Bloomberg Nixes Citi Field Casino Plan
Any plans the N.Y. Mets owners may have had for operating a casino next door to Citi Field in Willets Point has already been shot down by the Bloomberg administration, but a neighborhood group has vowed to make sure it will put its muscle behind the mayor’s rejection if attempts are made to revive it.
The Mets’ plan to operate a gambling business was, for all intents and purposes, a wellkept secret as far as the public was concerned. It was submitted in 2011, and was quickly and quietly rejected by Mayor Bloomberg, but not divulged to the public. The proposal had been presented by the Related Companies’ building and development company and Sterling Equities, described as the Mets’ development arm. The Shinnecock Indians from Long Island, which would operate the casino, were also involved.
But last week, the proposal was leaked to news reporters by Willets Point United and NYC Park Advocates, which have opposed the city’s plans to develop Willets Point. There was no explanation how they acquired the Mets’ casino ambitions, for which the team owners offered to pay the city $100 million for the entire Willets Point development site.
At the time the offer was made, it was immediately turned down by the mayor and the Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), which is developing the site. Last week, Nick Kelly, a spokesman for the NYCEDC, stated, “There is no casino being built at Willets Point, period. A proposal in 2011 that included a gaming use was rejected.” He also added that the development site “expressly prohibits any gaming uses”.
Meanwhile, last June, the city administration and NYCEDC chose the Related Companies and Sterling Equities, acting as the Queens Development Group to jointly develop a 1.4 million square-foot retail and entertainment mall, a 200-room hotel and shops next to Citi Field at Willets Point. The plan specifically does not permit a casino.
Kelly’s statement and a similar one made by a spokeswoman for Mayor Bloomberg last week apparently isn’t being taken too seriously by other casino operators or state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
It was reported last week when Bloomberg and the NYCEDC closed the door to any casino being built at Willets Point, Las Vegas casino owners were still exploring possibilities of building and operating a casino at the Willets Point site.
Silver said in Albany, after ongoing discussions about New York state’s plan to allow fullfledged casinos in the state, that it would be a good idea to build one in Brooklyn or at Willets Point. But Governor Andrew Cuomo is remaining firm on his plan to build three Upstate if pending efforts to change the state’s Constitution are approved.
Reports on the Albany discussions also had state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos offering the idea of establishing a casino at Belmont Park Racetrack in Nassau County on Long Island, Skelos’ home county.
But getting back to all the talk about the Willets Point casino, it has led to the formation of a new group opposed to creating a gambling establishment there. It calls itself “Don’t Gamble With Our Community” and it is comprised of business, civic and political groups. Founder Michael Olmeda stated upon announcing formation of the group and its aims, “This is true grassroots… we don’t want it here.”
Olmeda, 52, was described as a political consultant who presently works part-time as community liaison for several legislators, including Councilmember Julissa Ferreras (D–East Elmhurst), whose district includes Willets Point.
Olmeda also said the aim of the new group is to collect 25,000 signatures on petitions opposing the casino. In a statement it issued recalling the history of the 2011 proposal and its rejection by the Bloomberg administration, the group said its plans for Willets Point do not include an Indian casino or any other casino.
NOLAN ZINGS MAYOR: Assemblymember Catherine Nolan (D–Ridgewood), the chairwoman of the Assembly Education Committee, had a brief but interesting exchange with Mayor Bloomberg in Albany last week when they crossed paths during a hearing on the teacher evaluation impasse between the mayor and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), which threatens the city with a loss of $240 million if they don’t eventually agree on an evaluation plan. There’s also a chance that Governor Cuomo might be so fed up with the situation that he’ll impose a solution—take it or leave it.
But getting back to Nolan’s brief, dramatic encounter. The mayor was giving his side of the negotiations with the teachers, and at one point suggesting, according to Michael Powell, a New York Times columnist, “If only school officials throughout the state were as principled as he… they would admit that teachers unions are fundamentally incapable of agreeing to measure their members honestly. And they too would blow up their negotiations and forfeit many hundreds of millions of dollars in state aid.
