Posted by: David Giacalone | December 17, 2014

a casino is coming to Schenectady

We are, naturally, disappointed in the selection of Rivers Casino at Mohawk Harbor by the Location Board to apply for a gaming license. [You can read the Statement of the Location Board supporting their Selection choices by clicking here; at the foot of this posting, we have copied the section of the Statement explaining the choice of the Schenectady application (pp. 11 – 13). ]  As we stated earlier today, we believe Schenectady is strong, creative and capable enough to have continued its revitalization without the problems created by reliance on a casino for jobs and revenues.  Our hope is that the City and County of Schenectady will work closely with the casino operator, affected neighborhoods, and interested community and business groups to limit the potential adverse effects of having a casino in our community.

We especially hope that local government and groups will work to

  • reduce the harm caused to families and the community by excessive gambling by persons without the financial ability to sustain significant losses
  • assure that various types of expected street crimes will not increase around the casino or overflow into neighboring communities
  • protect the Historic Stockade neighborhood from an increase in traffic that will almost surely reduce the quality of  life in the neighborhood, and threaten the integrity of its historic structures
  • ensure that the local entertainment and leisure business community is not harmed by the many competing elements that are part of the casino project
  • ensure that the casino operator works with educators to keep problem gambling from infecting young potential gamblers
MohawkHarbor -BrownfieldSign

ongoing brownfield remediation at ALCO

Although we believe the Location Board came to its conclusions in good faith, it is apparent that its investigation of the facts on the ground in Schenectady was insufficient.  For example, the Board stressed that Rivers Casino would result in the replacement of the State’s largest brownfield.  The brownfield at the old ALCO site has not only been largely remediated already, but its complete remediation was planned to be completed, and would have been completed in 2015, without the construction of a casino at the site.

In addition, the Board stated that the Applicant has taken efforts to mitigate the impact on local interests.  In fact, for example, Rush Street Gaming and the Galesi Group have offered no plans or ideas for limiting negative effects on the Historic Stockade neighborhood, refusing to admit there would be any such effects.  We hope the cooperation Rush Street has claimed to be cultivating with the Stockade will become a reality.

That said, we members of Stop the Schenectady Casino and our allies in opposition to the casino hope to work in good faith with government and community leaders, along with the casino operator, to gain the most benefits for the community from Rivers Casino at Mohawk Harbor while producing a minimum of negative effects.

Dave Lucas at WAMC’s Northeast Report has a brief discussion of the early responses to the selection of the Schenectady casino application.  See “New York Board reveals winning proposals for casino reports” ( Dec. 17, 2014).

 The collage below has renderings of the Schenectady Casino proposal from the Rivers Casino at Mohawk Harbor application:

CasinoApplication-drawings

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proffedupS Below is the portion of the Location Board’s Statement concerning its choice of Rivers Casino at Mohawk Harbor for the Capital Region (Region 2, Zone 2):

Region Two, Zone Two (Capital Region)

The Board unanimously selects Rivers to apply to the Commission for a gaming facility license in Region Two, Zone Two.

Read More…

Posted by: David Giacalone | December 17, 2014

no matter the outcome today

No matter the results today at the Location Board meeting, we are proud to have made this campaign to help protect the heart, soul and future of our community.  We believe Schenectady is strong, creative and capable enough to continue our revitalization, without the problems created by reliance on a casino for jobs and revenues.

update: Click here to see our reaction to the selection of Schenectady’s Casino.

StopSchenectadyCasino2015Calendar For a memento of the Stop the Schenectady Casino campaign, we’ve put together a one-page 2015 Stop the Schenectady Casino calendar.  It is formatted to be printed as an 8″ x 10″ photo. You can click on the above image or find the jpg. file at http://tinyurl.com/StopSchdyCasino2015 .

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ALCOtunnel6 If you are coming here after hearing or reading the WAMC story about the ALCO Tunnel Coverup, please click this link to find out why we call it a coverup, and how theGazette buried the issue in the one article where it did mention the tunnels: See “the Gazette continues the ALCO tunnel coverup” (Dec. 13, 2014). (The photo above was taken August 8, 2014 by DEC engineer John Strang.)

Posted by: David Giacalone | December 16, 2014

rigging the news: the Gazette and the Schenectady Casino

ALCOtunnel6 If you are coming here after hearing the WAMC story about the ALCO Tunnel Coverup, please click this link to find out why we call it a coverup, and how the Gazette buried the issue in the one article where it did mention the tunnels: See “the Gazette continues the ALCO tunnel coverup” (Dec. 13, 2014). (The photo above was taken August 8, 2014 by DEC engineer John Strang. Please don’t forget to return to this posting.)

images  Tomorrow, Dec. 17, 2014, the NYS Gaming Facility Location Board is expected to finally announce its selections for up to four Upstate gaming facility licenses, one of which is expected to be in the Capital Region.  The Stop the Schenectady Casino group believes the Location Board will give serious, fair consideration to our arguments against the proposed Schenectady Casino, and decide that one of the other Capital Region applicants is a more appropriate location.  Before the winners and losers are chosen, however, we would like to set out our perspective on the coverage given to the casino selection process by the Schenectady Daily Gazette, which has editorially supported the Schenectady casino application.

  Whether we “win” or “loose”, we believe it is important for the people of Schenectady to know how poorly the Gazette has performed the role of presenting the relevant casino news and helping the public (and our leaders) understand the issues and the likely impact of a casino on Schenectady and nearby communities. They are proud of being “locally owned” and “independent”, but we’re afraid that can translate into parochial, unaccountable coverage, far too susceptible to pressures from local government and business interests (including important current or potential advertisers), and from the social demands on members of a small community of local leaders.

Our posting this weekend, “the Gazette continues the ALCO tunnel coverup“, describes only one of the many ways in which the Schenectady Gazette appears to have skewed its coverage of the news of the casino application process, in order to present the Schenectady applicants and their proponents in a way that paints them in the best light, by avoiding tough questions, ignoring negative facts, and pretending that there is no organized, serious opposition locally to the casino.  Any semblance of evenhanded news coverage ended June 9, 2014, the night the Schenectady City Council voted to support the application of Rush Street Gaming and the Galesi Group to operate a gaming facility at Mohawk Harbor, the former site of Schenectady’s ALCO plant.  See the resulting Gazette editorial Casino would provide needed boost (June 10, 2014)

Meeting with Gazette Officials. Yesterday afternoon (Monday, Dec. 15, 2014), the Publisher of the Gazette, John DeAugustine, the Editor, Judy Patrick, and Miles Reed, the City Editor met with Stop the Schenectady Casino members Mohamed Hafez and myself (David Giacalone) to discuss our belief that the Gazette’s news coverage has favored the casino.  They gave us a considerable amount of their time and made the valid points that they have a limited amount of resources to cover the wide world of local news and that they are bombarded by complaints they have not given enough coverage to particular issues or have not been impartial. The Gazette officials insisted they are proud of the wide coverage they have given the casino issue and seemed not to understand why we would want the Gazette to report the positions and arguments of Stop the Schenectady Casino, as opposed to merely vaguely mentioning concerns of those against a Schenectady casino.

We want the public to know and the media to report there is a serious opposition campaign, of course, because the Location Board wants to know the extent of local opposition, and because not mentioning our specific arguments and background information serves the interests of the casino applicant by default.  To write about crime, traffic, the proximity to Union College, and potential harm to the Stockade Historic neighborhood, etc., without mentioning our consistent focus on those issues, and our very specific research on the facts and research literature, not only has left the articles almost content-free, but fails to show the seriousness of the problems.

newspaper  The Gazette’s editorial board endorsed the casino on June 9th, and — viewed from the outside as casino opponents, and also perhaps to the objective observer — its newsroom became a virtual public relations department for the Schenectady casino, with news editors seemingly reining in reporters who were initially curious and conscientious covering casino issues. Despite the public’s desire to know more about the applicants and the pros and cons of locating a casino in Schenectady, the Gazette newsroom did little to counter the propaganda of local political leaders, the pie-in-the-sky predictions of Rush Street Gaming and Galesi Group CEO David Buicko, and the incessant cheerleading of Metroplex and the local Chamber of Commerce, with facts and investigatory reporting.  It failed to look beyond the conclusions and soundbites of casino proponents and to present the facts and arguments behind the concerns of opponents.

