Monday, August 13, 2012

Gambling on Willets Point

The NY Daily News is reporting that one of the sites that Speaker Silver is considering for a casino is at Willets Point:

"Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver hasn’t played his hand on where he’d like to see a casino in the city, but he is open to Coney Island or Willets Point, the Daily News has learned. While talks won’t heat up for several months, Silver favors a location that is either already a “destination resort area” in the city, or could become one, a source close to the speaker said. Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens is also a place he would consider, the source said."

How very nice of the Speaker to consider the possibility that Willets Point could become a, "destination resort area." After all of the not so nice things that have been said about the Iron Triangle this salutation is a breathe of fresh air. Just kidding. What the Speaker's looking to do here is to locate a casino-with all of its attendant traffic and law enforcement problems-as far away from his East Side neighborhood as possible:

"Some insiders want a casino to be part of a redevelopment of the Jacob Javits Convention Center on the West Side. But Silver remains adamant about keeping gambling dens out of Manhattan and other densely populated parts of the city, the source said."

That makes sense-and we're sure that the folks over at the East Elmhurst Civic, College Point Tax Payers, and John Bowne Civic-just to name a few local groups in and around Willets Point-will be thrilled to be inundated by all of the glitter. And could the mayor be behind the Willets Point location?

"And some have floated the idea of a casino as part of the planned megadevelopment of the gritty Willets Point site near Citi Field. Silver hasn’t axed that concept, either. The source close to Silver said the Bloomberg administration is privately backing Willets Point as a suitable spot, although a spokesman for the mayor denied that was the case."

So we go from the next great green neighborhood to a casino-how appropriate since not a single promise that this administration has made to the city council-or to the NYS Supreme Court for that matter-has been kept. And we would be curious to see how all of the planned housing-for 2025!-will mesh with the busloads from Gamblers Anonymous.

All of this is, of course, pure speculation at this point since there is a long legislative process that must enfold-and there's no guarantee that NYC will even be designated for one of the seven casinos that have been authorized:

"The Legislature took the first step this year toward passing a constitutional amendment to legalize casino gambling and authorize up to seven casinos in the state. New York City is in line for one, but Gov. Cuomo and lawmakers are not expected to press for a deal on casino locations before next year. Silver, the source said, expects that “one or two other sites (in the city) could pop up as we move forward.”

Before final decisions are made, Silver — who last week received a prestigious Excellence in State Leadership Award from the National Conference of State Legislatures — will hold talks with his Democratic conference, particularly members whose districts could host potential locations. There is no guarantee, the source added, that Silver’s conference will back the idea of a casino in the city, regardless of where it’s located

Silver should think more than twice about the suitability for using our property for a glitzy gambling den-and we're not impressed with his so-called award for legislative excellence. The News failed to point out that the honor is named after William M. Bulger-the gangster Whitey Bulger's brother and the corrupt Massachusetts speaker. As the NY Post reports:

"Then Congress started investigating the Bulgers’ sinister control of the Boston FBI office. The House Committee on Government Reform subpoenaed Billy to testify in 2002. Asked if he knew where his brother was hiding out, he took the Fifth. Gov.-elect Mitt Romney ordered Billy to testify if he wanted to keep his $359,000-a-year state job. A few months later (after being immunized), Billy reappeared before the committee. The first question was: Did you know what Whitey was doing for a living all those years?

“I had the feeling that he was, uh, in the business of gaming and, and, uh,” he stammered

Isn't this perfect synergy? Given all of the crimes and misdemeanors that have gone into the approval process for Willets Point maybe we need to re-think the suitability of the site-and we can name the new facility the Shelly Silver/Whitey Bulger Casino and Detention Center. This way all of the history of this project could be fairly encompassed in the naming.