A coalition of organizations and groups, including many Russian Jewish immigrants, is working to keep gambling out of Coney Island as the state mulls expanding casinos.
“If you look at every independent economic study that’s been done about casinos, what happens is crime and traffic increases and the quality of life decreases,” said Steve Zeltser, a spokesman for Stop The Coney Island Casino, which held a press conference Monday morning at the Kings Bay Y.
In his State of the State Address Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said any new casinos should be upstate. “No casinos will be located in New York City—the plan is to bring downstate New Yorkers and other visitors to upstate,” the governor said.
However, a Cuomo spokesperson later told Crain’s New York business that it was possible that after three casinos are opened upstate one might be in New York City. Cuomo supports expanding gaming beyond Native American areas to seven new casinos in order to fund education projects and lower property taxes.
There is not yet a specific proposal for a casino in the storied neighborhood, but the one-time amusement mecca is one of several areas that would see an expansion of legalized gambling in a bill before the state legislature. The area fell into decline in the 1970s and ’80s but has since been the target of substantial development. It has seen the rise of a minor-league baseball stadium for the Brooklyn Cyclones in the mid-’90s and, last year, replacement of the aging Astroland amusement park with a modernized successor, Luna Park.
Legislators must approve a bill to amend the state constitution in two successive sessions before gambling expansion can be submitted to the public for a referendum.
Several elected officials turned out at the press conference to oppose the bill, including Assemblyman Steve Cymbrowitz, Assemblyman William Colton and Councilman David Greenfield, all Brooklyn Democrats.
But Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny, whose district includes Coney Island, said he is still listening to opinions on the matter from constituents and is reserving judgment.
“I think I’m going to have some hearings and public forums to discuss this,” he told The Jewish Week Tuesday. “I understand that people in the state have a desire not to see [a casino] in their backyard.”