Here are some examples:

  • The Gazette‘s coverage of the City Council meeting of June 9th and its 5-2 vote approving the casino application failed to mention that a large group of local religious and community leaders submitted a Statement to the Council strongly opposing the casino; instead, the Gazette merely mentioned that the group asked the Council to delay its vote in order to hold a public hearing on the issues and consider public comments and the social effects of a casino on the City and its residents.  Similarly, while reporting that the Council chambers were filled with blue signs and buttons saying Yes for the casino, the Gazette did not mention that virtually no hands went up when Rev. Sara Baron asked the audience who supported the casino and lived in Schenectady, while many hands were raised in answer to her asking who were against the casino and residents of the City. See Schenectady City Council backs casino proposal (June 10, 2014)
  • checkedboxs The Gazette also ignored a press release by many of the same religious leaders, dated September 30, 2014, telling of a campaign among various faith congregations in Schenectady to make their opposition known to the proposed Schenectady casino.  [See our posting of Oct. 1, 2014; and click for a pdf. version of the Press Release]  The campaign provided an information packet with documents to aid in writing the NYS Gaming Facility Location Board.  I personally brought up the topic to a Gazette casino reporter, supplying the phone number of Rev. Phil Grigsby, who was a contact person for the group behind the Press Release and anti-casino campaign.  Rev. Grigsby made several direct attempts to speak with the reporter and Gazette, but was never able to do so.

 According to the ministers’ press release:

Of major concern is that “Rush Street Gaming invests in Ruby Seven Studios, which develops, markets, and distributes casino games such as slots and poker through social network and smart phone ‘app’ websites with terms of service that expressly allow children as young as 13 to play without any age or identity verification.”

   It is that “major concern” that might have kept the ministers’ news-worthy campaign out of the Gazette. The Press Release was referring to a study, Betting on Kids Online, released in early September by a major hospitality and casino worker union, stating that Rush Street Gaming is investing millions of dollars with the aim of becoming the industry leader in “building a bridge” between children playing casino-like games on social media and smartphones and their going to brick-n-mortar casinos to do real gaming once they are old enough.  As we stated in our posting “Rush Street takes aim at adolescents” (Sept. 11, 2014): Knowing that the earlier you begin to gamble, the more likely you are to gamble often and obsessively, Schenectady’s proposed casino operator is sowing the seeds digitally to grow the next generation of problem gamblers.

I personally corresponded with a Gazette reporter a few times on Betting on Kids, sending a link to the study and related website.  The Gazette chose to censor this important news about a casino operator who wants to locate a gaming facility a block away from a giant Union College residence hall filled with potential young gamblers.

Captured Videos1 The Gazette newsroom has also, by commission and omission, acted to erase the existence of the group Stop the Schenectady Casino from the minds of its readers.  Indeed, when WAMC’s Dave Lucas first contacted me in mid-October, he started the conversation by saying, “I didn’t even know there was a group in opposition to the Schenectady casino.”  Also, at the September public presentations by the Applicants to the Location Board, one Board member told the East Greenbush applicant that they were the only casino with any public opposition.  Mr. Lucas and the Location Board staff  must have blinked and missed the initial coverage the Gazette gave to our group when we were first formed at the end of May, in our attempt to prevent the City Council from approving the Schenectady casino proposal.  See “Neighbors rally against Schenectady casino plan” (Sunday Gazette, by Ned Campbell, June 8, 2014); and our posting on “our June 7 opposition meeting” at Arthur’s Market.

In fact, in the four months since the Gazette’s June 9th editorial supporting the casino, there has only been one mention of the existence of a group in Schenectady opposing the casino.  That was in a piece on June 23 about my complaint to the NYS Attorney General, alleging that the efforts of the Fair Game theater coalition to force applicants to accept a list of their demands violate the antitrust laws.  [see our post “arts venues want more than a Fair Game” June 28, 2014] The very next day, the Gazette printed an editorial praising Fair Game, and calling it good for the theaters, the City and the casinos.  Despite the editorial staff’s usual CYA approach, in which it states “on one hand, on the other hand”, concerning most issues, it did not even acknowledge that Fair Game’s activities could increase entertainment prices and limit entertainment options available to Schenectady County residents, while also damaging non-favored entertainment and leisure establishments.  Perhaps because I was attacking our biggest local sacred cow, Proctor’s and its director Philip Morris, I have subsequently been relegated to being called a Stockade resident and/or outspoken casino critic.

erasingF  The worst example of the Gazette magicians making Stop the Schenectady Casino disappear is almost certainly our treatment relative to the all-important Location Board public comment event on September 22nd.  On September 21, the Sunday Gazette published the article “Public to have its say on casinos: Supporters, foes to lobby board at Monday hearing” (by Haley Viccaro). In a section that begins “Here’s a sample of what to expect during the hearing at the Holiday Inn at 205 Wolf Road in Colonie”, the article has two sentences about a labor group, Unite HERE, that was to appear to complain about labor complaints against Rush Street Gaming.  The only other discussion of expected opposition at the public hearing to the Schenectady casino says:

“Also speaking against the proposed Schenectady casino are some residents of the Stockade Historic District. David Giacalone is set to speak at 10 a.m., while Mohamed Hafez has a reserved slot at 6:15 p.m.”

Reporter Viccaro had been in frequent touch with me the days before the Board’s public comment event.  She knew that I was scheduled to appear on behalf of the group Stop the Schenectady Casino, and that the reserved spots were in fact meant for representatives of groups.  I told her Mr. Hafez also had a time slot, and she sent me an email specifically asking if Hafez was a Stockade resident. I immediately wrote back, saying he lived in Mt. Pleasant, not the Stockade, with an insurance office on Guilderland Ave., and was appearing to present the perspective of a landlord on the negative impact of a casino.

To the typical Schenectadian reading the Gazette, the term “Stockade resident” often means “spoiled elitist opposed to anything new that might be an inconvenience.”  It does not suggest serious opposition and a coalition of people with a wide range of reasons to fight against a casino.  The impression is strengthened by failing to mention (as the article does for opponents of other Capital Region casinos) any actual issues and concerns of the Group.

threemonkeys Worse than the relegating us to the issue-less category of Stockade resident prior to the Public Comment Event: The Gazette’s multi-piece coverage of the 12-hour public hearing never mentions that there were local opponents of the Schenectady casino present at or making presentations to the Location Board, much less that a spokesperson appeared on behalf of Stop the Schenectady Casino and presented a 20-page Statement in Opposition to the Schenectady Casino to the Location Board, along with our signed Petitions against the casino.  [Even Galesi CEO Dave Buicko and Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen later congratulated us on the quality of the Statement.] Nor did the Gazette mention Mohamed Hafez’s presentation, and his attempt to share some of his five minutes with Rev. Philip Grigsby of the group of Schenectady religious leaders against the casino.

Captured Videos1 Did we just get lost in the overkill of a day-long hearing?  Well, Gazette reporter Haley Viccaro watched my presentation and when I finished it, we talked, joked, and schmoozed on and off for well over 30 minutes; she even strongly advised me to check out the fancy room reserved by the Schenectady applicant for the comfort of its supporters.  She was also very pleased when I handed her a flashdrive that held the Statement, its attachments, and copies of the petitions.  Instead of mentioning our group in her pieces, Haley ended up marveling over a cake baked by one of the businesses that plans to partner with Rush Street Gaming at the Schenectady casino.

  The worst example of blatant pro-casino “news” was surely the front-page article on Sunday August 4, 2014, entitled“Schenectady Casino Group Praised: Host communities say Rush Street lives up to its billing” (Sunday Gazette; by Haley Viccaro).   As was stated in our posting that day, “a few things the Gazette forgot to mention“, the puff piece gave Rush Street a lot of free public relations propaganda.  In addition:

 DSCF3276-001 Haley’s article is filled with quotes from local development and business officials and Rush Street Gaming’s CEO Greg Carlin, without a word from their detractors, such as Casino-Free Philadelphia, or the Worchester MA citizens group  that was successful in keeping RSG out of their city, nor even from the Stop the Schenectady Casino gang.  We speculated in August that perhaps the article was the Gazette‘s penance and mea culpa to Casino proponents for an earlier article titled “Officials in other cities warn of pitfalls, failed promises by Rush Street“? (June 8, 2014, by Bethany Bump).

Indeed, Rush Street Gaming liked the August 3rd article so much, it included a Power Point image of the headline in the “final”, public presentation it made to the Location Board in September. (click the image at the head of this paragraph)  In our posting on what the newspaper forgot to mention, we walk through a number of very important facts the Gazette should have mentioned as a matter of fairness, but also of journalistic duty and pride.  For example, it failed to mention the many facts that refute the claim by a Philadelphia official that, rather than crime rising, it actually got safer near Rush Street’s Philadelphia casino.  In addition, it allowed a company official to brag that they even help customers find other hotels for their stay in Philadelphia, without noting that the particular casino has no hotel of its own and must assist customers to find lodging if it wants to lure them to their facility.