“Everybody is just interested in getting money and committing what I would call a fraud,” he told legislators
Nolan is “a ferocious advocate for the city’s schools”, Powell writes. “She leaned forward and squinted at the mayor, as though convinced either that he was daft or that he was deaf.
‘Maybe I’m losing my hearing a little,’ she said. ‘Don’t you feel some responsibility for the disaster? And it is a disaster.’
Powell writes, “The mayor pursed his lips and wagged his head and responded a bit later, ‘Money is not the answer to everything.’
REDISTRICTING PLAN REVISED, APPROVED: Last Wednesday, the NYC Districting Commission approved a revised 51- district plan for City Council district lines and sent them to the city council for its consideration. According to the City Charter, the plan will be adopted unless, within three weeks, the council adopts a resolution objecting to the plan and returns it to the Districting Commission. If the council objects to the plan, the commission will hold additional public hearings regarding the plan before it is finalized by the commission.
The approved lines will be used for voting in this year’s city council primaries and general elections.
CITY COUNCIL STUFF: Councilmember Eric Ulrich (R/C-Ozone Park) announced at a meeting of the Angelo Graci Republican Club that he will be running for reelection to a new term. However, he did not mention in which district he will seek election. We will report it as soon as he informs us which it will be.
CONSTANTINIDES ENDORSED BY HOTEL TRADES UNION: The approximately 30,000 non-management employees in the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council (HTC) AFL-CIO has announced its endorsement of Costa Constantinides, who is running for a City Council seat on the Democratic Party ballot line in the 22nd district, which covers Astoria, along with parts of Long Island City, Woodside and Jackson Heights.
Josh Gold, political director of the HTC, said in announcing the endorsement, “Our members are excited to vote for Costa. He understands the issues that matter to our community and families and will stand with us as we seek to create middle-class jobs in Queens and the entire city.”
Constantinides, the 36th AD Democratic district leader, said in accepting the endorsement, “I am particularly thrilled to have the HTC’s endorsement. Their diverse membership perfectly exemplifies Astorians and New Yorkers. Our campaign is stronger now because of the support HTC members and their families are giving to us.”
Constantinides is seeking to succeed Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. who is being term-limited out of office. Vallone is seeking the Democratic nomination to run for Queens borough president.
CATSIMATIDIS URGES STRIKERS COOL OFF, RESTORE SERVICE: Noting that school children are suffering most by the school bus strike, John Catsimatidis has called on the strikers to return to work and “cool off”.
Catsimatidis, who is seeking the Republican nomination to run for mayor, said, “In situations like this where tensions are high and both sides are saying things they will likely regret, it is time for everyone to cool off.”
Meanwhile, he advised giving Supreme Court Judge Milton Mollen a chance to settle the strike “and I support restoring full service until a settlement has been reached”.
BOROUGH PRESIDENT CAMPAIGNS: Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., who is seeking the Democratic nomination for Queens borough president, has joined with Congressmember Grace Meng to urge passage by Congress of Meng’s bill to allow houses of worship damaged by Superstorm Sandy to receive aid from FEMA, the same as other private nonprofits are receiving.
Vallone filed a bill urging Congress to act on the bill, which is supported by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Vallone (D-Astoria) stated:
“Our houses of worship were helping Queens when the government wasn’t, and now they need our help,” said Vallone.
PERALTA ENDORSED BY DOMINICAN LEADERS: State Senator Jose Peralta, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Queens borough president, has been endorsed by major Dominican leaders, including the New York Dominican Officers Organization (NYDO).
Edward Rodriguez, president of NYDO, stated: “Every day, our members are in the streets, working hard to make our communities safe. Jose Peralta believes that working families should feel secure and safe from crime in every neighborhood across the city, that is why we support his campaign.”
Also endorsing Peralta are Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Manhattan), Assemblymember Gabriela Rosa (DManhattan), and Assemblymember Nelson Castro (D-The Bronx).
