No casino at Willets Point
by Edwin Salas
Mar 07, 2013 | 12122 views | 0 0 comments | 499 499 recommendations | email to a friend | print
There have been rumblings and rumors about a casino in Willets Point, and I ask why do we need something so destructive in our community?

Casinos are notorious for destroying communities that are already teetering on the brink. Willets Point has the potential to be great ,if only we are given a fighting chance.

The current proposal to revive Willets Point is something the entire community has gotten behind. We have given up so much to get to this point that adding a casino will set us back. When we should be talking about jobs, economic development, improving the pockmarked streets and other infrastructure, we are discussing further obliteration.

The addition of the casino will not add anything to the economic structure of the community; it will simply be a gamble on our community.

Even elected officials who represent Willets Point and the surrounding communities have spoken out against what would be a doomed casino project. Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras, whose district encompasses Willets Point, stated that “it is unprecedented to convert part of an existing economic development project that provides affordable housing and retail jobs for the purpose of building a casino, which would obviously affect the social fabric of the community.”

Andrew Rocco, president of College Point Civic Association, said our government should focus on investing in the things that we already have instead of creating and investing in the gambling industry. To echo Mr. Rocco’s words, I say we need sound investment in the people and cultural institutions that are in the surrounding areas of Willets Point.

A casino in this community will not add to the revitalization of Willets Point, all it will mean is a loss of jobs and closing of area businesses. When a casino comes into an existing community, the survivors are very few. Not many businesses can withstand the onslaught of a casino.

There will be no infusion of tourism dollars to the neighborhood. Patrons to the casino will undoubtedly spend both their money and time inside the casino. The added visitors to the area will add their dollars to the casino’s bottom line, while the rest of the community struggles.

Casinos are unfair and destructive to local communities. The current Willets Point Plan, which will be a great improvement to the local community, is something that has been vetted and approved. Adding a casino was never part of the original plan.

I speak for many who would have never supported the restructuring if we had known that a casino could be part of the package. Instituting something of that magnitude into our community without our consent is not only unfair, but disrespectful.

Do we not get a say in what happens in or to our community? Are we that irrelevant? We ask our legislators to not destroy what we are trying to build up. Give us the respect that you demand for your community.

Edwin Salas is president of the Statewide Association of Minority Businesses.

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