Casino firms promise benefits

Reluctant residents warm to the idea of much-needed infrastructure improvements

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  • Pictured is a rendering of the Live! Hotel & Casino New York that Cordish/Penn National hopes to build in the Village of South Blooming Grove.

By Edie Johnson

— Blooming Grove residents may think gambling is a good idea for New York. But whether gambling will be good for the Village of South Blooming Grove, population 3,400, is another matter.

Promises by Cordish/Penn

Widen the problematic Route 17/Route 208 intersection and stretch of road leading to the casino resort.
Reconfigure the dangerous Clove Road intersection.
Build a backup water tower for the village as well as a water tower for the resort itself.
Beef up fire and police protection by building substations to handle the resort’s needs.
Replace the village’s 1981 fire truck with a new one.
Provide 3,500 new jobs, including jobs for college grads.
Give local workers will get priority on all construction jobs.
Donate at least $5 million to the village toward local projects that could not otherwise be done.
Pay for all studies and application fees.

In last November's election, 69 percent of Blooming Grove voters supported the successful statewide proposition to expand gambling in New York. But residents' impressions were initially negative at the first meeting Monday to discuss the casino companies' environmental review for their chosen site: 125 acres near Cassidy’s Driving Range on Route 208.

The Cordish Companies and Penn National Gaming, in a 50/50 venture, want to build a $750 million, 300-room hotel to include a spa and fitness center, restaurants, performance venue, and conference center, along with more than 3,000 slot machines and 250 table games.

The mood at Monday's meeting lightened after a review of the ways the casino is likely to benefit the town and village — especially the expected boost to tax revenue. But some residents wondered if Cordish/Penn's plan to spend $36 million to improve local infrastructure, and other promised benefits (see sidebar), is worth taking on more traffic congestion, noise — and people.

The Monroe-to-Washingtonville stretch of Route 208 is already noisy from truck traffic and dotted with memorials marking the sites of fatal accidents. Truck drivers who want to avoid Thruway traffic and tolls use the road as a shortcut, much to residents' chagrin.

The 35 residents who turned out Monday complained most about not being included in the planning process.

"When do we get to say whether we even want a casino?" one resident demanded.

Many wanted to know why the village's notification system was not better. Mayor Rob Jeroloman explained that the "robo call" system is only for emergencies. Residents have formed their own email notification system, and asked the village to post information on the big fire department sign by town hall.

But the village and town have jointly already approved Cordish/Penn's initial application. Village attorney Dennis Lynch said the public's only recourse at this point is to write down their concerns and submit them to the village, which will add them to the state environmental quality review.

Mayor Rob Jeroloman was upbeat. He told residents that property taxes could drop by as much as two-thirds.

The small village is struggling with aging water and sewer lines, a nearly collapsed bridge on Peddlar Hill now in the middle of repairs, and deteriorating roads. Just this week broken pipes brought on a water emergency. The village also needs a new water tower. Jeroloman said Cordish/Penn can help.

Two big projects wait in the wings

Village officials said two other applicants were lined up to start big projects in South Blooming Grove. Earlier this year a large hotel chain proposed a mega-hotel on property about a quarter-mile from the proposed casino site, Jeroloman said. That application has been pulled but may become active again if the casino doesn't happen, he said.

The other application is for a high-density housing development proposed by a Hasidic group that bought 750 acres at Lake Anne. The project bogged down in legal wrangles over zoning. But Lynch said the applicant, after bankruptcy, has found new supporters, and the application is active again.

The village is the only town west of Harriman to currently have excess sewer capacity. Still, the village would not be able to handle all three projects and is focused primarily on Cordish/Penn.

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