Differing views expressed over casino in Schenectady

Friday, April 25, 2014
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The former Alco factory site along Erie Boulevard in Schenectady, pictured recently, is the site of a proposed casino.
The former Alco factory site along Erie Boulevard in Schenectady, pictured recently, is the site of a proposed casino.

— 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.

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April 25, 2014
7:29 a.m.
JoeK says...

The problem with our city is we are afraid of change.People can come up with any bogus argument to prevent it.Finally tax relief of 20%,thousands of new jobs and redevelopment.I will take the change and so would most sane people.

April 25, 2014
7:38 a.m.

Where's the other two council members' opinions

April 25, 2014
8:46 a.m.
joycemadre says...

people who go to casino's will spend their money there and not patronize other local establishments. Thats noted by all communities with casino's. The jobs will mostly still be hospitality, Schnenectady needs to expand the job base beyond that.

April 25, 2014
10:04 a.m.
mezz3131 says...

Maybe people will spend their welfare checks at the casino instead of $100 dollars at a rip buying scratch off lottery tickets, therefore making convenience stores convenient's a win win.

April 25, 2014
10:40 a.m.
schdyres says...

It will take a mobilization of city residents just as in Saratoga to stop it. The city council already has out the rubber stamps!
Promises of tax relief and jobs!, jobs! jobs!--the usual scam while the 1% benefit. The Stockade leader had better call a meeting before she speaks out of order again.

April 25, 2014
11:17 a.m.
JoeK says...

I wonder if Thomas Edison ran into this when he wanted to start GE in Schenectady.Lets stop the baseless arguments and move this city forward.

April 25, 2014
11:57 a.m.
hodgkins.t says...

No mention in the article of the multiple meetings the casino developers have had with local politicians. Who was lobbied and by whom? When were they lobbied? What materials were presented to the politicians? What was discussed? What do the meeting notes say? Sunshine Please !
Why is the developer hiding their proposal from the public? Why do they prefer the shadows?
The City of Albany scheduled 6 public meetings, and has had many open discussions with the developer. Why in Schenectady do politicians not discuss what they know about the casino, and minimize public involvement in the deliberation and decision making process?
Why has the Stockade Association not called a meeting to discuss and vote on the casino?

April 25, 2014
12:48 p.m.
schdyres says...

JOE K uses terms like bogus and baseless but has nothing substantive to say about the documented legitimate concerns that led the majority of upstate residents to vote against casinos much less the objections of the business community and taxpayers in Saratoga.

April 25, 2014
3:22 p.m.

Joe K......Yes..Thomas Edison had GREAT OPPOSITION......the PEOPLE did not want it....the asking price was too high for Edison...the Business People....THE BUSINESS PEOPLE....not the tax payers had to come up with the asking price for Edison to buy the property and buildings...Read your Schenectady History...In the 1880s Thomas Edison was in the early stages of electrifying America around New York City when he became weary of the labor problems he was constantly butting up against. He determined to move his nascent machine works elsewhere. He heard tell of two buildings in the McQueen yard that were still not completed and came to Schenectady to inspect the facilities. He offered to buy them from the railroad men but his offer was $7,500 below the asking price.

Schenectady businessmen caught wind of the dealings and set out to cover the difference. They struggled to raise the money and were still $500 short with a deadline looming before Edison was to close a land deal in New Jersey. Although it was after hours the group's leaders knocked on the door of the Mohawk Bank anyway and indeed found the son of one their group working late. He agreed to put up the last $500 which was wired to Edison and closed the deal. The Edison works moved to Schenectady in 1886 and in 1894 the city was designated as the headquarters of General Electric.

April 25, 2014
3:35 p.m.

The 60-acre site at Exit 23 on the Thruway, on Albany's South Side which is the property owned by the Noonan clan, the maternal side of New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's family, which should go a long way toward overcoming any unforeseen regulatory issues the project might face in Washington. The 1,800 permanent casino and hotel jobs created in Albany would all be unionized under the agreement, and virtually everyone working at the entertainment complex would be a resident of the Capitol District......Where do you think they are going to build this thing?

April 25, 2014
5:15 p.m.
JoeK says...

Thanks for proving my point.Schenectady had the courage to move forward in the 1800s too bad it is lacking in the 2000s.

April 25, 2014
5:35 p.m.
ldilallo says...

I agree with JoeK. Also, Edison left Joisey due to unionization of that plant.

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