Traffic & Crime Concerns. The Gazette also managed to write an article on the traffic problems in the Stockade, and to occasionally mention concerns over increased crime, without ever including mention of Stop the Schenectady Casino, which has focused on those issues, and researched and written on them in some detail.

For example, see the Gazette piece “Stockade group frets over potential traffic: Mohawk Harbor access a concern” (Sept. 30, 2014, by Haley Viccaro). Ms. Viccaro decided to only speak with Mary D’Allesdandro, Stockade Association president concerning the Stockade’s traffic worries.  Not only is Ms. D’Allesandro a supporter of the casino, she never did anything about the traffic issue until a non-officer member of the Association asked at the September Stockade Association that they give comments to Metroplex as part of the environmental review.  The Comment was hammered out at the end of the Meeting, and is filled with generalities.   The Gazette article is so troublesome, that I left a lengthy comment at their website, and repeated it in a posting on October 1, titled “the Gazette gets stuck in Stockade traffic” (October 1, 2014).  That posting has links to the work done by Stop the Schenectady Casino on the traffic issue, including discussion on our Statement in Opposition of September 22, 2o14.

checkedboxs Crime. The Gazette has also failed to address in any meaningful way an issue of great concern to neighborhoods near the proposed casino: the likelihood that the casino will bring an increase in crime.  We were told in the Gazette, with no explanations, that Stockade Association President, a casino booster, Mary D’Alessandro didn’t think there would be an increase in crime; that East Front Street Association officer Mary Ann Ruscitto, an “excited” casino booster, wasn’t worried, because we already have crime in the Stockade area; and that a Rush Street Gaming proponent stated that crime went down around its Philadelphia SugarHouse casino. As you can see in our posting “will a casino bring more crime,” and at pages 6 -8 or our Statement in Opposition to the Casino, there is much to say about crime and an urban casino that goes far beyond one-sentence gut feelings.  The Gazette could have added to that debate, but I believe doing so would have made more of their readers and their allies supporting the casino nervous.

In addition, the Gazette newsroom:

  •  Never wrote about the County Legislators and town leaders ignoring the November 2013 vote on Proposition One, in which a majority of county residents opposed having any casinos upstate, with large majorities in opposition in Niskayuna and Glenville, which are the towns closest to Mohawk Harbor.  In addition, it never wrote that, despite its claims, the County Legislature, had absolutely no power to approve the casino application if the City did not do so.  My own presentation to the Gazette staff of the relevant provisions of the law and Request for Applications, which clearly state that only a city or town could give the necessary local approval, were ignored. [See our posting “Schenectady County ignores its voters and plain English” (June 2, 2014)]
  • threemonkeys Often mentioned that the East Front Street Association supported the casino, but never reported on how few people were members nor how its leaders concluded the majority of neighborhood residents supported the casino.
  • Gave no coverage to the Statement of the Schenectady Heritage Foundation to Metroplex, as Metroplex to act to protect the Stockade from the negative effects likely to be caused by having a casino a half mile away. See our post on October 2, 2014.
  • Gratuitously, with no source given, asserted  in the piece”Automated Dynamics weighs relocation options” (Haley Viccaro, Nov. 27, 2014) that “If [the Alco site is not chosen for a casino], the portion of the site dedicated for the project would probably remain undeveloped.”  I think Mssrs. Galesi, Buicko and Gillen would be trying hard to find a substitute use of that land, even if it is only the major amenity of a park setting with walking and bike trails along the Mohawk, next to the Mohawk Harbor hotel, condos, marina, office buildings, retail shops, etc. on the west end of the plot. 

This is, we submit, not a record that should make the Gazette proud, unless its goal has been to give Rivers Casino at Mohawk Harbor a better shot at being selected by the Location Board.

Posted by: David Giacalone | December 13, 2014

the Gazette continues the ALCO Tunnel Coverup

controversial "utility tunnel" discovered at ALCO site in Schenectady

photo of ALCO tunnel taken by DEC engineer 08Aug2014

 About eight weeks ago, Stop the Schenectady Casino learned that the Applicant/Developer of the proposed Schenectady casino at the Old ALCO Plant site failed to disclose to Metroplex in its environmental statements its discovery of “tunnels” under historic ALCO Building 332, and that the Schenectady Gazette helped in the coverup.

For the bigger story, see rigging the news: the Gazette and the Schenectady Casino” (Dec. 16, 2014)

The Rotterdam-based Galesi Group is the owner of the Mohawk Harbor site and the developer of a planned marina and mixed-use complex there, and hopes to include a casino on the 60-acre site.  As the owner-developer, Galesi is responsible for submitting an environmental impact statement [“EIS”] to the Metroplex Authority, which is the lead agency for purposes of the State Environmental Quality Review Act.  As such, in attempting to obtain approval of a final EIS, Galesi has an ongoing responsibility to report any new facts that raise a significant question of potential harm to relevant aspects of the environment, including elements of historical or archeological importance. Galesi CEO David Buicko has taken the lead as spokesman for the proposed Mohawk Harbor projects before local government bodies as well as the NYS Gaming Facility Location Board, and is well known in the business, development, political and educational sectors of Schenectady County and the region. Rush Street Gaming, which is headquartered in Chicago, is the primary Applicant for a casino license and would operate the Schenectady casino, called Rivers Casino at Mohawk Harbor, if granted a license by the Gaming Commission.

Because the Gazette has failed to clarify what happened on the site, at Metroplex, and in its newsroom and editorial enclave concerning the uncovered utility tunnels, I sent the following proposed opEd piece or guest column Letter to the Gazette on November 14, 2014. There has been no response of any kind from the Opinion Staff.  Here is the piece the Gazette refuses to publish, followed by additional explanation and discussion, including communications between myself and both the Gazette reporter who admitted she was asked not to report on the tunnels and the one purportedly assigned to find out what really happened.

To the Editor:

Three weeks ago, I was told by a Gazette reporter that the paper would be following up on its incomplete and one-sided article “Metroplex OKs Alco site environmental review” (Oct. 22, 2014), concerning the failure of the ALCO/Mohawk Harbor developer (Galesi Group) to disclose in its environmental impact statement its discovery of tunnels under Building 332, and its request (honored by the newspaper) that the Gazette not report on the discovery. [the portions of the Oct. 22 article relevant to the tunnel issue are quoted below] So far, not a word has been printed about an issue that draws into question the credibility of the Applicant for a Schenectady casino license, Metroplex’s environmental review, and the Gazette‘s coverage of the casino selection process.  Is the Gazette waiting until the NYS Casino Facility Location Board makes its decision awarding a Capital Region casino license, so that the credibility of the Schenectady Applicant won’t be undermined prior to the selection?

The Oct. 22 article correctly points out that I and Mohamed Hafez had written to Metroplex chair Ray Gillen just prior to its Board meeting that day, asking for a postponement of its approval of the environmental review, because we had just learned that the ALCO contractor had uncovered tunnels under the century-old ALCO Building 332 while demolishing its foundation.  The discovery was in early August, prior to the approval of the draft environmental impact statement, but Galesi Group never brought in an archeologist nor reported the discovery to Metroplex.

The article then fails to mention any of my supporting information, although it was supplied to the reporter along with the Memorandum to Metroplex. Instead, the rest of the article debunks my Tunnel Coverup claims, by quoting Mr. Gillen and Galesi CEO Buicko denying that there were any tunnels and that there was any historical significance to the “utility corridors” they did find and demolish.  It then quotes from three Galesi consultants denying the existence of tunnels or saying that what was found was expected.  In addition, the letters by the consultants were described as having been “written this week,” although the reporter knew that they had been written that very evening specifically in response to our Memorandum to Metroplex.

The article also fails to mention that our Memo to Metroplex specifically alleged, using information verified by another Gazette reporter, that “When a reporter from the Gazette attempted to learn about the tunnels [in early August], the Applicant refused to give an interview on the record and would not allow photos to be taken; it also appears that the Applicant specifically requested that the Gazette not report on the discovery of the tunnels.” Not having mentioned our coverup claim, the article does not tell us whether Mssrs. Gillen and Buicko denied the request for a coverup or somehow justified it.

