These are people who thrive in the midst of those who are less fortunate, taking advantage of their fears by casting something as the bogeyman that is out to get them. These same “leaders” do nothing to improve the life condition of the people they are talking at – they produce no results other than the temporary mental satisfaction of those who feel someone is standing up for them, only to have those same people leave in the same way in which they came.
True civic organizations fight daily to improve the quality of life of the residents in our communities. We meet with entities in our communities to address issues; we bring decision-makers to our meetings with our members to get their questions answered. We spend an inordinate amount of hours researching, communicating and disseminating information to our constituents. We teach our constituents to fish, and we don’t expect anyone to give us a fish.
My civic association, together with other civic associations that surround the Aqueduct racetrack, have been fighting for close to 20 years, looking forward to the reconstruction and revitalization of the track. We have been in discussions with Community Board 10, Borough Presidents Schulman and Marshall, Assemblywoman Pheffer, deceased assemblywoman Pauline Rhodd-Cumming, and State Senators Maltese and Addabbo.
We have worked on several different plans and we have lived through several different disappointing fits and starts. When Genting was awarded the right to build their casino, we all felt a sense of relief and optimism. And to their credit, Genting has been working with us in partnership, alerting our constituents to their opportunities, answering all of our questions – all the while becoming acclimated to our community. The relationship thus far could not be better.
Despite the feelings of optimism for many, there are some that believe that the selection of Genting brought disenfranchisement. You would think that it would be those who sought the rights to build the casino, but were not selected. In this case however, it is a community of people who thought they were initially awarded the rights in a previous process, only to be disappointed when that process was deemed invalid.
Some decided to own the previous process as if they were investors. They had built a sense of ownership with the belief that they were going to be intricately involved in the development of the project. Rightly or wrongly, the invalidation of that process left some people feeling as if they lost a significant stake in the development of the racetrack. These people, led astray by the supposed previous winners, are ripe for exploitation by the misguided and their cohorts who are more than eager to accommodate.
Before Genting was even chosen to develop the racetrack, a group of people, led by misguided leaders held a protest in front of the racetrack in June of 2010 to protest the bidding process. Illustrating a severe lack of understanding of the procurement process, they denounced the state’s RFP and it’s “lack of inclusion.” Since then, they have continued to lead people astray with poorly conceived assertions and sound bites.
Those of us who live next to Aqueduct have been simply baffled by these tactics. They continue to antagonize our community without consulting those that live here – promulgating mistruths along the way. Simply put, it needs to stop.
The NAACP is this country’s foremost civil rights organization, and using its legacy to back a misguided campaign devalues its meaning to all of us. The redevelopment of Aqueduct means a lot to all of us, and inappropriately calling a company racist because it has not “consulted” any one self-appointed “leader” is unjust.
While holding true to our values of fairness and community, we have maintained a high level of communication with Genting and we have met their efforts to hire locally with vigor and anticipation, not cynicism. We have publicized their many opportunities and we have encouraged our constituents to respond.
We will continue to reciprocate the same respect the Genting officials and representatives have shown to us. We will continue to urge those who have the community’s interest at heart to do the same. We ask those with personal agendas to go elsewhere.
Anthony J. Gellineau is president of the South Ozone Park Civic Association West.