SCHUMER IN FIGHT FOR AIR TRAFFIC CENTER: U.S. Senator Charles Schumer said he has assurances that a new air traffic center will be built in New York state, and he has informed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that he wants it built on Long Island, where it has been situated for many years.
According to last Friday’s Newsday newspaper, Schumer was quoted as saying, “I’m telling the FAA it (the new air traffic control center for the eastern seaboard) has to be on Long Island. The workforce is second to none and the workers are already there.”
The existing traffic control center function is on Long Island, split between TRACON in Westbury and New York Center in Ronkonkoma. About 950 aviation workers, including more than 500 air traffic controllers work at those two outposts now, but the FAA plans to combine them into a single building that will include updated satellite navigation technology. The estimated cost for land and designing the new building is $95 million, according to what the FAA told Newsday.
Schumer said there were “multiple” submissions for sites on Long Island, which will give the FAA multiple options there, Schumer said. The FAA said it was considering 46 sites in New York.
Pennsylvania officials approached the FAA in an attempt to bring the new Integrated Control Facility to its state. But Schumer, after speaking with Secretary of Transportation Ray La Hood, said he was confident the FAA facility would be built in New York state.
HAGGERTY CONVICTION UPHELD BY COURT: The conviction of John Haggerty, for misappropriating about $750,000 which Mayor Bloomberg gave him to spend on his 2009 re-election campaign, was upheld by a state appellate court last week, which also ordered that the Forest Hills political operative must begin serving his original sentence of at least one and one-third years in prison.
There’s been no word whether Haggerty will continue to try to get the verdict against him reversed. Meanwhile, no surrender date for Haggerty has been set yet.
Haggerty was convicted in October 2011 of stealing the money from Mayor Bloomberg. During his trial jurors found that Haggerty had agreed to use the money on Election Day to conduct a massive ballot security operation on the mayor’s behalf, but he never did and kept the money for himself instead.
MENG OPPOSES P.O. NO SATURDAY MAIL: Congressmember Grace Meng opposes the Post Office’s decision to end mail deliveries on Saturday’s, saying it does not “return the P.O. to fiscal solvency… would create hardships for millions of Americans, including small businesses”.
Meng (D–Flushing) urges P.O. officials ‘to look at other ways to cut costs, such as eliminating the requirement that they pre-fund employee pension costs”. She said if the Saturday mail delivery decision is not reversed, she will work with other members of Congress to fight against it.
Meng also blamed Republican House members for the P.O. decision. “If Republicans in the House had passed a postal reform bill last year, like the Senate did, perhaps we wouldn’t be in this position. But that is all the more reason for Congress to act now,” she said.
STAVISKY, BRAUNSTEIN LAUD TAX ABATEMENT OK: Tax abatement legislation has passed both houses in Albany and is awaiting Governor Cuomo’s signature, state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky and Assemblymember Edward Braunstein announced, and it will “treat condo and co-op owners more fairly”, they said. The legislation will be retroactive to June 30, 2012, when the original abatement expired.
“This legislation is a major victory for co-op and condo owners,” Stavisky (D–Whitestone) declared. “This bill… will affect the co-ops and condos in New York City. By providing a progressive, equitable abatement schedule, to benefit owner-occupied co-ops and condos, middle class families will see their charges reduced in the years ahead.”
She thanked Braunstein for “his tireless efforts on this critical issue, and the Bayside lawmaker stated:
“Since my tenure in the Assembly began in 2011, I have fought to reduce the outrageously high and inequitable property tax assessments levied on many of our middle class co-ops in the outer boroughs.
“This is a major victory for the vast majority of co-op owners in Northeast Queens, including thousands of senior citizens on fixed incomes. This progressive legislation ends the tax abatement for investors and those who are not using their properties as their primary residence, and transfers the cost savings to our middle class families and seniors so that they can afford to stay in their homes.”
CROWLEY TO GOP: ‘LET’S GET SERIOUS’: Following passage of a House Republican-led bill that “would turn the federal budget process into a political game”, Congressmember Joseph Crowley (D–Queens/The Bronx) stated:
“This bill makes it clear, once again, that Republicans are more interested in playing games than actually getting the job done for the American people. This bill does nothing to restore confidence in our economy, create jobs or stop the devastating process known as sequestration.
