,400 parking spaces, starting next February.

Suffolk officials think the parlor would be a boon for OTB and help close a $20 million county budget deficit. Supporters say it would bring 500 construction jobs and create up to 400 other jobs.

But civic group members want to force Suffolk OTB to withdraw its plans, just as Nassau OTB officials, under pressure from local, county and state officials, recently abandoned plans to locate a video lottery terminal at the former Fortunoff's site in Westbury.

Suffolk Legislature Majority Leader Rob Calarco, along with county lawmakers who represent parts of Brookhaven -- Democrats Sarah Anker, Kara Hahn, Kate Browning, William Lindsay and Al Krupski -- have asked the state gaming commission to disallow the casino.

The Patchogue-Medford school district is set to vote on a resolution on Monday opposing the facility.

Brookhaven Town leaders recently adopted a nonbinding resolution opposing the casino, which critics say should help halt construction.

But Tony Pancella, vice president of Suffolk OTB, says OTB is exempt from the law. And Brookhaven Town officials have acknowledged state law exempts video lottery terminals and OTB facilities from town zoning laws.

Pancella said agency officials have met with Medford civic and other local leaders and do not plan to attend Wednesday's meeting.

He said the site is a blight that "has been abandoned for 15 years" and that the grounds would be safe and well lit.

But Nerina Sperl, treasurer of the Medford Taxpayers and Civic Association, said the site would be better used for an office complex. She is concerned about increased traffic and lack of a sewer system.

Johnston said Brookhaven's resolution opposing the parlor was "just talk" and warned that residents will remember the handling of the issue in November.

"This isn't how you raise money," Johnston said. "Any politician who doesn't stand with us will be gone. People in Medford are tired of being dumped on."

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