Nassau County’s plans to build a casino and resort on the 72-acre Coliseum site has sparked uproar among some local residents. Allison O’Brien Silva, a former residence of East Meadow, took a strong stance opposing the casino. A former consultant at McKinsey & Company and currently a mother of three, Silva along with a group of fellow Nassau residents have formed the Say No to the Casino Civic Association.
Silva, now residing in Manhasset, expresses her dismay, calling casinos “predatory”. The association has thus far gathered 3,300 signatures against a $4 billion proposal, the cited concerns ranging from disruption to suburban peace, attracting students who shouldn’t gamble, worsening road congestion to adding little cultural value to the community.
The association’s battle is a steep uphill one, as the May vote by the county legislature resulted in a 17-1 approval to sanction a 99-year agreement that permits Las Vegas-based Sands to develop the casino and resort. Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton, the solitary voice of dissent, alleged inadequate analysis of cost and non-alignment with county’s promotion of gambling.
Sands Las Vegas is left to secure their zoning requirements from the Town of Hempstead along with a crucial gambling license from the New York State’s Gaming Commission. Three gaming permits are planned for the downstate region with the Sands being one of 11 applicants vying for a slot.
The proposal will undergo further scrutiny as a Community Advisory Committee holds hearings, offering opponents another opportunity to voice their dissent. Union representatives have already expressed their support for the proposal, citing job creation as a primary benefit.
Bruce Blakeman, Nassau County Executive, has voiced his support for the casino since his 2021 election. With the Sands’ CEO, Robert Goldstein, calling the legislature’s approval an “important step”, the company is keen to obtain a New York gaming licence.
The site for the proposed casino, known as the Nassau Hub, has been a political friction point after multiple attempts to rejuvenate the now abandoned Coliseum, the former home of the Islanders hockey team. With many past plans failing, including a rejected $350 million project to convert the site into houses, offices and a hotel, Sands now looks to take advantage of what is currently a 72-acre parking lot.
However, residents like Rich Catalano, one of the leaders of the Say No to the Casino Civic group, are not backing down. “This is not the Long Island I envisioned, with a casino in the middle of it,” he puts forth. Monica Kiely, fellow co-founder, adds, “They may have power, but we have the right side of the argument.”
Despite opposition, the Sands already has partners such as Canyon Ranch – committed to develop a spa, fitness and food destination at the planned site. Silva emphasizes more appropriate uses for the site could be a park, museum or a medical research facility, labeling the current proposal as a “personal assault.”