Another Calverton site pushed for casino

07/22/2010 12:00 AM |

The owners of a large swath of farmland near Splish Splash in Calverton are joining a growing gaggle of Long Island landowners and developers actively inviting the Shinnecock Nation to build a casino on their property.

The 131-acre parcel near the water park brings to three the number of Calverton locations being shopped for potential Shinnecock Indian gaming facilities.

The group behind the Riverhead Resorts project proposed for 755 acres at the Enterprise Park at Calverton, or EPCAL, is also pitching land for a casino site, even though the property is still owned by Riverhead Town. And developer Jan Burman recently put 95 acres he owns at EPCAL on offer as a possible casino site.

Riverhead Resorts and the owners of the 131-acre site are both scheduled to make presentations to Suffolk County’s Gaming Task Force today, Thursday, at 10 a.m. in Hauppauge. Mr. Burman had made a presentation to that task force in June.

Bryan Galgano, a spokesman for county Legislator Wayne Horsley, who chairs the task force, said the people behind the three Calverton sites are the only ones to have scheduled appearances before the task force so far. The task force, whose goal is to keep any casino in Suffolk, is working with the Shinnecocks, who will make the final choice of a location.

But the tribe can’t build a casino until it is granted federal recognition. That was expected to occur this week but the process got delayed after a Connecticut group filed paperwork opposing the Shinnecocks’ bid.

The 131 acres of currently vacant farmland lie on the south side of Route 25 in Calverton, immediately west of Splish Splash, and extend as far south as the Long Island Expressway.

The site has about 1,000 linear feet of frontage on Route 25 and approximately 2,400 on the Expressway, according to Joe Nehmad, a broker for Fillmore Real Estate of Brooklyn, which is representing the property owners.

It has been listed for sale online at $60 million.

The land is zoned Industrial A, which doesn’t permit casinos. But casinos are not currently permitted anywhere in New York State other than on Indian lands.

According to Riverhead Town records, the property comprises two parcels: 116.7 acres owned by Bagatelle Associates of Brooklyn and the 14.8 acres owned by Eletag Associates of Brooklyn. Both had addresses in care of Dr. Abraham Ostad of Ocean Avenue, Brooklyn.

Riverhead Resorts is seeking to buy 755 acres of land from Riverhead Town at EPCAL with the goal of building eight theme resorts, including one with an indoor ski mountain.

Mitch Pally, an attorney for Riverhead Resorts, said the development team’s contract with the town prohibits casinos, but that Town Board members told him they would not object to his appearing before the county gaming task force.

“We’re more than happy to talk to anybody about anything that can make this project better,” Mr. Pally told the News-Review earlier this month. He said Tuesday that resorts and casinos have worked in tandem elsewhere.

“It can be a happy marriage of two compatible interests,” he said. Riverhead Resorts has spoken to the Shinnecocks and given them a tour of the site, Mr. Pally said.

But Riverhead Resorts is in default on its contract with the town because it has missed two $1.98 million payments that were required in order to get two three-month extensions of the deadline by which the sale was supposed to have been finalized. Riverhead council members Jodi Giglio and George Gabrielsen say they think the town should end its contract with Riverhead Resorts now, but the other board members want to give the group more time.

Mr. Pally has said Riverhead Resorts remains committed to the project and has already paid the town $7 million.

“In transactions of this type, there are a lot of details that have to be worked out,” Mr. Pally said. “You have major financial decisions being made by major financial institutions and you have to make sure that all the t’s are crossed and the i’s are dotted in order to invest the amount of money necessary for this big a project.”

In order to build a casino on non-reservation land, the Shinnecocks would have to acquire the property and have it put into a federal trust. Approval from the state is also needed.

To date, only four off-reservation casinos exist in the United States, according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Tribal officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

Potential casino sites outside Riverhead Town include Calabro Airport in Brookhaven, the Nassau Coliseum property in Uniondale and land near Belmont Racetrack in Elmont, among others.

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