Las Vegas Sands is getting ready for an environmental review...

Las Vegas Sands is getting ready for an environmental review process at the Nassau Hub site in Uniondale Credit: Neil Miller

Daily Point

Hard Rock's email about Sands' environmental review 

As Las Vegas Sands gears up for an environmental review process at the Nassau Hub, one of its competitors in the casino licensing bid process seems to be connecting with its most vocal opponent: Hofstra University.

The Point obtained an email sent last week from veteran lobbyist and consultant Michael McKeon, who is listed in public records as a registered lobbyist for Seminole Hard Rock Entertainment Inc. Hard Rock is partnering with New York Mets owner Steve Cohen on a casino proposal for what’s now the Citi Field parking lot.

The email was sent on Jan. 5 to Michael Sullivan, the chief of staff at Cohen’s asset management firm, Point 72, and Sean Caffery, senior vice president of business and casino development at Hard Rock. In it, McKeon forwarded a Jan. 3 Point item that made public the notion that Sands intended to use its previous lease for the Nassau Hub to move forward with the environmental review process in the Town of Hempstead.

“I may not have forward [sic] this too [sic] you on Wednesday but it speaks to Sands’ efforts to control the site,” the email from McKeon said. “I am checking with Hofstra to see if they will oppose the move.”

This comes amid the high-stakes bidding process for three downstate casinos, and the belief that Queens and Nassau are in competition for at least one of those licenses.

It is unclear whether McKeon ever did connect with Hofstra — or with whom specifically he planned to connect. Also unclear: what his goal was in “checking with Hofstra” and whether McKeon had previously been in touch with Hofstra representatives regarding Sands and its bid.

Hofstra University President Susan Poser told the editorial board on Wednesday that she has not had any contact with any representatives of any other bidders in the downstate casino license process.

McKeon has familiar, long-standing ties to those associated with Hofstra, including board of trustees member Peter Kalikow. Kalikow served as Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman under former Gov. George Pataki, for whom McKeon served as communications director. But through a spokesman, Kalikow said he has not spoken with McKeon. Kalikow also confirmed through the spokesman that he has no business interest or investment in any competing casino proposals.

A Hofstra University spokeswoman was even more firm in separating the university from Sands’ casino competitors.

“We have not communicated with, nor do we have any knowledge of anyone at Hofstra having any communication with, any of the proposed New York casino developers or their agents, aside from Las Vegas Sands, with whom President Poser had one meeting over a year ago,” the spokeswoman said in a statement.

McKeon declined to comment.

All of this comes before the applications for the three available downstate casino licenses have even been submitted. But as Hofstra’s lawsuit remains under appeal by Nassau County, and as Cohen faces his own challenges in being able to use the parking lot space, which is now considered parkland, and in moving his own proposal forward, what perhaps comes to mind is an old proverb:

The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

— Randi F. Marshall

Pencil Point

Boeing, Boeing, gone

Credit: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Mike Luckovich

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Reference Point

Cold War truths and inventions

The Newsday editorial from Jan. 11, 1949.

The Newsday editorial from Jan. 11, 1949.

Consider the time. It was 1949, the Cold War was hot, and everything about Russia was suspect in the United States.

It was against that backdrop that Newsday’s editorial board took on what it saw as a case of revisionist history being promulgated by the Soviet Union, a collection of Eastern European countries formally known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

“Russian scientific progress must not be going so good,” the board wrote. “The USSR has been inventing inspirational fairy tales of what happened way back in the days of the Czars.”

In a Jan. 11, 1949 piece called “History a la Russe,” the board recounted several examples of what it said was Russia claiming credit inappropriately for inventions or discoveries attributed to Westerners.

“A guy named Lomonosov is said to have discovered electricity before Ben Franklin flew his kite in 1752,” wrote the board, which also cast aspersions on Russian claims that one of its scientists had “used” penicillin long before Alexander Fleming’s 1929 discovery, that another had invented radio “by the narrow margin of one year” before Guglielmo Marconi’s heralded creation in the 1890s, and that “a bright fellow named Lodygin really invented the incandescent lamp, not Thomas A. Edison.”

On that day 75 years ago, the board’s ire was especially piqued by an apparently new claim that the world’s first flight of a heavier-than-air machine took place in Russia, engineered by “a guy called A. F. Mozhaisky,” 21 years before the Wright brothers’ iconic moment at Kitty Hawk.

“If the pap-fed Russians swallow this stuff, as they probably do, two questions must one day enter their minds,” the board wrote. “If their countrymen were so ingenious under the Czars, what has become of their inventiveness under the Soviets? And why are they so pokey in developing these modern wonders?”

As proof, the board noted the paucity of telephones in Russia, Soviet planes copied from American designs, and tractors appearing in Red Square “plainly marked U.S.A., although futile efforts are made to paint out the letters.”

While Russians at that time indeed were fed a steady diet of government propaganda, the scientific truth in question could not be sketched in such bright lines. Mikhail Lomonosov was actually an accomplished scientist who was studying the notion that lightning was electricity at the same time that Franklin’s famous kite took flight. Similarly, Alexander Popov’s invention of a radio receiving device was contemporaneous with the work of Marconi. And Alexander Lodygin was one of several inventors who created pre-Edison versions of the light bulb; his contraption was invented in 1872 and patented in Russia in 1874, five years before Edison got a U.S. patent for his carbon-filament lamp.

The Newsday board’s assumption that Russian science was wallowing in pokiness and a lack of ingenuity was shattered eight years later when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, the world’s first satellite, beating the U.S. into orbit and kicking off the Space Race. By 1959, the board was writing that “the Russians are years ahead of us.”

Nowadays, when fiction often is presented as truth in this nation and around the world, it’s important to remember the lesson of 1949: Reflexive skepticism can be just as troubling as reflexive acceptance. Then as now, finding the truth can take some digging.

— Michael Dobie, Amanda Fiscina-Wells

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