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Jun 17, 2010 12:10 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Calabro casino talks progress

Jun 17, 2010 12:10 PM

Plans to construct a Shinnecock Indian Nation casino at the Brookhaven Town Calabro Airport in Shirley took on a more serious tone this week as some of the stakeholders involved confirmed ongoing discussions of the proposal.

At a meeting last week of the Suffolk County Gaming Task Force, a group charged with compiling a list of sites in Suffolk County to present to the newly federally recognized Shinnecock Indian Nation, Shinnecock Tribal Trustee Lance Gumbs and Manor Park Civic Association board member John Paulson discussed setting up a meeting to talk about the civic group’s concerns in regard to constructing a casino at the airport.

And on Wednesday, Brookhaven Town Supervisor Mark Lesko, who originally delivered a pitch to representatives of the tribe early in May for the airport plan, confirmed that he and representatives of the Nation were involved in ongoing discussions about the “various aspects of having a casino resort destination at the airport.”

Mr. Lesko declined to comment on the specifics of the talks. He said that he had not taken a position on the idea of a casino at the airport and that all discussions were very preliminary.

“We are still involved in discussions with the Shinnecock Nation,” he said. “We’re still in the preliminary stages … That’s kind of where we are. I don’t want to get into specifics.”

Mr. Gumbs confirmed he had spoken to Mr. Paulson about potentially setting up a meeting. “I spoke to a few people about their concerns that day,” he said this week. “I don’t remember who they were or where they were from exactly.” He also said there have been discussions about setting up meetings with civic associations, but nothing has yet been scheduled.

Additionally, Mr. Gumbs said he was addressing concerns raised at the meeting about casinos in general, including traffic concerns.

Mr. Gumbs declined to elaborate on specific sites. “Can’t go into what sites are what,” he said. “We’ve had general discussions about a number of different places. But only general discussions.”

The hunt for a suitable spot to host a Shinnecock gaming facility has gained steam over the past few weeks as several sites have been cited as potentials on the list. Some of those sites in Brookhaven include the old Shoreham nuclear power plant and the airport. Talks have also swirled around sites at points west, including Nassau Coliseum, and a site in Calverton.

To Affiliated Brookhaven Civic Organization President MaryAnn Johnston, the offer to meet with the Shinnecocks is a sign that there is a great deal of interest in the airport as a possible home for a gaming facility.

“To me—and I can’t speak to the psychology or the logic of the Indians—I don’t meet with people I have no interest in doing anything with,” she said. She noted, however, that the offer to meet was a positive gesture.

Several civic groups rallied last month against a casino taking root anywhere in Brookhaven Town. They held the rally at Calabro Airport shortly after Mr. Lesko met with representatives of the Shinnecock Nation.

A vote will be held at an ABCO meeting on Monday night at the Longwood Library to determine whether Brookhaven civic groups would be interested in meeting with the Shinnecocks.

Mr. Paulson said his sole reason for attending the Suffolk County Gaming Task Force meeting last week was to dissuade members of the group from putting the airport on the list of potential sites.

His concerns are based mostly on infrastructure. Mr. Paulson said that the airport is surrounded by homes. Because it is in such a densely populated area, he said traffic would also be an issue.

“The area cannot sustain additional traffic,” he said. “We have problems now with local people in the area. Now you’re going to have people coming out in the local area? If you looked at the [aerial] view of the airport, 360 degrees around that airport is homes. Brookhaven Calabro Airport is unique from the other airports, because Gabreski Airport does have a lot of open space around the airport. Brookhaven Calabro Airport does not have that.”

Mr. Paulson also argued that the neighboring community has been consistently kept out of the loop in negotiations and decisions surrounding the airport. “We would like to know what’s going on,” he said.

But Mr. Lesko said the discussions have not yet reached the level for community input, because they are very preliminary.

“If this progresses to a point, [and] there are decisions that have to be made, I will absolutely seek meaningful and real community input—but we’re not at that stage yet,” he said. “We’re not at the stage where any decisions have been made.”

Brookhaven 6th District Town Councilman Dan Panico said he is keeping an open mind about proposals for a gaming facility at the airport, but said he needs more specifics—a real, tangible proposal. “I have yet to see a plan,” he said.

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Ofcoarse only in the Town of Brookhaven would they entertain and embrace the idea of hosting this Casino that Town of Southampton adamently doesn't want, and the Supervisor of Riverhead is on the record stating he's opposed to. And ofcoarse, they try and force it into one of the less affluent neighborhoods. Due to Brookhaven's years of mismanagement and fuzzy math they claim the airport looses money. I have bad feeling a backroom deal is already in the works.
By eman74 (1), Mastic on Jun 17, 10 3:47 PM
The shinnecock nation should say the hell with Southampton town officials and build their casino on their land in Hampton Bays. better yet, build it on their reservation near Montauck Highway. The state will not let them build it within 35 miles of Aqueduct because it will cut into the states profits from the racino to be built there. The next best place for a casino is the Hamptons! Whats a matter, all thoose rich wall street and hollywood types who have taken control of the Hamptons now don't ...more
By Walt (292), Southampton on Jun 17, 10 7:26 PM
1 member liked this comment
No ,it's not those people who would oppose....it's the ultra-liberal special interest groups in the Hamptons that would come out to oppose.
By YEAROUNDER (81), East Hampton on Jun 18, 10 9:44 AM
Walt---the simple -common sense reason not to build a casino in the Hamptons is specifically for land preservation...to preserve what beatiful un-developed land that is here ---the reason why this is "The Hampton's"...everyone wants a piece of quiet and serenity!
Yearounder---you maybe yearround now-but I bet you weren't born here...because those that were born and raised in this area know what the debate is all about....we've been through it and fought a thousand times...!
By UNITED states CITIZEN (207), SOUTHAMPTON on Jun 19, 10 6:56 PM
Wrong know-it-all, I was born "here". Preserving what's left on the east end is all well and good, but why don't you and the rest of SH face facts......... you're probably living on land that was taken from the Shinnecocks. It is official..............they can do whateverthehelltheywanto!!
They are never going to put a faciality on the reservation, so you shouldn't worry. Realistically, the best place with supporting infrastructure is Calverton. The folks in Riverhead are out of their minds ...more
By YEAROUNDER (81), East Hampton on Jun 22, 10 8:41 AM
You know what would be nice?

A real amusement park. One with roller coasters, merry-go-rounds, paddle boats, funnel cake, potatoe fries, well, you get the picture.

Not enough profit in something nice like that, I suppose...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jun 17, 10 8:17 PM
Casino gambling belongs in the Town of Southampton. Why give away all those revenues? Our property taxes could be reduced by 47%.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Jun 18, 10 3:49 PM
If I am showing a 7 and a 4 and the dealer is showing a 9 do I double down?
By tuckahoetrip (46), Water Mill on Jun 18, 10 3:51 PM
Hells yeah...always double down with eleven no matter what
By Kaiser Sozay (31), east end on Jun 19, 10 10:04 AM
Gabreski is the best place ! Far enough away from the Hampton's yet close enough to reap the finical and entertainment pluses.....Lower taxes, Jobs, Tax free gas, And best of all somewhere to go in the winter time for us bored to death locals.
By joe hampton (3461), south hampton on Jun 18, 10 9:43 PM
From the Seventh Generation Fund site. "...Great Law of Peace of the Haudenosaunee (Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy) which mandates that chiefs consider the impact of their decisions on the seventh generation yet to come." Let's all hope that this belief is as strong in the eyes of tribal leaders as the glitter of casino lights seems to be.
By SusieD (115), Southampton on Jun 19, 10 9:42 PM