“The clock is ticking and the challenges in front of Congress are very real. The American people deserve a Congress that works together to find a balanced plan to reduce the deficit and put an end to these dangerous across-the-board spending cuts. And that’s what we should give them.”
ADDABBO CALLS FOR STRONGER REGS FOR POLITICAL DONORS: In testimony before state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on his bill to strengthen regulations on not-for-profit groups in political campaigns, state Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. recounted that in his recent election campaign “many negative mailings” about him were mailed into his district by a group from Virginia “attacking my ethics and integrity”.
The group, named Common Sense Principles, raised money in the name of “social welfare” but are “actually spending that money on defeating or supporting candidates”.
“To this day,” said Addabbo (D–Howard Beach), “neither I nor my constituents know how they raised money or who funded them. The organization was traced by journalists to a post office box belonging to a Virginia-based political consultancy with ties to national Republicans.”
Much has been written about these groups on the national level, Addabbo said, but now “I can say first-hand that this problem has come home to New York state.” Addabbo says the evidence “strongly suggests that the secret nature of fund- ing 501(c)(4)s, under Internal Revenue Service rules, are not allowed by federal law to predominantly engage in electioneering. Yet, I see no evidence that groups like Common Sense Principles do anything else but engage in thinlyveiled electioneering.”
Addabbo concluded his testimony urging the Attorney General to adopt these regulations to fight donor fraud, the corruption of state and local elections in New York, and to ensure that citizens who do want to fund elections can do so by being provided with necessary information.
LIU’S REPORT SAYS ENFORCE EDUCATION LAW: City Comptroller John Liu, trying to make a point, said in a recent news release, “When people are asked if the schools chancellor should be an educator by background, they commonly answer, ‘Of course! In fact it ought to be the law’.”
Liu continues, “Well, it turns out it is state law! The chancellor should be an educator, pure and simple. Waivers should not be routinely sought.” Liu adds, “All three schools chancellors named by Mayor Bloomberg required state waivers because they failed to satisfy basic education requirements for the job.” A new report by his office recommends that all future New York City school chancellors have substantial educational requirements.
CONSERVATIVES MEETING: New York state Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long is holding a Queens meeting next Thursday evening, February 21, to discuss “Hot Topics” facing the state legislature this session. The announcement stated, “If you are a voter interested in a sane NYS fiscal policy and if you want to know what our state legislators have in store for us, you need to hear Mike. Come and meet others who feel as you do. This doesn’t have to be the winter of our discontent.”
The meeting will be held at the American Legion Hall, 107-15 Metropolitan Ave. in Forest Hills, beginning at 8 p.m. It is hosted by the Queens County Conservative Party and addressed to “Queens County Conservatives, Tea Party activists and residents dissatisfied with last November’s election results”.
SCHUMER PUSHES FOR ‘LIBERTY’ REOPENING: More than three months after Hurricane Sandy damage caused the Statue of Liberty to be shut down, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer is pressing the Department of the Interior (DOI) “to expeditiously release a hard and fast timeline of when repairs will be completed”, including an estimated reopening date.
Schumer said the DOI has done an impressive job repairing its properties throughout this area after Sandy struck. But a hard and fast timeline for reopening Lady Liberty would help visitors, including businesses, to plan trips to New York City to visit the world famous site.
“As an enduring symbol of our nation and our city, Lady Liberty cannot be allowed to languish any longer than necessary. The Department of the Interior has done a terrific job recovering and rebuilding after the storm, and is working hard on making the necessary repairs to Liberty Island. Providing a hard timeline of their efforts would be a significant step in the right direction in the recovery process.”
Superstorm Sandy inflicted widespread damage to Liberty Island, including docks, the promenade and the structures surrounding the Statue of Liberty. The electrical system, wastewater treatment plant and security screening equipment were also damaged.