At the very minimum, your readers show have been told in the original article, or by now in a follow-up article, that:

  • Contrary to the letters of the Galesi consultants, the DEC engineer stated twice that it would have been virtually impossible for the contractor to know the tunnels existed prior to demolishing the building’s foundation.
  •  In addition to the original Gazette reporter calling the so-called “utility corridors” tunnels and not questioning our using that word, the Department of Environmental Conservation engineer heading up the remediation project at the ALCO site spoke with me at length by telephone, and said that the “pipe chases” were indeed large enough to be more appropriately called tunnels, and he thereafter referred to them as tunnels.
  • The Gazette reporter, Haley Viccaro, wrote to me on October 20 in an email that: “Yes there are tunnels and they are working to get rid of them. I was asked not to report on that fact,” and complied after discussing the issue with Gazette editors.
  • On October 21, I emailed the six photos sent to me by the DEC engineer to Don Rittner, the former Historian of Schenectady County and the City of Schenectady, and an archeologist.  Dr. Rittner wrote back: “[A] professional archeologist should have been hired to document the site before destruction.  This was such an important part of Schenectady history [but] we may never know what those tunnels were for.” Dr. Rittner also concluded that the discovery should have been disclosed as part of the Environmental Impact review process.
  • photo of Bldg. 332 - by H. OhlhouseAccording to information at the Historic Marker Data Base website, “Building 332 was one of the longest structures in the world at nearly 1000 feet when it was completed in 1905.” (see photo to the right, taken and with commentary by Howard C. Ohlhous, Historian of the Town of Duanesburg, NY; click on the image for a larger version) Furthermore, according to DEC engineer Strang, the buildings on the ALCO site often were built over the foundations of prior buildings dating from the mid-19th Century, and “cells” found during its demolition suggest that was the case with Building 332.
  • Construction of ALCO Building 332 was completed in 1905, but its foundation was very likely to have been erected on the foundation of buildings dating back to before the Civil War, increasing the chance that the tunnels could have some important stories to tell us.

Whatever they are called, the uncovered hollow structures were part of or beneath the foundation of a building which played an important part in the history of ALCO, of Schenectady, and of our nation’s war efforts in the 20th Century.  A professional archeologist could have quickly examined and documented the tunnels, assessing whether they were standard, mundane utility corridors, or were indeed of archeological and historical significance.  We will never know, because the Applicant concealed their existence from all but DEC’s remediation engineer, demolished them and filled them over.

The goal of receiving environmental approval by Metroplex as soon as possible to gain an advantage in the casino licensing process is understandable, but in no way justifies the Applicant’s covering the tunnels over without archeological examination, nor asking the Gazette to cover up the story.  To the extent the Gazette allowed itself to be part of the Applicant’s concealment efforts, it has also failed to serve its public.

Readers can learn more on this topic, and see the photographs and documents mentioned, at
http://tinyurl.com/ALCOCoverup

David Giacalone
Editor, Stop the Schenectady Casino, http://stoptheschenectadycasino.com/

_____

Instead of reporting our supporting information to its readers, the article dismisses me as “an outspoken critic of the casino,” and tried to make me look unreliable.  See “Metroplex OKs Alco site environmental review” (Oct. 22, 2014, by Bethany Bump). Here is the Gazette’s total discussion of our tunnel coverup claim:

Read More…

Posted by: David Giacalone | December 12, 2014

decision time: 2 PM Wednesday, December 17

The NYS Gaming Facility Location Board issued a Public Notice this morning stating it will meet at 2 PM, Wednesday, December 17, in Rm. 6 of the Empire State Plaza, for “Consideration of Selection of Applicants to Apply to the Gaming Commission for Gaming Facility Licenses.”   In addition:

• The meeting is open to the public. Seating is first-come, first-served.
• The meeting will be Web streamed on the New York State Gaming Commission’s Web site (www.gaming.ny.gov).
• Immediately following the meeting, there will be a media briefing for credentialed press only in Meeting Room 7 of the Empire State Plaza.

In reporting this news, the Capitol Confidential blog at the Times Union has again pointed to its July 7th piece “handicapping” the casino race, where the Schenectady casino application is said to be the Capital Region favorite, with 5-2 odds of being selected.  We believe the five members of the Location Board have fully considered our 20-page Statement in Opposition to the Schenectady Casino, and will decide that one of the three other Capital Region applications better fulfills the standards and goals they are to apply in  making their selection.

You can use this short URL to see our full Statement in Opposition, including its Twelve Attachments, and decide for yourselves:  http://tinyurl.com/NotSchenectady

A brief summary of our five major points, along with thumbnails and links to the twelve attachments, can be found at this posting.

cropped-nocasinoschdy.jpg OUR FIVE MAIN REASONS for OPPOSING the SCHENECTADY CASINO, as fully explained in our Statement in Opposition:

  1. Unlike the other Capital Region locations proposed to the Board, the Schenectady Casino is the only Location Well on its Way to Being Fully Developed without a Casino, and Schenectady already has a Vibrant and Successful Development Process.  In addition, the Applicant claims that the casino would remove the largest brownfield in New York State, but the site remediation process is almost complete and will be completed without the casino, as it is an integral part of the developer’s $200 million Mohawk Harbor mixed-use project.  The Board should choose a location that is more in need of casino investment to spur development.
  1. The Schenectady Casino is the only proposal that directly threatens the welfare of a treasured Historic District – the Schenectady Stockade Historic District
  1. The Schenectady Casino is the only proposed location and Applicant that directly threaten the welfare of a full campus of potential young gamblers living no more than a few blocks away.
  1. Mohawk Harbor’s Urban Location has More Disadvantages than Advantages –e.g., increased probability of social ills due to problem gambling, more crime, a more regressive tax structure. It is not a likely “destination casino” and cannot be expected to produce the most revenue and tax benefits for the State and its municipalities.
  1. The Applicant’s Local Support is Less Significant than It Claims and Weaker than in Competing Communities.

 

Posted by: David Giacalone | December 3, 2014

this poll we like

ABRcasinoPoll03Dec2014

. . . Polls asking website visitors to voice an opinion or make a prediction are far from scientific, and make no claim to having canvassed a representative sample of readers, much less the general population.   Nonetheless, I clicked on a link to an article in Monday’s Albany Business Review that gives the results of their current/latest un-scientific poll of readers as to which city will “win” theCapital Region casino license. (“Anticipation grows as casino decision approaches“, Dec. 1, 2014, by Todd Kehoe).” According to the article (emphasis added):

“An Albany Business Review poll published last week asked readers which of the four Capital Region communities will win the competition for a license. Of the nearly 2,000 people who voted as of 6:30 p.m. Sunday, 47 percent picked Cobleskill in Schoharie County. Another 22 percent picked Schenectady, 20 percent selected East Greenbush and Rensselaer grabbed the other 11 percent.

“The poll is not a scientific sampling and is intended to give insight into what readers are thinking.”

So, only 22% of the survey participants thought Schenectady was the most likely winner.  Particularly interesting to me is how different their poll results were last August:

In the August poll, 61.5 percent of those who responded, picked Schenectady as the most likely winner of a casino license. Rensselaer finished second with 21.7 percent of the vote, followed by East Greenbush with 9 percent and Cobleskill with 2.8 percent”. [emphasis added]

You can see a chart of the results of the latest ABR casino poll here (or by clicking the image at the top of this posting), and can go here to Vote (look for an image of two red dice with a green background).

dice A Schenectady Gazette Poll in October asked “What do you think of Schenectady’s chances of getting a casino?” It got a result similar to the Albany Business Review‘s August Poll:  58% of the 649 Gazette voters said Schenectady was the Heavy Favorite.  Naturally, it was easy for us to reject the Gazette‘s results in October as unscientific and the result of local bias.   Of course, we’ve got no more reason to have strong faith in the newer ABR results —  other than its having in general a less parochial readership.  Nonetheless, we hope its survey showing Cobleskill as the favorite is accurate.  And, until the Times Union explains its assertion, with sources and reasoning, that Schenectady is considered the favorite (repeated in an article today), we’re going to ignore TU‘s attempt at handicapping the competition.

The latest ABR survey shows only 11% of respondents naming Rennselaer as the favorite. It remains to be seen if the maneuvering of the Hard Rock folk at De Laet’s Landing in Rennselaer, offering Albany $1.1 million a year and job assistance and promising another half million dollars to build a permanent dock for the replica ship Half Moon, can win them a license for Rennselaer. (see the TU coverage here) Since there appears to be no real opposition to the De Laet’s Landing proposal, we at Stop the Schenectady Casino send them our best wishes, as we do for the Cobleskill application.

