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Las Vegas Sands' proposed $4B casino draws 300 to public meeting - Newsday

By Candice Ferrette

Updated January 18, 2024 8:35 pm

Engineers and planners are expected to survey traffic at more than 100 intersections, the availability of drinking water from public and private wells and the impact on air quality of Las Vegas Sands' proposed $4 billion casino resort on the site of the Nassau Coliseum, witnesses at a Hempstead Town hearing said Thursday. 

Hundreds of supporters and opponents of the project filled the ballroom of the Long Island Marriott in Uniondale for a public meeting Thursday to determine the extent of the project's environmental impact. 

The environmental “scoping sessions” were among the largest public hearings held on the project since Sands, based in Nevada, last year announced it would apply for one of three competitive state gaming licenses for a casino resort on the 72-acre county-owned property in Uniondale.

On Thursday morning, during the first of two town hearings that day, about 60 speakers — both for and against — testified before Town Supervisor Don Clavin and the six other town board members as part of a state-mandated environmental review process known as SEQRA.     

Opponents voiced concerns about air and noise pollution, depletion of the water supply, increased crime and gambling addiction.

Supporters noted the economic ripple effect of a large development and the thousands of temporary and permanent jobs they said it would bring to the area. 

“This formal scoping process is the public's first opportunity to weigh in on this comprehensive overall process,” said Terri Elkowitz, senior principal of VHB, the Hauppauge engineering firm Sands has hired to assemble its draft environmental statement. Hempstead Town also has hired the Melville engineering firm Nelson and Pope to perform an environmental review. 

Elkowitz said Sands has committed to building a water tower to address supply issues “that have been of concern in the town for some time.”

VHB also “will be evaluating ecological resources, land-use, zoning and community character and we have a study area that goes well beyond any study I have ever evaluated in my 35 years of doing this,” Elkowitz said.

Sands is asking the town to create a new zoning district for the casino project that would incorporate the 15-acre site of the Long Island Marriott. The casino resort would include nearly 400,000 square feet of space for Vegas-style gambling, two hotels with 1,670 rooms, a spa, retail, restaurants, a conference center of more than 200,000 square feet and three parking garages.

Christopher Murray, an attorney representing Hofstra University, told Hempstead town officials the SEQRA process was moving forward on outdated information and should have occurred before the county and Sands entered into a lease agreement for the Coliseum site.

In November, a state Supreme Court judge annulled the county legislature's approval of the lease agreement, saying an environmental review should have been conducted first. The county is appealing the decision.

Garden City Mayor Mary Carter Flanagan testified at the town hearing Thursday that the village has “very serious” concerns about the scale of the project “and the significant social and environmental impact.” The village board unanimously approved two resolutions opposing the project. 

“We are not here as anti-union. We are not here as anti-development. We are here as anti-casino,” said Garden City resident George Krug. “I loved everything I saw in the presentation — it looks like a beautiful place. But at the core there is a casino, there is no project without a casino.” 

Grant Newburger of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Nassau and Suffolk praised the Sands proposal.

“A project of this scale has never been seen before on Long Island. I'd like to point out that five years ago you could not name a billion dollar project here on Long Island, but here it's the 4 or 5 billion number — it's unprecedented,” Newburger said. 

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, also testified Thursday in favor of the casino project.

“Frankly, no matter what we put there, we are going to have more traffic, we are going to use water, we're going to have energy consumption and we're going to have waste generation,” Esposito said. “The question is, are we going develop that area with a company that believes in environmental stewardship or are we going to develop that area that doesn't care about environment?” 

On another front, Republican County Executive Bruce Blakeman and legislative Presiding Officer Legis. Howard Kopel (R-Lawrence) announced Wednesday the legislature had subpoenaed all correspondence between Hofstra and representatives of a competing project at Citi Field. Blakeman, whose administration struck the deal with Sands to come to Nassau, alleged collusion between Hofstra affiliates and Mets owner Steve Cohen and Hard Rock Entertainment. Hofstra representatives filed a motion Thursday challenging the subpoena.

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