A proposal to build a Coney Island casino is on the books, but residents there are not playing games.
Community leaders and activists sounded off Monday night over a bid to construct a casino in their neighborhood. Some expressed concern that the venue would bring more traffic and crime to the neighborhood and skepticism about the promised economic benefits, while others argued it would be a boon for business.
“This casino is a travesty. It will destroy the community and it will drain the community of the resources that the people barely have," Kashiem Brown told Gothamist. “You want to build a casino in a community that is already neglected by the city and state as a whole, and what’s gonna happen further is going to drain the people of their means.”
People protested outside a community meeting at the local YMCA, where they were asked to submit their opinions on the proposal. The United Front Against Displacement hosted a rally outside.
"I don't know how I feel yet,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, who organized two such meetings on Monday for locals to be heard. “I want to be honest. Ultimately, what I want is for Coney Island to be taken care of. That's what I care about more than anything. And whatever decision the state wants to make here, I want the community involved. That's what I'm doing here."
Thor Equities, the organizers behind the casino bid, unveiled the project's name last week as well as the first renderings of the venue. Dubbed, “The Coney,” the casino would “[fit] seamlessly into the neighborhood” and will “jump-start the economic revival” of the area, organizers said.
“The first renderings show what's possible by selecting Coney Island - an iconic community that's been a beloved destination for generations of New Yorkers and people worldwide - as a casino and entertainment venue,” said project spokesman Eric Koch. “The project's revitalizing power will help drive a Coney Island comeback for a community that has lagged behind Brooklyn and the rest of New York City in several areas, including a higher poverty rate, unemployment rate and higher rates of New Yorkers without health insurance.”
Rather than the traditional public forum format that many such meetings use, Reynoso had community members write their thoughts out and stick them to a corresponding poster board at the side of the room. Organizers of the event said they would review the comments for a forthcoming report on the community's reactions to the proposal.
“You’re wasting people’s time," Brown said. "They came out to speak.”
Many wrote down concerns over how casino culture might have an effect on the area that they said already struggles with crime. But some residents like Julia Daniely said she believed in the economic revitalization potential of the project, which would provide year-round entertainment unlike many of the area’s seasonal attractions.
“"We were considered the world's greatest entertainment district,” Daniely said. “How can it be so great without a casino? First and foremost though, it's going to bring jobs to the neighborhood. A lot of jobs."
It will be months before the state ultimately decides on the proposal.