Voted With 'My Conscience': Only Legislator Opposing Nassau Casino

GLEN COVE, NY — While the Las Vegas Sands is forging on with its $4 billion world-class hotel/casino for the Nassau Hub, there was one lawmaker who voted “my conscience” with the county legislature’s only “no” on Monday night.

“There are a lot of life quality issues that come with a casino,” Leg. Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove) told Patch.

The other 17 legislators voted in favor of the lease deal, while one member (Kevan Abrahams-D-Freeport) recused himself. Still, DeRiggi-Whitton said this was not contentious.

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“I respect my colleagues,” she said of the vote. “They seemed to understand that I’m not against, in any way, getting jobs. I’m in favor of getting money for the county, but at what cost to our quality of life?”

DeRiggi-Whitton said from her research of a casino’s impact on neighborhoods, traffic is one concern that she and others in the opposition point to.

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“Hempstead Turnpike is one of the most dangerous roads in the nation,” DeRiggi-Whitton said. “Now we’re gonna have 20,000 people, at least, a day, according to their projections join in on that, without a traffic study.”

While DeRiggi-Whitton also cited crime and addiction as worrisome traits of a casino, she also had more governmental reasons for voting down the proposal.

Union jobs are a vital part of the project, or any for the Hub, but that also is an irritant for the lawmaker.

“Sands has only given the construction people a contract, not the workers,” she said. “They say they are going to pay $70,000 a year for the workers. We don’t know about that. We haven’t seen anything in writing.”

Even if the state doesn’t grant the Sands a gaming license from the remaining 10 applicants, DiRiggi-Whitton said, the lease agreement is intact.

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“It’s stated in this transfer that they do not have to come before the legislature,” she said. “It is up to the county executive branch only to decide what goes in there. They gave us a very vague description of another hotel, but I don’t why we need another hotel if there’s no casino.” Opposition group “Say No to the Casino” hailed DiRiggi-Whitton for “courage and commitment to her constituents.”

DiRiggi-Whitton said the “Plan B” for the Sands Hub project would include housing. Few details were provided, but in that case, she was told they are “not putting anywhere close” to the $4 billion plans.

“I can’t give up that control to one single person,” she said. “To eliminate a whole branch of government does not sit right with me.”

That person is County Executive Bruce Blakeman, who pushed to get Sands proposed lease agreement signed, even initially as a photo opportunity.

“This is his dream,” DiRiggi-Whitton said. “I understand that this is what he likes, and that’s great. I don’t know; maybe I have a different outlook. I think we can do better.”

Meaning, finding other options for the 72 acres at the Nassau Coliseum, instead of the glitzy casino. She voted for the previous plan put forth by Uniondale-based realtor RXR. They would have tried to lure medical research groups. Sloan Kettering would have had space as well.

“I really consider [it] very valuable, in the center of one of the wealthiest counties in the nation,” she said.

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