Amid legal challenges from Hofstra University, an environmental review that’s a necessary component of Las Vegas Sands’ efforts to potentially build a casino hotel in Long Island, NY is proceeding.
Nassau Coliseum. The town of Hempstead, NY says it’s taking the lead in an environmental review related to a Las Vegas Sands casino proposal. (Image: LongIsland.com)
On Tuesday, policymakers in the town of Hempstead voted unanimously to make the town the go-to regulator for the State Environmental Quality Review Act exercise, which will determine the viability of Sands’ plan to build a $4 billion casino resort at the site of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, NY.
Hempstead halted efforts to take the lead in the State Environmental Quality Review Act procedure last month when New York State Supreme Court Judge Sarika Kapoor ruled that Nassau County’s transfer of Coliseum’s lease to Sands violated New York’s open meeting laws. That ruling was later subject to a hold issued by the appellate division of the New York State Supreme Court.
Hofstra, the plaintiff in the suit heard by Kapoor, has asserted that Nassau County officials didn’t give the public adequate avenues or time to make their voices heard on the casino issue while other groups opposing the project claimed no efforts have been made on the environmental review process.
Hempstead, Sands Looking for Transparency
Opponents of the Nassau County casino plan have alleged lawmakers approved the deal with Sands in a backroom fashion, and that processes concerning related regulatory reviews have been shrouded from public comment.
Conversely, supporters of the integrated resort assert that Long Island politicians have made abundantly clear their backing of the Sands proposal, noting that there have been numerous meetings at which residents voiced endorsements for the project.
As for the environmental review process, Hempstead lawmakers voted to use a review drafted by Sands as a template and to hold two related review sessions on January 18 at the Long Island Marriott in Uniondale.
The Uniondale Chamber of Commerce is among the groups backing the Sands proposal. The chamber leader noted many local businesses, including restaurants, are supportive of the Sands casino proposal. For LVS, the location is desirable because Nassau County is the second-most populous county in New York after New York City. Additionally, Long Island is a short drive to the Kennedy and LaGuardia airports.
Environmental Review Critical Piece of Puzzle
Legal experts speculate that Hofstra’s case centers around sending Nassau County and Sands back to square one, potentially betting that a lengthy legal battle will prevent the county and the gaming company from being prepared to credibly bid for one the three downstate casino licenses New York regulators could award next year.
Both the county and Sands have made clear they intend to forge ahead regardless of Hofstra’s legal efforts. That makes a comprehensive and transparent environmental review essential to rebutting Hofstra’s claims.
It’s also critical to help expedite the legal process because New York’s higher courts are suffering through backlogs and are taking years to hear some environmental review cases.
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