Posted by: David Giacalone | October 29, 2014

WSJ focuses on NY casinos and colleges

spotlights The Wall Street Journal shone a light on casinos near colleges in an article published Monday, October 26, 2014. “Casinos Put Up Hands for Sites Near Colleges“, by Steven Vilensky (subscription required).  The opening sentence warns that “Casino gambling may soon be added to the list of campus vices in New York, drawing anticipation from college students and concern from legislators and school officials.” Indeed, we’re told:

Nearly all of the 16 proposals currently being considered as New York state casino sites are within a 25-mile radius of a college or university. Three of the more-elaborate plans are located minutes from large schools.

Through dumb luck, I was able to pass through the WSJ subscription wall once and see more than the first three sentences. That was enough to read the entire article and conclude that (1) giving the college proximity issue national exposure is a very good thing; but, (2) reporter Vilensky needs a pedometer or a quick lesson in reading the legend on a map.  In telling of the proposed casino closest to a college, Vilensky says the Schenectady casino would beless than 3 miles from Union College and Schenectady County Community College.”  I’m not sure how he was led astray. He did talk with someone from Rush Street Gaming, and maybe he also saw the Galesi brochure for Mohawk Harbor, which proclaims it to be “in the heart of downtown Schenectady,” and he got confused.

Casino-VicinityMapE

Google Map showing proposed Schenectady casino, Union College and SCCC

Hoping to correct the true-but-misleading “less than 3 miles” figure in time for the morning hardcopy version, I wrote Vilenski late Sunday night, saying:  “The story is much more interesting and troublesome than you have presented in today’s WSJ article.”  Naturally, I let him know that Union College’s largest residence hall is one block from the proposed casino, and the entire campus is four or five blocks away, while Schenectady Community College is one mile from the proposed site, Mohawk Harbor. [click on the map above]

The WSJ article also reports on the phenomenon of colleges starting to offer degrees or certificates in Gaming Management and related fields.  It somehow missed the fact that Schenectady County Community College now has a casino management program as well as a partnering agreement with Rush Street Gaming.

Neither reporter Vilensky nor the WSJ Corrections staff added the proffered information to their online resources.  For anyone Googling the issue after reading the WSJ piece, here are postings from Stop the Schenectady Casino on young gamblers and college kids and casinos:

Posted by: David Giacalone | October 29, 2014

a tunnel cover-up at ALCO

controversial "utility tunnel" discovered at ALCO site in Schenectady

photo taken Aug. 8, 2014 at the ALCO plant by DEC remediation engineer John Strang, PE

 On Monday, October 20, 2014, I received a message through this website, asking me to investigate a rumor that the Applicant/Developer of the proposed Schenectady casino at the Old ALCO Plant site had discovered tunnels under the foundation of a building at the proposed casino location, and had asked the local media not to report on the discovery of the tunnels.  My subsequent investigation verified those two allegations, along with the fact that the Applicant never disclosed the existence of the tunnels to Metroplex, the Lead Agency in its SEQRA environmental review process, although they were discovered prior to the approval in August of the Draft Enviromenntal Impact Statement, and prior to the public comment period.

    Our attempt to delay the final approval of the environmental review by Metroplex at its October 22 board meeting was unsuccessful, with no public mention of tunnels, and with Metroplex chairman Ray Gillen insisting to me that there were no tunnels. Click here for our Memorandum to Metroplex about the ALCO tunnels, Oct. 22, 2014.

Last Monday (Oct. 27, 2014), on behalf of the Stop the Schenectady Casino group, Mohamed Hafez and I sent a Comment to the Gaming Facility Location Board setting out the results of my investigation, and stating the belief that the Undisclosed Tunnels Issue draws the integrity of the SEQRA review process into question, along with the credibility of the Applicant, and its appropriate regard for the importance of historic and archeological artifacts and their documentation.  These are further reasons, we argued, for the Location Board to reject the Schenectady casino Application.

The Comment to the Location Board contains full details.  Here are a few important points:

  • ALCOtunnel2 On October 20, I received an email reply from a Gazette reporter saying, “Yes there are tunnels and they are working to get rid of them. I was asked not to report on that fact.” [emphasis added] In a subsequent reply, she also wrote, “I did discuss it with my editors but we’re kind of limited if the developer won’t let us report on it or take photos.” Her attempt two days later to “clarify” away these statements were wholly unpersuasive.

Read More…

Posted by: David Giacalone | October 2, 2014

Heritage Foundation asks Metroplex to protect the Stockade

The Schenectady Heritage Foundation [SHF] has submitted comments to the Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority (Metroplex) concerning the Environmental Impact Statement that Metroplex is reviewing for the development of Mohawk Harbor.  Unlike the original draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement, the draft Supplemental EIS includes an amended development plan that takes into account the proposed Schenectady casino.  Dated September 21, 2014 the SHF Comment to Metroplex focuses on the “potential negative impacts on the preservation of the Stockade Historic District. These concerns are flooding, traffic and quality of life.”

The Foundation’s mission “is to foster historic preservation in Schenectady County.” Its concise and thoughtful letter makes three major points about preserving the important and unique Stockade Historic District:

  • “No aspect of the Development can be allowed to exacerbate flooding in the Stockade Historic District.”
  • “Traffic generated by the Development – with or without a casino – must be directed away from the residential Stockade Historic District.”
  • “The quality of life in the Stockade must be protected and improved for it to continue as a historic district, and for it to thrive as the City’s premier urban neighborhood.”

More specifically, the Comment asserts that:

Ever-increasing vehicular traffic over the centuries has taken a toll on the irreplaceable historic architecture in the Stockade. Volume, noise, fumes and vibrations already cause damage to the fragile plaster walls, leaded glass windows, original stone and brick work, and slate sidewalks in the historic district.

The Foundation Comment also states that increased traffic would reduce safety in the City’s “most walkable urban neighborhood”,  creating a safety hazard for pedestrians and limiting emergency vehicle access.  In addition, to help assure the quality of life in the Stockade,  the New Urbanism concepts endorsed by the City of Schenectady’s 2020 Comprehensive Plan should be “required in the Design of the Development.”

ALCO-SAMmastSk Note:  Point Two of our STATEMENT in OPPOSITION to the Schenectady Casino [at pages 3-8] explains why the risk of damage to the Stockade Historic District and its residential quality (mainly due to a likely increase in crime and a significant increase in traffic) is too great to allow a casino to be located nearby.  The Statement also addresses four other significant reasons to oppose the Schenectady Casino.

p.s. On another subject:  Click here to see the “tunnels”, also called pipe chases and utility corridors found under ALCO Building 332 while demolishing its foundation.

Posted by: David Giacalone | October 1, 2014

press release from the Schenectady Faith Community

Below is a Press Release, dated September 30, 2014, telling of a campaign among various faith congregations in Schenectady to make their opposition known to the proposed Schenectady casino. [click for a printable, pdf. version of the Press Release]  You are encouraged to bring the campaign to your own congregation. The campaign packet includes the following documents to aid in writing the NYS Gaming Facility Location Board.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                       September 30, 2014

Churches Conduct Letter Writing Campaign Against the Schenectady Casino

Members of two Schenectady area congregations today turned over 43 names of individuals signing either letters or petitions to the NYS Gaming Commission Gaming Commission Facility Location Board indicated opposition to the application by Rush Street Gaming for the license in Schenectady. Others took materials and will separately be sending in letters.

The letter submitted summarizes 7 reasons in opposition: that the site could and is being well developed without a casino; it directly threatens the Stockade neighborhood; affects the welfare of a college close by; the location has more disadvantages than advantages; the local support is less significant than it claims; there was no legal public hearing; and concern about Rush Street Gaming supporting “bridging the gap’ with youth between online applications and casino gambling.

Of major concern is that “Rush Street Gaming invests in Ruby Seven Studios, which develops, markets, and distributes casino games such as slots and poker through social network and smart phone ‘app’ websites with terms of service that expressly allow children as young as 13 to play without any age or identity verification.”

Read More…

Posted by: David Giacalone | October 1, 2014

the Gazette gets stuck in Stockade traffic

The Schenectady Gazette wrote yesterday that “Stockade group frets over potential traffic: Mohawk Harbor access a concern” (by Haley Viccaro, September 30, 2014).  They decided to only speak with Mary D’Allesdandro, Stockade Association president concerning the Stockade’s traffic worries.  Mary would not say anything negative about the casino that would greatly increase traffic, but did admit that “Anytime there is development there are concerns, like with traffic.”

The Gazette article quotes from the Stockade Association’s letter to Metroplex commenting on the environmental review of the Mohawk Harbor:

“Because of these concerns, the association requests that, at a minimum, there be no direct connection from the development to Front Street and other measures are taken to reduce the likelihood of drivers using the Stockade streets.”

