A rendering of the proposed Sands casino resort at the...

A rendering of the proposed Sands casino resort at the Nassau Hub, and insets, Hofstra President Susan Poser, left, and Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman. Credit: Las Vegas Sands Corp., Steve Pfost, Howard Schnapp

Daily Point

Sideshows take center stage in Sands-Hofstra battle

The battle between Las Vegas Sands and Hofstra University has reached a boiling point — before any bid has even been officially filed.

In the latest salvo, Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman on Thursday presented what he said was additional evidence of connectivity between Hofstra University and one of Sands’ competitors for a downstate casino licensing bid.

Blakeman said the evidence — a series of text messages between Hofstra President Susan Poser and Melville consultant Robert McBride — was turned over after the county subpoenaed Hofstra demanding any communication with other interested casino bidders, especially New York Mets owner Steve Cohen and his partner, Hard Rock International, which are proposing a gaming complex on the Citi Field parking lot.

The texts show McBride, who had worked for Hofstra in its opposition to Sands last year, sending Poser a link to a New York Post article from last April that featured a look at the heavy hitters involved in Cohen’s bid, with one source calling it “the best team that money can buy.”

“You made my day,” Poser wrote. “How can we help him and vice versa?”

McBride responded: “I have made inquiries, players in space are very cautious, they do not want to possibly be accused of unfair business play and or practice’s!”

In a later series of texts, dated May 13, Poser sent McBride a New York Post article about former Hofstra President Stuart Rabinowitz, who opposed any casino at the Hub while he was at the university, and now sits on the state’s Gaming Facility Location Board.

“Thank you,” McBride responded. “Hope Newsday tops this story with a twist!”

The article suggested that Rabinowitz, because of his history and connections to Hofstra, might be an “ace in the hole” for Hofstra’s effort to stop Sands. The article also suggested that because of that past connection Rabinowitz could favor Cohen’s bid, and it noted that opponents of the Citi Field location were demanding that Rabinowitz step down from the board because they saw it as a conflict of interest.

But what the article did not note is that Rabinowitz and Poser have had their differences since Poser joined Hofstra, and some observers think Rabinowitz might not side with Poser on the casino issue.

“Someone needs to tell Steve Cohen that it is actually in his interest to agree with them,” Poser texted in response to the concerns raised in the article. “He can appear gallant and help himself at the same time.”

“Done!!!!” wrote McBride.

The release of the texts comes after Hofstra had told The Point earlier this year that Hofstra had 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 …”

“The leadership at the university is being duplicitous and disingenuous,” Blakeman said at a news conference Thursday.

Nassau County Legislature Presiding Officer Howard Kopel said Thursday he planned to issue additional subpoenas in light of the latest texts. And the county legislature still plans to have Poser testify in the coming weeks.

On Thursday, McBride Consulting said in a statement that any suggestion it had engaged in “any improper conduct” was “absolutely untrue.” A Hofstra spokeswoman said in a statement that the text messages “reflect informal reactions to press articles with Hofstra University’s consultant and confirm the lack of merit to the Legislature’s ‘investigation.’”

“Hofstra University continues to believe that the public has the right to participate in decision-making about redevelopment plans for the Nassau Hub,” the statement said. “If Nassau County wished to embrace those principles, Nassau County would simply restart the process before the Planning Commission and the Legislature, as ordered by the court.”

The county’s offensive against Hofstra came as labor representatives rallied at Nassau Coliseum Thursday, concerned that the Coliseum would have to stop operations after Hofstra’s successful lawsuit to void the lease on the Coliseum property between Nassau County and Sands. A second ruling last week by a Nassau State Supreme Court judge found that an earlier Sands lease to operate the venue pending the casino approval also could not be used as the justification to start the environmental review process for the casino.

Labor leaders said that could mean Sands might not be able to continue to operate the Coliseum, which could force the arena to close, leading to the loss of about 450 current full-time-equivalent jobs.

“Because Susan Poser has engaged in a scorched-earth approach with total disregard for those people … the current lease has been called into question and those folks don’t know if they’re going to get to continue to go to work,” said Ryan Stanton, who heads the Long Island Federation of Labor, which supports the Sands casino effort.

Meanwhile, another competitor for the three downstate licenses, Resorts World New York City, unveiled on Thursday its $5 billion plan for a full casino and 7,000-seat entertainment venue at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens on Thursday.

Whether or not Aqueduct — located in the same borough as Cohen’s Citi Field proposal, and not too far from the Nassau Hub — could benefit from the Sands-Cohen-Hofstra sideshow remains to be seen.

— Randi F. Marshall randi.marshall@newsday.com

Pencil Point

Stepping down

Credit: PoliticalCartoons.com/Dave Whamond

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/nationalcartoons

Reference Point

Alaska's wait to become a state

The Newsday editorial from Feb. 29, 1952.

The Newsday editorial from Feb. 29, 1952.

The title of the editorial — “Senate’s Folly” — conjured a cluster of possible topics. The clue was in the second word.

It echoed an iconic event in American history known as Seward’s Folly, the 1867 purchase of Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million. The deal was engineered by then-Secretary of State William Seward and lambasted by critics who said he vastly overpaid for what they saw as useless, ice-covered land.

The folly contemplated by Newsday’s editorial board on Feb. 29, 1952, was the U.S. Senate’s refusal to move forward on statehood for Alaska.

“Four years ago, the Democratic Party platform promised immediate statehood for Alaska; the Republicans promised ‘eventual’ statehood for the territory. Now it appears both promises were empty, as far as the Senate is concerned,” the board wrote.

The proximate cause of the board’s angst was a 45-44 vote in the Senate to shelve Alaska’s statehood quest, which had begun in the 1920s. The board called the vote “a sorry example of the Senate’s attitude toward representative government.”

Newsday’s board noted that statehood for Hawaii also was pending and tied to Alaska’s fate, concluding: “’The most exclusive club in the world’ evidently intends to stay as exclusive as possible — too exclusive, in fact. Defeat of the bill in the Senate opens that segment of the Great Body to new criticism of its uneven representation of the population, its unfair distribution of power and privilege. It also justified, in this vital election year, new cynicism as to the worth of platform promises.”

The board noted that statehood for Alaska would stimulate economic and population growth and that the territory was vital to America’s defense given its proximity to Siberia in Russia.

It took six more years before Congress finally passed and President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation that was later approved by Alaska voters to make Alaska the 49th state, which officially occurred on Jan. 3, 1959. Seven months later, Hawaii became the 50th state.

While Newsday’s board was prescient on the implications of statehood for both Alaska and the nation, it was ultimately wrong on the politics. The board agreed with the popular assumption that Alaska would send two Democratic senators to Washington and Hawaii would send two Republicans, but the reverse is true today.

On the other hand, uneven representation, unfair distribution of power and privilege, and cynicism about platform promises are still very much alive as issues, more than seven decades later.

— Michael Dobie michael.dobie@newsday.com, Amanda Fiscina-Wells amanda.fiscina-wells@newsday.com

CORRECTION: Cara Castronuova, who is seeking to run in this year's GOP primary for U.S. Senate, registered as a Republican in 2021. Before that, she had no party affiliation. Castronuova, who has previously described herself in interviews as a lifelong Democrat, told The Point that she was never a registered Democrat and that after Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, she started to vote for GOP candidates.

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