|Is Common Sense Obstructionist?|
|Written by Xavier Rodriguez|
|Sunday, 20 June 2010 12:56|
It is a sad day in America, when individuals trying to protect their community, the values of their homes, quality of life, and future of children of the community are called out as obstructionists. What is tragic is how some former leaders in this community distribute false information in a sadistic attempt to justify their claim.
First, the Locustwood / Gotham Civic Association, originating from the Locustwood Estates Civic, is the oldest civic in the community and has remained continually active. Our last two meetings featured the Superintendent of Schools of the two local districts, Sewanhaka and Elmont. Our May meeting is set up to be a spectacular meeting, because yes, we want change.
At no time, did the Locustwood Gotham Civic, nor its board members or trustees recommend the condemnation of property. As some are aware, a former civic board member actually operates one of the stores by the site of the Argo Theater, and in fact the Locustwood Gotham Civic was critical in acquiring a $2.5 million grant for that area (one that is represented by the civic) for improvement projects.
The Locustwood /Gotham Civic is not resistant to change or even obstructing change, as some falsely claim. What differs is how we approach this “change” and the understanding of what revitalization truly means. Revitalization means bringing back new life. If given the choice between, hard-working, local community members of African-American descent, investing half a million in trying to make a business come to life, or spending millions of dollars of taxpayers money for eminent domain. The answer is not obstructionist, but common sense. The core essence of revitalization is returning back to the roots of the community, its members and naturally it’s civic.
The so called “Elmont Visioning Plan” was never endorsed nor supported by the members of the Locustwood Gotham Civic. Interesting enough, most of the drastic “visioning” changes are to take place in the Locustwood Gotham area. Two of which includes an authoritarian approach, eliminating 29 businesses for a supermarket and eliminating 32 single family homes for a hotel. Not sure how “visionary” that sounds because a large number of people in the community sees the “Visioning Plan” as an example of how kleptocratic some individuals in our community and our government officials can be. Given credit where it is due, the individuals involved with creating the “Elmont Visioning Plan,” should be applauded for creating the grand ideas. The great task and the most challenging is what lay ahead. There needs to be willingness among the leaders of this plan to adjust, make modifications and accept change to the plan for the benefit for positive lasting change.
The notion of having a hotel, immediately adjacent and placed within a single-family resident area is irresponsible. A similar idea was presented twenty years ago, with the idea of having a ten story hotel and a ten story parking garage on Locustwood Blvd. Clearly, history wasn’t’ learned by some. When the idea of a hotel, reemerged one of the key components is ensuring there is a buffer zone between the residents, their families and the placement of the hotel. Despite these concerns, the “Visioning Plan” went forward and planned for the hotel, with no consideration to the home owners on Huntley Road, nor Wellington Road. When presented with the alternative of having the hotel on the northern side of the Park, the answer from both leaders of “Elmont Visioning” was that NYRA didn’t want that. So instead of having a hotel overlooking the greens of Belmont Park, where it could be a wonderful setting for weddings and catering event, instead the “vision” have it overlooking the homes of Locustwood. Even though Locustwood have some of the most beautiful homes in Elmont, but this example of visionary sounds more like the lack of common sense.
Also tragic is how some individuals in this community can become so unaware to reality when it pertains to gambling. Gambling in the State of New York is prohibited. If anyone knows of gambling activities taking place, whether at Belmont Park or elsewhere, please contact your local law enforcement officials or the FBI. Though my level of expertise of the law may be lacking to fully understand its complexity, but somehow there are examples of what we call gambling are really not gambling in New York. Leave it to our government officials in Albany to make that one up. The exceptions of the law include pari-mutuel betting (allowed because revenue goes to the State), the lottery (allowed because revenue goes to the State) and some charitable gambling (with limited prize money). There is a significant difference between pari-mutuel betting taking place at Belmont Park, which occurs seasonally and confined to reasonable hours, than virtual slot terminals, which operates virtually (pun intended) 24-7.
Video lottery terminals (VLTs), New York State’s legal version of slot machines, and its possible installation at Belmont Park will not accomplish the economic impact that many dream about. Call it obstructionist; call me an opponent to change, but I am a person who lives in reality. When things appear to be too good to be true, it usually isn’t. When politicians are strongly in favor of something, we must question what are their motives and intentions. I challenged the Visioning Committee to come up with examples of where VLTS actually assisted in revitalization and generated a long term positive economic impact. To this date, I have given numerous examples to the contrary. Examples include Saratoga Springs (losing a million dollars a year of lost sales tax as a result of the racino), Yonkers (5 year State Audit finding no economic benefit, and discovering financial and employment shortfalls), Vernon Downs and Tioga Racinos (require tax payer assistance to remain open).
Those who follow court cases would also know that the State Courts did declare that host communities cannot receive any economic benefits despite those necessary for maintaining and operating the VLTs facility. In other words, the notion of having VLTs become a savior, and help to lower our taxes is a complete lie. In fact, having a VLT facility would greatly impact our special district taxes. Many of which, the residents of the Locustwood area would have to pay, while other areas of Elmont do not.
VLTs also hurt our local and state schools because it is actually harming the revenue generated by the State Lottery system to fund our schools. When an individual has the option to spend $1, between a color faded piece of paper and having to wait hours to see if they win, or put $1 in a fully illuminating, instant virtual machine; just as evident to problem of our society today, most people would choose the machine. The problem lies in that, per each lottery ticket purchase, approximately 32 cents actually goes to funding education. While on VLTs, that number is less than 4 cents. There lies the economic problem with VLTs, as too much of it goes to private business, and not enough of it goes to funding government or going to where it is supposed to go to, which is funding education.
Positive change would be, government officials lobbying that more revenue from VLTs actually go to where they supposed to go to, which is our schools. Return the hundreds of millions of dollars from advertising back to the State education fund. This is a source of revenue that could help alleviate the current budget short fall. It isn’t that I am completely against gambling options at Belmont Park; I am against options that make no sense due to the lack of their benefits. There is no reason why Elmont should support a broken system.
If these views and statements appear to be obstructionist in nature, one must question your tolerance to change. While I see the day that Elmont will be revitalized, not with a gambling hall and hotel, but with a community recreational facility, university study centers, research facilities, improved housing, a convention center, catering hall, movie theater, museum and shops.I applaud the voice for revitalization and progress. What we need to do now, is not become misguided to special interests, or politicians, but focus on elements we all want, and those that would bring long lasting positive changes.
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 August 2010 10:44|