The article does not point out, as Stop the Schenectady Casino has done often, that the casino’s access plan shows traffic going directly east up Front Street from the casino parking lot, and that that the Mohawk Harbor traffic report insists there will be no harmful effects for traffic as it traverses Front St. and Green St. at Lawrence Circle.  Thus, the applicant recommends no changes along Front St. or at the Circle.

just-say-no-003 For a full account of the Stop the Schenectady Casino group’s position and conclusions on the traffic issues created by the casino in the Stockade, see pages 4 to 6 of our Statement in Opposition to the Schenectady Casino, and the related attachments.

The article has so many flaws, including confusing the extra traffic generated by the casino at the morning rush hour with the number for all daytime traffic, that I left the following comment at the webpage of the article:

COMMENTS
Sept. 30, 2014, 1:17 a.m.

dagiacalone says…

I’m concerned that the Gazette has again forgotten to mention the strong Stockade opposition to the casino, which has focused on the traffic issue for the past two months. Instead, you speak with the President of the Stockade Association, who has refused to have a meeting on the casino, which she supports, and talk about a traffic letter that received a few minutes of attention almost as an afterthought at an Association meeting.
.
Casino opponents collected 126 signatures by Stockade residents on their petition, as compared to the membership of the Association which is under 100, and compared to the 18 people who voted for the “neutrality position” at the September Association meeting.
.
Had you spoken with us, we would have pointed out, as was stated on August 14 at StopTheSchenectadyCasino.com, that the Applicant’s traffic study predicted casino patrons would generate 681 new vehicular trips during morning peak rush hour and 1,615 new trips during evening peak rush hour, not 680 during the day and 1615 at night, as your article states. In fact, the traffic report states that the peak rush hour numbers are those at the peak of the nearby roads, and that the casino’s even higher peak numbers come at different hours (which are never discussed in the Report).
.
The Table from the Traffic Report with the trip generation numbers can be found at this webpage:
http://tinyurl.com/CasinoTripGen
.
It is strange that after 40 years of constant worry about traffic from development, the “leaders” of the East Front Street Neighborhood Association “don’t mind the traffic” from the casino. Yes, Front St. will get the traffic, and two-thirds of Front Street is very narrow and runs through a very densely populated portion of the Stockade neighborhood. For photos and description of the traffic problem likely to be created by the casino, see
http://tinyurl.com/CasinoFrontStreet
.
Finally, the Casino’s access plan has an arrow directing exiting traffic west up Front St. If that is any indication of the good working relationship between the casino Applicant and the Stockade Association, perhaps we are lucky the Association has decided to disarm itself and abandon its role of protecting the residential nature of the Stockade.

 

Posted by: David Giacalone | September 28, 2014

if you think “no”, say so

just-say-no-001 The Casino Facility Location Board will consider comments received from the public about casino applications at any time during its review process.  And, it’s easy to let them know how you feel.  So, why not put fingers to your keyboard or pen to paper and voice your opinion on an issue that will affect Schenectady for decades to come.  But, do so soon, as the Board may choose the winner of the Capital Regional gaming license before the end of October.

Email and Letters can be sent to Gail P. Thorpe: Email address: info@gaming.ny.gov

USPS address: NYS Gaming Commission, Contracts Office, One Broadway Center, Schenectady, NY 12301-7500

just-say-no-002 Click for our  One-Page Guide to Writing a Letter Opposing the Schenectady Casino (Sept. 28, 2014)

For a full discussion, see our STATEMENT in OPPOSITION. just-say-no-003

- and our Issues Page for particular topics -

.

just-say-no p.s. Why Bother? There were so few speakers in opposition to the Schenectady Casino at the Public Comment Event on September 22, that we fear the Location Board may believe there really is no significant opposition.  The Schenectady Gazette didn’t even bother to mention there were any opponents at the Event.  We’d like to think that our Statement in Opposition will be studied and given all due consideration by the Board as it stands, but more letters in opposition will make the arguments in the Statement more meaningful and powerful.

 

Posted by: David Giacalone | September 23, 2014

Bravo and Best Wishes to Howe Caverns Casino!

 The folks from Howe Caverns Casino and Resort did a great job before the Location Board and the media yesterday at the Capital Region public comment event. Chris Churchill at the Times Union said “if you had to pick a winner based solely on Monday’s hearing, you’d go with Howe Caverns.”

The TU’s Jim Odato reported that:

[Location Board Chair Kevin Law] told the crowd during a day of 145 speakers and 11 hours of testimony that “we have no doubt that Schoharie County wants a casino,” drawing hurrahs from the crowd of Howes Cave backers.

media attention for the Howe CAverns casino at the Location Board event - 09/22/2014

the yellow shirts got a lot of attention

Haley Viccaro at the Schenectady Gazette even wrote a separate article during the hearing yesterday that had the headline “Proposed Howe Caverns casino has most local support.”

Many of us at Stop the Schenectady Casino don’t think New York State should be in the business of using casinos as engines of economic growth and revenue generation.  But, if there’s going to be a casino license granted in the Capital Region, it is clear to us that Howe Caverns is the best choice:

  • the people as a whole [no hole pun intended] sincerely and fervently seem to want this casino, unlike places where there is — at the very least — a  large portion of the population strongly against one
  • the bang for the development buck is very much likely to be biggest in Schoharie County
  • its location should mitigate against many of the social problems we believe are especially dangerous when you place a casino at an urban location
  • we can actually imagine it as a “destination casino”

yinyang Yes, we think our  STATEMENT in OPPOSITION to the Schenectady Casino does a good job of explaining why Schenectady should not be chosen.  But, we also believe that the good people of Howe Caverns and Schoharie County have done Schenectady a very good deed by making such a strong case that they be selected.  So, Bravo!, Best Wishes and Big Thanks to the Howe Caverns Casino and Resort.  We like your odds.

Posted by: David Giacalone | September 23, 2014

poor-mouthing Schenectady won’t work

emptyPockets Hats in hand and tin cups raised, Schenectady’s leaders did not exactly do us proud at yesterday’s Public Comment Event.  As we’ve said before, Schenectady’s economic and financial plight is simply not desperate enough for the City to take the Casino Gamble with its future, its social fabric, its reputation, and its soul.  Casino supporters might like to call casino opponents “nay-sayers,” but we seem to have a lot more faith in Schenectady’s revival than they do.  Of course, when running for election, these same leaders trip over their own tongues telling us how successful they have been reviving and transforming Schenectady.

Giving Rush Street Gaming and The Galesi Group the gaming license will not meet the development and job-creation goals of the Upstate New York State gaming law. The first Point in our  Statement in Opposition to the Schenectady Casino explains why.

POINT ONE. Unlike the other Capital Region locations proposed to the Board, the Schenectady Casino is the only Location Well on its Way to Being Fully Developed without a Casino, and Schenectady already has a Vibrant and Successful Development Process.

Read More…

Posted by: David Giacalone | September 23, 2014

Union College and the Schenectady Casino

Here’s what we said about locating the proposed Schenectady Casino so close to Union College in our OUR STATEMENT in OPPOSITION to the Schenectady Casino, submitted on Sept. 22 to the Location Board at its Capital Region Public Comment Event:

NoloSharkS The Schenectady Casino is the only proposed location and Applicant that directly threaten the welfare of a student body of potential young gamblers living no more than a few blocks away.

Schenectady’s Stop Group believes that placing a casino facility at Mohawk Harbor, in such close proximity to the residence halls and other residential housing of Union College, and less than a mile from Schenectady County Community College, unnecessarily endangers the welfare of many young gamblers and potential gamblers. No other competing application poses a similar risk to young adults of gambling age by making access so easy and quick.

Casino-VicinityMapE . . . casino-dormCollage

As can be seen in Attachment 1 and Attachment 6 (above), Mohawk Harbor’s casino facility, located at 450 Nott Street, is a short stroll from virtually all of Union College’s student housing, and only one short block from its largest residence hall at 301 Nott Street.

There is a significant amount of literature and scholarship on college students and gambling, including the increased susceptibility of younger gamblers, alcohol’s connection to problem gambling, and the connection between proximity and increased gambling.[1] The Handout on Problem Gambling from Union College’s Wicker Wellness Center, notes, ”Gambling is in some ways a ‘norm’ among college students.  The most popular games are casino activities such as cards and gambling machines.”

SmallShark The risk is heightened because Rush Street Gaming is experienced in marketing to the Young Gambler and appears to be most desirous of gaining their trade.  For example, Rush Street Gaming’s SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia has introduced a “simplified craps game” called Props & Hops (purportedly alluding to craps terminology), which was developed because “A lot of people, especially the younger kids, are intimidated about craps.”[2] They have also greatly increased the number of poker tables at SugarHouse, a game particularly popular with college students. Their Schenectady Application shows that the Schenectady casino will have a dozen poker tables in a 3000 sq. ft. hall.

