Now that the Nassau County Legislature has approved the transfer of the Hub lease to Las Vegas Sands, Uniondale organizations and residents are assessing the potential impact, especially if New York state approves a casino license for the planned integrated resort.
“This particular developer has the capacity and the will to really strengthen the community,” said Jeannine Maynard, a recently retired social worker and a proponent of the Sands project.
Opponents, however, say they believe the Sands development’s impact on the community could be a negative one.
“The casino makes money by taking money,” said Pearl Jacobs, president of the Nostrand Gardens Civic Association, “and Sands is going to recoup that money from the people who can least afford that money.”
Uniondale has seen nearly 15 years of developers’ efforts to reshape the unused 71-plus acres surrounding the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, including the $4 billion Lighthouse project proposed by co-developers Charles Wang and Scott Rechler of RXR in 2009. The Lighthouse proposal struggled to get past environmental and zoning issues. In 2020, Florida developer Nick Mastroianni II took over the Hub lease, but the Covid pandemic eviscerated his plans.
Visions for the Hub have included a major convention center, a five-star hotel, renovation of the Coliseum, and expansion of retail, business and residential space.
To those visions, the Sands proposal would add a high-end performance venue with at least 3,600 seats, as well as a casino that would be open 24/7, with an expectation of 20,000 visitors per day.
“From the local community viewpoint here, I see it as being unmanageable traffic,” Uniondale Community Council member Kathleen Lyons, a retired teacher, said. “Unless we do Disneyland monorails, I don’t know what we’ll do about the traffic on Hempstead Turnpike and other streets in the area.”
Lyons said she didn’t think that businesses in Uniondale would benefit from the development, because the casino would aim to keep its patrons inside, or encourage use of restaurants and entertainment that would be part of the resort.
“People aren’t going to come down Uniondale Avenue from the Sands resort to the businesses along Jerusalem Avenue,” she said.
Jacobs said she was deeply concerned about safety, despite Nassau County Police Commissioner Pat Ryder’s detailed assurances that the county could handle the heightened security requirements of a massive daily influx of visitors to the Hub.
“Ryder is a top-notch commissioner,” Jacobs said. “We don’t rate as the safest county in America for no reason. But this is a whole new scope of what’s going to happen to our community.”
Some crimes, Jacobs said, are more likely to occur in the area surrounding a casino. “I’ve done my research,” she said. “A casino that has a hotel on site tends to be a magnet for human trafficking, especially trafficking young women for sexual work. Lower-income and minority women fall more prey to human trafficking.”
Though she is in favor of the project, Maynard said she was aware of safety concerns. “It’s been a tough struggle in many ways, especially with my background in social work,” she said. “I worked with the Uniondale Youth Project until the county cut its funding … but the state has approved a casino to be regionally present, so the risks will exist to some degree somewhere in the community.”
Maynard pointed out that Sands has been cognizant of the resort’s unique safety needs, and has taken part in discussions with the same community organizations that were involved when RXR proposed the Lighthouse project. The talks with Sands officials, she said, had been comparatively reassuring, especially their recognition that the entire development area is part of Uniondale, not Garden City or East Garden City, which no longer exists.
“From the residential point of view,” Maynard said, “the attempt to cut off the southern side of the Uniondale community and give the northern portion a different identity has tremendous risks for the southern portion. … We have a diverse identity throughout the community, but we are one community.”
Maynard said she appreciated that RXR claimed a Uniondale address for its Omni building and RXR Plaza, along Hempstead Turnpike, rather than distancing itself based on perceptions of Uniondale as a lower-income area with higher crime — perceptions that Maynard said were unfairly bolstered by media reports.
“Sands has come in, and they get it,” she said. “The 99-year lease with Sands secures the name of Uniondale on both sides of Hempstead Turnpike.”
A lengthy, expensive process of obtaining the casino license and passing regulatory challenges is still ahead before the project can become a reality.
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