How a casino proposal came to Tuxedo
Tuxedo Board held six closed door meetings to interview attorneys and consultants before casino approvals
By Nathan Mayberg
TUXEDO — When the New York State Gaming Commission Resort Gaming Facility Location Board makes a decision this fall on where up to two casinos go in the Hudson Valley, one of the factors in their decision will be the economic need and poverty level of the host community.
The town of Tuxedo, with a median family income of $115,823, as reported in the 2012 American Community Survey, might fall short on that level.
The gaming board must also gauge community support, and with a pending lawsuit against the town by its own residents and an informal survey by Supervisor Mike Rost this spring in which opposition ran 2-1 against the project, the support in Tuxedo may not be as high as other towns.
Still, Rost and the town board have voted to support a casino proposal by the Malaysian-based gaming company Genting and create a special casino overlay zone in an area surrounded by Sterling Park State Forest.
Rost said there has been "a lot of support from the town as a whole."
First contact comes in March
Rost said the developers came to him while looking for sites in March. "They reached out to me," the supervisor said. "We talked a couple times."
The company settled on the Tuxedo Ridge Ski Center property in addition to a site in Montgomery. Genting is also a partner in a casino proposal in Sullivan County.
After a public meeting on April 28 in which the company's plans were first presented, the board had several public meetings but also six special meetings held behind closed doors.
"We tried to have as many meetings to get feedback from the public," Rost said.
The first closed door meeting was held on May 21 and the last executive session was held on June 24, the day before the board voted 4-1 to approve a resolution in support of the casino and approve an agreement with RW Orange County LLC, a Genting subsidiary.
Voting in favor were Rost, councilmen Clifford Loncar, David McMillen and Gary Phelps.
Councilman Kristian Matthews voted against the resolution.
Matthews was also the lone vote in June against the gaming overlay district zoning change which is being challenged in court.
Consultants, lawyers, public relations firm
During the executive sessions, where the public was not allowed in, Rost said that attorneys and consultants were interviewed by the board. They settled on hiring Alvarez & Marsal (A&M), an international consulting firm, to manage the casino review process and use the firm H2M Architects + Engineers.
The town also hired the New York law firm Strook & Strook & Lavan and public relations firm LAK Public Relations (LAKPR).
Town resident Mary Yrizarry said she attended some of the town board meetings and doesn't recall any discussions about the agreements. "I don't remember any hashing out. They were doing more announcing."
$3 million in escrow
LAKPR spokesman Lloyd Kaplan said that Genting put $3 million into escrow account for the town to spend on the firms.
The town is also due to receive $1.5 million from Genting even before a decision is made by the state.
The town would receive a total of $50 million from Genting if a casino was built and the village of Tuxedo Park would get $10 million.
That agreement was shaped through negotiations between Genting representatives, A&M and the town's new lawyers, Rost said. Rost put forth input he received from the community.
Among other provisions, the agreement requires Genting to be responsible for funding a new exit at the 15B interchange.
Rost had requested emailed comments from residents regarding their opinions on casinos, which he said were 2-1 against a casino. In a recent telephone conversation that was set up by LAKPR, Kaplan called the survey "very unscientific."
Rost added, "you have to do what's best for the town."
'Make sure the town is protected'
He believes it will help the Tuxedo Ridge Ski Center and lead to the restoration of the Sterling Forest Gardens, Rost said.
He believes any environmental impacts on the forest, as well as pollution and traffic, will be mitigated. He said the project site is on a parking lot.
"Seventy-seven percent of our town is forest," Rost said. "Anything that goes into town is in proximity to Sterling Forest."
Two weeks ago, The Photo News filed Freedom of Information Law requests for copies of all resolutions passed by the board authorizing contracts with its newly hired attorneys, public relations firm and Genting but has not received a formal response.
Town Clerk Elaine Laurent said she is gathering the information.
Kaplan said he would be working on obtaining some of the information as well.
Asked about hiring consultants, Rost said: "This project is a billion dollar project. I'm a part-time supervisor in town," Rost said. "We want to make sure the town is protected."
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