Perhaps more worrisome is a recent Report stating that Rush Street Gaming is investing millions of dollars with the aim of becoming the industry leader in “building a bridge” between children playing casino-like games on social media and smartphones and their going to brick-n-mortar casinos to do real gaming once they are old enough.  Knowing that the earlier you begin to gamble, the more likely you are to gamble often and obsessively, Schenectady’s proposed casino operator is sowing the seeds digitally to grow the next generation of problem gamblers.

In its study “Betting on Kids Online,” the hospitality workers union UniteHere argues that Rush Street Gaming

“has quietly pursued an Internet strategy that has sidestepped gambling regulators while also explicitly allowing players as young as 13″ to play their virtual games.

If Rush Street thinks it is worthwhile to groom adolescents into future casino customers, what will Rush Street Gaming do to prepare 18, 19 and 20 year olds down the block who already love poker and “keggers”?

Rush Street’s denial in its Application that proximity and access increase the prevalence of problem gambling also suggests that they need a significant amount of sensitivity training before being allowed to operate near so many potential young gamblers. It is ludicrous for the Applicant to brush off worries about creating more problem gamblers, saying, “the addition of gaming at the Rivers Casino is not expected to lead to an increase in the prevalence rates in the local area”, because people in this area have already been able to travel for slots in Saratoga and casinos in Atlantic City and Connecticut. Other things being equal, we hope this Board will choose to locate the Capital Region casino farther than a short stroll away from a couple thousand potential young gamblers.

[1] For example, see “Festering Beneath the Surface: Gambling and College Students, by the Illinois Dept. of Health Services; “College Problem Gambling Literature Review“, Jim Emshoff, Ph.D., Georgia State University (Jan. 2008).

[Go to the Young Gamblers listing on our ISSUES page for an extensive list of related resources.]

[2] See SugarHouse Press Release, April 30, 2014; and “Sugarhouse Develops a New, Simplified Craps Game For Younger Players“, CBS6 Philadelphia, May 1, 2014; SugarHouse Props & Hops Brochure.

.

- red check  click here for a summary of our major reasons for opposing the Schenectady Casino -

Posted by: David Giacalone | September 21, 2014

five major reasons for opposing the Schenectady Casino

noALCOlogo On Monday,   September 22, 2014, two representatives of Stop the Schenectady Casino spoke before the casino Location Board at the Capital Region Public Comment Event. Mohamed Hafez made a rousing presentation of why a casino would harm the people and City of Schenectady, from the perspective of a landlord and businessman and of a resident trying to make a better Schenectady.

In addition, our STATEMENT in OPPOSITION to the Schenectady Casino (20 pages, plus twelve Attachments) was submitted that day to the Location Board, with a signed Cover Letter. A brief summary of the five major points made and explained in the Statement, along with thumbnails and links to the attachments, can be found below.

- Use this short URL to share this posting: http://tinyurl.com/NotSchdy

OUR FIVE MAIN REASONS for OPPOSING the SCHENECTADY CASINO:

  1. Unlike the other Capital Region locations proposed to the Board, the Schenectady Casino is the only Location Well on its Way to Being Fully Developed without a Casino, and Schenectady already has a Vibrant and Successful Development Process.  The Applicant claims that the casino would remove the largest brownfield in New York State, but the site remediation process is almost complete and would have been done without the casino, as required for the $200 million Mohawk Harbor development.
  1. The Schenectady Casino is the only proposal that directly threatens the welfare of a treasured Historic District – the Schenectady Stockade Historic District
  1. The Schenectady Casino is the only proposed location and Applicant that directly threaten the welfare of a full campus of potential young gamblers living no more than a few blocks away.
  1. Mohawk Harbor’s Urban Location has More Disadvantages than Advantages – e.g., increased probability of social ills due to problem gambling, more crime, a more regressive tax structure.
  1. The Applicant’s Local Support is Less Significant than It Claims and Weaker than in Competing Communities

Here are thumbnails and links to the Twelve Attachments we used to illustrate and supplement our Statement to the Location Board:

  •  #1: a Map of the Vicinity  . Casino-VicinityMapE
  •  #2: Jean Zegger’s one-page history of our Unique Stockade
  •  #3 & #4: two collages showing the beauty and community spirit of the Stockade Neighborhood:

StockadeFlagCollage . . . Casino-LawrenceCollage

  • #5: the Applicant’s Traffic Access Plan targeting Front Street, in the heart of the Stockade ..
    • Casino-AccessDetail

.. #6:

casino-dormCollage . . . a collage showing just how close a Union College dorm is to the casino (i.e., about a block away)

  • #7: Rev. Baron’s Show of Hands . . . .
  • casino-SchdyCo.VoteNov2013BW  #8: a spread sheet showing the Schenectady County Election Results on Proposition One

. . #9 & #10: statements from our religious community condemning the process used by the Schenectady City Council and opposing the casino

  •  FrontStDriveCollage .  . . #11: a trip down Front Street showing the threat of traffic gridlock and other problems caused by casino traffic

. . #12: a sample of our Petition Opposing the Casino, which we are submitting today with 363 signatures, 125 of them by people living in the Stockade Historic District (more people than were members of the Stockade Association over the past year).

 

 

 

 

 

dontforgettack  Capital Region Casino public hearing – “Public Comment Event”
WHEN: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday
WHERE: Holiday Inn, Stonehenge Room A & D, 205 Wolf Road, Colonie
IN-PERSON: Seating is first-come, first-served. Pre-registered speakers should arrive 15 minutes before scheduled time to check-in. Walk-in speakers can register on-site on a first-come, first-served basis.

ONLINE: The full hearing will be streamed live and archived on the Gaming Commission’s website at www.gaming.ny.gov.

Written comments : May be submitted at the event or by email to CapitalRegion@gaming.ny.gov up to seven days after the hearing (September 29, 2014), to be part of the hearing record.  NOTE: Comments received after Sept. 29 will also be considered by the Board as part of its RFA review process.

Posted by: David Giacalone | September 11, 2014

Rush Street takes aim at adolescents

noslots

According to a report issued September 9th by a major hospitality and casino worker union, Rush Street Gaming is investing millions of dollars with the aim of becoming the industry leader in “building a bridge” between children playing casino-like games on social media and smartphones and their going to brick-n-mortar casinos to do real gaming once they are old enough.  Knowing that the earlier you begin to gamble, the more likely you are to gamble often and obsessively, Schenectady’s proposed casino operator is sowing the seeds digitally to grow the next generation of problem gamblers.

bettingonkidsonline-cover Go to the website No Slots for Tots, which is sponsored by the Unite HERE, to see their informative, easy-to-read, and well-illustrated, 12- page report, “Betting on Kids Online: How One US Casino Company Hopes to ‘Bridge the Space’ Between Real and Virtual Casinos While Making Apps Available to Children via Social Networks and Smartphones.”  The introduction states:

[O]ne US casino company [Rush Street Gaming] has quietly pursued an Internet strategy that has sidestepped gambling regulators while also explicitly allowing players as young as 13″ to play their virtual games.

Who is Unite HERE? In their words, “UNITE HERE is the hospitality workers union representing workers in the gaming industry in North America. UNITE HERE Gaming Research provides analysis of the gaming industry from the perspective of those who work in it.”

Note: The Albany Times Union reported last night that “A large casino workers union [Unite HERE] has written to the state Gaming Commission complaining about Rush Street Gaming, the company trying to obtain licenses to run gambling houses in Schenectady and Newburgh. . . . The letter asserts that workers at casinos run by the Chicago-based firm have reported ‘illegal harassment by casino managers including threats, surveillance and other intimidation’.” TU reporter Jim Odato explains further and gives a little background on Rush Street and unions.

If Rush Street Gaming is rushing to create the next generation of casino gamblers, can there be any doubt that they will make a full-court (full-rink?) press to lure Union College undergraduates across the street to the old ALCO site?  For more on the increased vulnerability of young gamblers, see our posting “what will the casino mean for Union College students” and the materials referenced there.

Posted by: David Giacalone | September 9, 2014

Primary Day: Teachout Opposes Casinos

See our postings:

  1. Teachout sees corruption behind Cuomo casino stance (Sept. 2, 2014)
  2. Teachout says no to casinos (August 15, 2014)

ZT-TW flyermast  This primary is important. Vote. Enough said.

