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NYC Community Boards Oppose City Casino Review Plan

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Posted on: December 17, 2023, 10:19h. 

Last updated on: December 17, 2023, 10:19h.

Community Boards in New York City are voicing their displeasure with Mayor Eric Adams’ (D) plan for the city’s review of casino applications.

New York casino Community Board
Community Board 4 Chair Jeffrey LeFrancois speaks during a public announcement of a new housing plan in January 2023. The Community Board opposes city efforts to bypass input from Community Boards on casino proposals. (Image: CB4)

The Adams administration plans to implement a review process for the city’s forthcoming casino bids that would strip the Community Boards from formally weighing in on the multibillion-dollar projects.

If a proposed amendment from Adams is executed, CBs won’t have a voice in the casino considerations. During its meeting last week, Community Board 4, which encompasses Hell’s Kitchen and Chelsea on Manhattan’s West Side, voted in opposition to Adam’s plan to bypass CB input.

Shame on city planning to abdicate everything to the state,” CB member Delores Rubin said, as reported by The City, a digital nonprofit news service. “You literally are just giving away any opportunity for what has been fought for by city planning, but more importantly, has been fought for by each community.”

There are 59 Community Boards in New York City. Each board consists of unsalaried members whom borough presidents and council members appoint.

CB members must reside or work in the community of the board they wish to represent. The quasi-government committees serve in advisory functions to their borough districts. They’re most frequently asked to comment on land use and zoning matters.

Atypical Project Review

When a new commercial project is proposed in New York City, the city government typically requires the developers to undergo a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). A ULURP is initiated when a project requires land-use changes, a zoning change, or the sale of city-owned property.

Adams, however, says ULURPs are unnecessary for the city’s review of casino bids because it would essentially duplicate the state’s consideration of each gaming pitch.

Under state law, for a downstate casino to qualify for consideration by the New York Gaming Facility Location Board, the project must first receive the backing of its local Community Advisory Committee (CAC). Each casino will be allocated a six-member CAC, with Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), Adams, the borough president, and applicable state senator, assemblyperson, and city councilor each appointing a person to the committee.

The CAC will be tasked with considering land use and zoning changes for the proposed casino scheme. The City Planning Commission must first vote in favor of dropping ULURPs for casino bids before the measure would go to the City Council and Adams for final approval.

East Side Casino Update

Among the roughly dozen casino bids expected for New York’s downstate is a project from the Soloviev Group. The pitch is targeting about seven acres of vacant land just south of the United Nations Headquarters between 38th and 41st streets between 1st Avenue and FDR Drive.

Soloviev is proposing a 1,200-room hotel with more than 1,300 residential units, with about 500 reserved for affordable housing. Soloviev, which is partnered with Mohegan for its casino operations, announced last week the resort’s latest concept amenity — a Banyan Tree-branded luxury wellness retreat.

Banyan Tree is a Singapore-based hospitality brand that runs resorts, hotels, and spas in Asia and the Middle East. Should Soloviev’s pitch win one of the three downstate casino licenses, Banyan Tree would bring its first wellness retreat to the US by way of Manhattan’s East Side.

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