Floral Park mayor touts efforts against Belmont casino

Adedamola Agboola

Floral Park Mayor Thomas Tweedy on Tuesday praised the strong response from village residents who came out in numbers to decry the Nassau Regional Off-Track Betting Corporation’s plans to install some 1,000 video gambling machines in Belmont Park. 

The rally drew a crowd close to 2,000 people from different Nassau communities who say the renewed efforts by OTB will cause traffic problems, rise in crimes and ultimately plummet property values.

“It really was amazing. Floral Park is a special place. It really is a special place and we think that too,” said Tweedy, who was in attendance at the rally. “But it wasn’t just Floral Park. We had people from South Floral Park, we had people from Elmont and other communities in Long Island.”

Residents, political and civic leaders grew irate when the Nassau OTB announced in December it was going to seek the state’s permission to open the video gambling parlor on the grounds where the famous Belmont Stakes horse race is held yearly.

OTB set its sights on Belmont Park in December after protests from several municipalities forced the agency to abandon a similar plan in January 2015 for a temporary casino at a vacant Fortunoff jewlery store in Westbury.

“We know the importance of Belmont Park and so we’re all concerned as Western Nassau County residents,” Tweedy said in an interview Tuesday. 

Tweedy said Floral Park has a draft lawsuit ready to bring against OTB if the state Office of General Services and the New York Racing Authority approve the Belmont plan.

“We can’t sue an idea,” Tweedy said. “We’ll have to see what they do and we’ll move forward with it.”

An OTB spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment Wednesday.

During the short board meeting, the mayor also touched briefly touched on the proposal by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Metropolitan Transit Authority to move forward with another plan to construct a third Long Island Rail Road track between Floral Park and Hicksville.

Five local mayors who met with U.S. Representative Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) to voice their concerns are mobilizing to form a coalition in order to further strengthen their cause. 

In a statement Wednesday morning, spokesperson Coleman Lamb said Rice had a productive meeting with the mayors on Friday to “hear their concerns with the proposed project and to discuss how it would affect the constituents they serve.”

The statement also said Rice hasn’t met with representatives from the MTA and will continue to “talk with all stakeholders, gather input from everyone involved to ensure the process is as inclusive as possible.”

Tweedy also mentioned his concerns with parking which many residents are voicing along with health concerns.

“Everyone shared their concerns during the meeting. New Hyde Park is going to lose somewhere between 250 and 500 parking spaces. And they’re talking about 15 years of construction,” Tweedy said. “If indeed there is additional service, which most likely would not be, where are we going to park?”

In a statement, MTA spokesman Sal Arena said an environmental impact study will address concerns from communities along the affected stretch of the LIRR over the next year to 18 months.

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