Posted by: David Giacalone | September 2, 2014

Teachout sees donations behind Cuomo’s casino stance

MoneyBag neg In a guest column at The Huffington Post today, Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Zephyr Teachout describes “The Corruption Beneath Cuomo’s Casino Push” (The Blog, February 2, 2014.) After listing some of the damage caused and promises broken by casinos, Zephyr asks “So why did New York pass the amendment anyway?” and explains:

Because Governor Cuomo tilted the vote in favor of the gambling industry. His aides helped rewrite language on the ballot to portray the amendment as a huge boon to the state, suggesting it could only lead to benefits, such as job creation, greater school financing, and lower taxes. Newspaper editorial boards and public interest groups across the state cried foul, noting their actions would massively mislead voters — but the Cuomo administration kept the pro-casino wording on the ballot anyway.

 NoloSharkS There’s good reason to think Governor Cuomo had his own interests in mind. Since 2005, he has directly collected over $1 million from gambling and horse racing companies – more than any other elected official or candidate in the state.

As Governor, Ms. Teachout says she will break the tie between political donations and politics, between casino donations and public policy.

Posted by: David Giacalone | August 31, 2014

the unseemly silence from Union College

red check For our summary of the Proximity to Union College issue, as presented in our Statement to the Location Board on September 22, 2014, see “Union College and the Schenectady Casino.”

TooTempting-headline31Aug2014 It’s been almost three months since the Schenectady Daily Gazette ran Carol Hyde’s Letter to the Editor “Union, SCCC will be affected by casino” and we posted “what will the casino mean for Union College students?” (June 7, 2014).  As you might have seen in the Opinion piece published in today’s Sunday Gazette, “Too tempting?: Casino could create young gamblers, but college remains silent“, there still has been no comment on the casino from the Union College President or Administration.  (Sunday Gazette, by David Giacalone, August 31, 2014, D1, subscription req’d )

Naturally, we will post any response from the Union College administration or community at this website.

Posted by: David Giacalone | August 21, 2014

protocol for Location Board’s public comment events

The NYS Gaming Facility Location Board announced the Details and Protocol for Public Comment Events today (August 21).  The email message with the Announcement, from Communications Director Lee Park , is copied in below.  As we posted recently, the “Public Comment Event” — public hearing — for selecting the Capital Region casino will be on Sept. 22, from 8 AM to 8PM, at the Holiday Inn Turf , 205 Wolf Road. Attendance at the Event is on a first-come-first-seated basis, but you will be able to watch it streamed and archived at the Gaming Commission website (www.gaming.ny.gov). Information on sending in your written comments is also given below.

red check Reserved Time Slots.  Note that you may request a 5-minute time slot for making a presentation to the Board at the September 9th event, and there will be five slots reserved per hour, with the remaining slots filled on a first-come basis by signing up the day of the event.  As you can see from the directions, you should reserve a slot as soon as possible, as people will be commenting on all four Capital Region applicants and there are only a total of 60 reserved slots:

Comment Segment Reservations:  Five time slots per hour will be held for speaking time reservations.  To reserve a segment for a public comment event, members of the public should email their name, organization (if applicable) and desired time request to the following email addresses, respective to each location:

September 22, Capital Region Event:                          CapitalRegion@gaming.ny.gov

Organizations or groups are asked to designate a representative to make one 5-minute presentation, with other members speaking as time permits.  Because of limited seating, those not wishing to speak are urged to watch the streamed version online.

update: As representative of Stop the Schenectady Casino, I (David Giacalone) have been given the 10:00 to 10:05 A.M. time slot at the Capital Region public comment event. I hope there will be other Opponents more persuasive than I at the Event.

red check Written Comments. The Board will accept, and seems to prefer, written comments by email [info@gaming.ny.gov], or you may submit them at the Public Comment Event or within 7 days after the event:

Written Submissions: In addition to oral statements, the Board will accept written submissions at the event and up to seven (7) days following the event.  Statements received beyond seven (7) days will not be included in the formal record. 

All submissions should clearly identify the submitter’s name, and affiliation, if any.

Click for a one-page Opposition handout outlining our reasons for opposing the Schenectady Casino.

The full announcement from the Board follows:

Read More…

Posted by: David Giacalone | August 20, 2014

it’s time to write to the Location Board

- click for a one-page handout with the information below -

updated October 1, 2014:

If you have not done so already, we urge you to let the NYS Gaming Facility Location Board know that you are opposed to having a casino in Schenectady. As part of its casino application review process, the Board will consider all comments, no matter when they are received. Because the Board may make its decision by the end of October, comments should be sent as soon as possible.

Email and Letters can be sent to Gail P. Thorpe: Email address: info@gaming.ny.gov

USPS address: NYS Gaming Commission, Contracts Office, One Broadway Center, Schenectady, NY 12301-7500.

   We believe that the promised benefits claimed for the casino are exaggerated and uncertain, and may be of short duration, as more and more casinos are constructed. Any benefits are clearly outweighed by the negative results that are likely to occur in our community. Moreover, basing the Government’s fiscal policy on casino revenues is inappropriate, as it will unfairly take money from the poor and most vulnerable, and their families.

In addition, Schenectady is not so desperate for development that it should gamble with a casino strategy for economic growth. For years, our leaders have taken credit for revitalizing the City, with many new jobs and businesses, and over $830 million in investment since 2004. Moreover, the Galesi Group says it will develop Mohawk Harbor, and remediate the brownfields, with or without a casino — an investment of $200 million, the biggest in the City’s history. Our proud reputation for manufacturing and technology should not be cashed in for the image of a small-time casino town.

Here are some of reasons that members of Stop the Schenectady Casino have for our opposition to having a casino operated at Mohawk Harbor (the old ALCO plant site) by Rush Street Gambling:

  • Injury to local businesses due to the casino taking a large portion of dollars consumers in this area would spend on leisure and entertainment, with most visitors coming from less than 50 miles, causing business bankruptcies, staff reductions, closings. The amenities at the casino will keep day-trippers on the casino lot, not out spreading their wealth across the community.
  • An increase in crime, such as drug sales, prostitution, purse-snatching, DUI, car theft and break-ins, especially near the casino, plus domestic violence; and embezzlement, fraud and financial crimes;
  • More problem gambling, and gambling by the elderly and the very poor, with a casino close-by and open 24/7, bringing much stress and injury to families as well as the entire community.
  • A serious threat to the Stockade Neighborhood’s residential nature, despite its legal protection as a historic district, with more crime and traffic, due to having a casino only a few blocks away.
  • Danger for Young Gamblers, with the Union College campus within half of a mile, and its biggest dorm one block away. Studies show that younger gamblers are more vulnerable to becoming problem gamblers, especially if they drink heavily, have easy access to a casino, and have friends who gamble. Rush Street Gambling’s experience marketing to potential young gamblers makes the location particularly worrisome.

For more information, discussion, photos, links to reference material, and more, browse this website.

Posted by: David Giacalone | August 15, 2014

Teachout says No to casinos

zephheader Zephyr Teachout, Governor Cuomo’s main opponent in the September 9th Democratic primary, spoke with Schenectady Gazette editors and reporters on Thursday (August 14, 2014), and had some very welcome words about casinos. See Education, business on Teachout’s mind“, (August 15, 2014, Daily Gazette, August 15, 2014).

As Haley Vicarro reports in today’s Gazette:

Teachout said she would also pursue new ways to spur economic development upstate — but betting on casinos is not the answer.

“With casinos, there is this initial promise that they will provide jobs,” she said. “But as we know, there might be saturation, and casinos are failing in Atlantic City. I don’t think casinos are the right direction for economic development.”

Teachout said she believes the Galesi Group’s plan to revitalize the former Alco site off Erie Boulevard is development that “makes sense.” Add in a casino, though, and it creates trouble.

“It’s my understanding Galesi was looking to make that investment before the casino,” she said. “Casinos are a gamble themselves. It’s riskier to bring in a casino. It’s not a priority for my campaign to pursue casinos.”

Those might be Teachout’s first public words on casinos, and they are most encouraging. As I asked in a Comment at the Gazette webpage: Why is it that Zephyr Teachout has figured out the casino scam, but our local politicians are still playing Hear-No-See-No-Speak-No Evil?

If the Teachout-Wu campaign addresses the casino issue in more detail, we will cover it here.  Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for Governor, weighed in at his weblog last month, with the posting “Cuomo’s bad casino bet fueled by campaign donations” (July 16, 2014). update: see the Newsday piece, “After snubs, Cuomo team rakes in big donations from gambling, developers and two unions” (Spin Cycle column, by Yancey Roy, Aug. 29, 2014).

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