Strictly Stasi
by Anthony Stasi
Sep 29, 2009 | 7300 views | 0 0 comments | 59 59 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Most people view casino gambling in a community with some degree of trepidation. With all of the revenue that a casino produces, there is no real guarantee that the benefits will trickle down to the community. Critics are fast to point to Atlantic City, which still has its issues with all of that money that comes streaming in. But perhaps casino gambling, slot machines in this case, might be beneficial to Aqueduct Racetrack and Ozone Park. Atlantic City was built before the age of transparency with regard to financial histories and tracking.

Horse racing is a generational sport. People go with their fathers, but for many in Queens – and you can add Yonkers Raceway to that equation – the tradition is not handed down anymore. Racing is not really “The Sport of Kings” in New York. It is the sport of mail carriers, Con Ed workers, and regular, hardworking folks. I went to the Belmont Stakes when I was 14 because my uncle was supposed to take me to a Little League game, and we wound up at the track, which he loved. Because George Steinbrenner had a horse in the race that year, he felt it was the same as baseball.

The younger generation enjoys Las Vegas and Atlantic City, but horse racing, on average, has an older clientele. Casino gambling at Aqueduct Racetrack would be an almost guaranteed revenue stream. Even with modern tracking and transparency practices, it will still be a hotbed for graft, but the revenue could go to schools or transportation. This worked in Yonkers, where the casino and racetrack now produce $20 million a year for education.

From a policy perspective, you would like your revenue to come from someplace else. With Wall Street still with wobbly knees, communities need revenue streams. If managed properly, this is a good possibility.

As to who will win this bidding war to build the casino at Aqueduct, there needs to be a lot of thought that goes into that process. If this project goes wrong, it will be a huge black eye on Ozone Park.

Is there a plan to keep this revenue in Queens when it becomes a reality? The people in Rockaway, Howard Beach, and Ozone Park could use easier access to the city. Perhaps an express A train that skips the Brooklyn stops (except for Borough Hall) would be a thought. Ferry service from Rockaway is also important. Keeping families in this community revolves around transportation to the city. I tried to make that case as a candidate almost nine years ago. We can still do more to make that commute easier for people. It would help real estate values as well.

Al Sharpton…Kingmaker?

Has the world forgiven Al Sharpton? Or have only certain politicians forgiven him? The reverend’s history is well documented. He has been nothing if not visible in most cases that involved race issues, and usually not by way of peacemaker. Before we go any further, in complete fairness, Sharpton – with his showmanship – certainly has been a port in a storm to some people that may not have been able to afford legal help and so instead they settled for the reverend’s three ring circus of media coverage.

His actions in the Tawana Brawley incident, Freddie’s Fashion Mart, and his speech at Kean College in 1994 (where his words were pretty offensive...just Google “Sharpton” and “Kean College” for more on that) have made him a household name. Now politicians are vying for his endorsement; 1994 was a long time ago, but what if politicians were boasting endorsements from controversial political figures like Ann Coulter? Do you think the New York Times would question it, or at least make the candidates explain it?

SCandidates should not turn votes away. If Sharpton can deliver votes to candidates that are running for certain city offices, they know it is in their interest to get elected. But why post that endorsement on a campaign website? We all grow and we hopefully forgive. This is not about picking on Sharpton or creating an issue where there is none, but is he not still a visible part of the emotional scars of this city? When Ronald Reagan was endorsed by the controversial John Birch Society, he said “they are endorsing me, I am not endorsing them.”

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