Differing views expressed over casino in Schenectady
SCHENECTADY The news of a potential casino proposal in Schenectady got mixed reviews from residents and legislators Thursday.
Reactions ranged from enthusiasm to doom.
“I think it’ll be good for the city,” said Mary D’Alessandro, president of The Stockade Association. The Stockade is one of the neighborhoods close to the proposed casino.
“It will help its tax base, and I think it will help in other areas — it will bring in more people and jobs,” she said. “I don’t see how it would bring crime into the Stockade.”
But fellow Stockader David Giacalone predicted disaster.
“I can’t see how the impact could be anything but negative to a fragile and small community,” he said, referring to the Stockade.
He warned that the casino would bring panhandling, drugs, prostitution and theft into the Stockade, while also decimating the downtown.
“I don’t see how the small entertainment and food venues are going to compete with subsidized dining and subsidized entertainment,” he said.
City Council members were cautiously optimistic.
“I think economically it could be wonderful for the city,” said Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo. “But I think we need to gather more information first.”
She said she wanted to hear from the public at length on the issue.
“We need it! It’s important,” she said. “I’d like to know people’s concerns. At first blush, I don’t have deep concerns, but I do not have the only brain in the city.”
Council President Margaret King said she had some worries, but added that she supports the proposal anyway.
“The jobs it would create, the financial benefits, would be huge. But clearly at the same time we must be conscious of things like addictions,” she said.
She noted that the detailed plan for the proposal — which has not been submitted yet — must address those issues.
Councilman Carl Erikson was opposed to the casino referendum last fall, but said he’d be willing to support a casino in Schenectady — on one condition.
He’s intrigued by reports that the city would receive a guaranteed $6 million in revenue from the casino.
“I would pass legislation [that] that money would be a guaranteed tax levy reduction,” he said.
It would reduce taxes about 18 percent to 20 percent, he calculated.
“That, I think, would be very beneficial to the city of Schenectady,” he said. “That’s significant.”
He is still concerned about gambling addicts, but he said he was swayed by the number of people in Schenectady who voted for the casino referendum.
“There’s a large number of people in our community who want it,” he said. “People have problems with alcoholism — do you not let anyone drink? But I’m concerned.”
For similar reasons, Councilman Vince Riggi said he is adamantly opposed to a local casino.
“The research I’ve done is neighborhoods deteriorate surrounding a casino and we definitely have enough of that in Schenectady,” he said.
He added that he was worried people facing foreclosure would gamble in desperation to try to save their homes. The city is now filing for foreclosure when owners don’t pay their taxes, and Riggi said the temptation of a Schenectady casino could push some people to gamble away what little they have left.