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Sep 14, 2010 1:36 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Brookhaven airport moving on with development, still waiting for possible casino

Sep 14, 2010 1:36 PM

Following delays with the federal recognition process and the reluctance of the Shinnecock Indian Nation to name a site for a prospective casino, Brookhaven 6th District Town Councilman Dan Panico said last week that it was time to push ahead with new projects at Brookhaven Calabro Airport—reportedly one of the sites being considered by the Shinnecocks.

On September 7, the Brookhaven Town Board approved several resolutions sponsored by Mr. Panico that were intended to set the stage for three projects at the airport that have been stalled by the casino talks. “I have said that I would keep an open mind to the possibility of the placement of a casino [at the airport],” Mr. Panico said. “However, we simply can’t wait forever.”

While the projects could potentially rule out the airport in Shirley as a home for the Shinnecock casino, Town Supervisor Mark Lesko—who has championed the idea of a casino in Shirley—said he wasn’t ready to rule out the idea.

Town spokesman Jack Krieger said the town is “continuing to fulfill its responsibilities at the airport, and nothing agreed to eliminates the airport from consideration [by the Shinnecock].”

“We’re fortunate to have these businesses coming forward, which would employ a good deal of local people,” Mr. Panico said. “We simply cannot continue on this casino gaming expedition because the potential loss of aviation-related business and subsequent revenue is just too great. I am not willing to gamble.”

Talks of a casino at the airport took off in June when it seemed likely that the Shinnecock Indian Nation would receive formal recognition, which has since been delayed by a lawsuit filed in July by a group called the Connecticut Coalition for Gaming Jobs.

Calabro Airport was among several possible locations being publicly discussed by town and county officials, but drew objections from local civic associations over traffic and infrastructure concerns, as well as a moral opposition. Nassau Coliseum and the EPCAL park in Calverton have also been discussed as possible locations.

“The idea of a casino is certainly intriguing,” Mr. Panico said of the prospect of a casino at the airport. “However, I think the field of possible places for this casino has spread very far.”

There has been some question as to what would happen to the ownership of the airport if it stopped operating. New York State deeded the airport to the town in 1961, and Mr. Panico has previously said that the property could revert to the state if the airport were to cease aviation operations.

“If the property remains as an airport, the revenue will stay in the airport,” Mr. Panico said. “Together, the airport and the community will grow.”

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