Shinnecock Indian Nation receives federal recognition

06/15/2010 12:00 AM |

Shinnecock Indians at last year’s annual Pow Wow.

The Shinnecock Indian Nation received federal recognition Tuesday, a move which could pave the way for the tribe to build a casino in Suffolk.

The formal recognition comes just days after a Garden City developer made a pitch to the Suffolk County Gaming Task Force ont he benefits of building a Shinnecock casino at the former Northrop Grumman property in Calverton.

Jan Burman, president of Engel Burman Group, said the casino could be a Las Vegas or Atlantic City-type destination right in Calverton.

Mr. Burman described the land as “shovel ready” and said construction of a casino could begin as early as the day after plans were drawn.

“If you wantt o be in the ground quickly, we feel this is your best option,” he told members of the task force during a forum at the county’s William H. Rogers Building in Smithtown last Thursday.

The task force was formed as a way to present potential Suffolk County casino sites to the tribe and to influence members to build the project locally.

Mr.Burman, who purchased the targeted 95-acre property in Calverton from Riverhead Town in 2001, was the only developer to make a pit ch Thursday. The parcel, located just off Route 25, is separate from the755 acres where Riverhead Resorts seeks to build eight themed resorts, including an indoor ski mountain.

Legislators said the task force is also exploring the former Shoreham nuclear power plant, Brookhaven’s Calabro Airport and a county-owned property in Yaphank known as LegacyVillage as potential casino locations.

The news of Tuesday’sfederal recognition was met with a positive response from local elected leaders. Congresmman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) said the decision was long overdue.

“Today’s decision rights a historic wrong and now we begin a new chapter in our relationship with our neighbors, the Shinnecock Indian Nation,” he said in a prepared statement. “I look forward to continuing my productive work with tribal leaders to improve the standard of living on the Shinnecock Reservation and encourage responsible, sustainable economic development which benefits our entire community.”

Federal recognition is about more than exemptions. It also makes tribes eligible to participate in federal assistance programs. Through these programs, tribal governments may receive funds they can then use to provide community services, such as health clinics.

There are more than 560 federally recognized tribes in the United States, with a total membership of about 1.7 million.

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