Coney Island Leaders Oppose Proposed Casino on Historic Boardwalk

The Coney Island consortium vying for one of three New York downstate casino licenses will face stiff competition from the neighborhood. Community board members voted 23-8 to reject the casino proposal.

The plan to build a casino and entertainment complex along Brooklyn’s historic boardwalk is an ambitious one. It emerged from a collaboration between four parties:

  • Developer Thor Equities,
  • Gaming operators The Chickasaw Nation and Saratoga Casino Holdings, and
  • Sports agency Legends, which is co-owned by the Yankees.

However, the surrounding community is less than convinced, which doesn’t bode well for the project’s future.

Board Votes Overwhelmingly Against Coney Island Casino

The online board meeting got off to a bad start. In a scene cut right out of a made-for-TV horror, a man hijacked the video call and proceeded to masturbate on camera. This took place during a discussion of sexually transmitted disease rates taking place just before the casino debate and vote.

The disruption forced administrators to shut the public discussion down temporarily. Nevertheless, Community Board 13 (CB 13) members were able to resume the meeting after a delay. They voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution rejecting the Coney Island casino plan.

Elected borough and council officials appoint the board’s members. And those officials sit on the panel deciding if Coney Island should have a casino.

Reportedly, the board’s chairwoman cautioned against turning Coney Island into a replica of Atlantic City, saying, “We don’t want it.”

Brooklyn councilman Ari Kagan, representing Coney Island, seems to agree. He stated that an “overwhelming majority” of his constituents are against the casino.

Kagan expects the casino will lead to more traffic, crime, and mental health problems.

Other feedback for the casino plan at the April 19 community forum presentation was also largely negative.

Community Reps Recommend Opposing Coney Island Casino

Typically, resolutions question whether a voter is for or against an issue. Most of the time, all that’s needed is an uncomplicated yes or no.

But in this case, the five-page resolution included claims of the casino’s potential negative impact on the community. It also required a yes vote to reject the build. Conversely, a no vote supported the casino.

The resolution faulted the consortium for requesting a Citi Bike docking station, which CB13 opposes based on the potential for increased traffic. It also noted a lack of existing parking in the neighborhood due to a recent boon in residential builds (and more on the way).

Additionally, events like Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest and the Mermaid Parade already attract thousands of visitors yearly.

The committee also argued Coney Island already “suffers from a high crime rate.”

A casino, it said, will fuel an “addiction-driven machine.” The jobs, it said, just aren’t worth the destruction.

From the board’s resolution:

Our community cannot endure the substantial burden and problems that this venue will generate.

We request that our local elected officials collaborate with us to address our existing problems, not drown us with additional problems. Community Board 13 is listening to our community and recommends opposing a casino development in our district and urges our elected officials to inform the Gaming Commission the decision of the community they represent.

Casino Interests Tout Local Benefits of Boardwalk Casino

On the other side of the Coney Island equation, a consortium consultant collected more than 3300 signatures of support.

Robert Cornegy, consultant and former Brooklyn councilman, described the resolution as stacked against the casino plan. “I haven’t seen a resolution worded that way before,” Cornegy said.

In March, the consortium released artist renderings of a glitzy boardwalk resort casino tucked between the Cyclone and Wonder Wheel.

A statement released by the consortium states:

A gaming and entertainment venue on Coney Island is going to bring year-round jobs, create economic opportunities, improve public safety, help small businesses, and revitalize an iconic community looking to build a brighter future.

New Yorkers know a good deal when they see one, that’s why after going door to door and business to business, we’ve received more than 3,300 signatures from the community in support of the gaming and entertainment venue and why we will continue going everywhere and talking to everyone about why Coney Island just makes sense.

The group added that any judgment before the casino project’s community benefits plan is in place is premature.

It leaves the community struggling with the same issues around unemployment, infrastructure and public safety it currently bemoans.

About the Author

Robyn McNeil

Robyn McNeil

Robyn McNeil (she/they) is a Nova Scotia-based writer and editor, and a lead writer at Bonus. Here she focuses on news relevant to online casinos, while specializing in responsible gambling coverage, legislative developments, gambling regulations, and industry-related legal fights.
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