Coney residents sound off on proposed casino project: ‘Please leave us alone!’

Coney Island residents figuratively clashed with developers in a heated and passionate exchange regarding the proposed “Coney” Casino and Entertainment Resort, where it seemed that the overwhelming majority of locals vehemently opposed the idea.

Tempers flared and emotions ran high at the community forum held at Gargiulo’s in Coney Island this past Wednesday evening, as residents voiced their concerns – which included, among other things, crime and overcrowding.

This, a stark contrast to a recent press release, courtesy of “The Coney,” the partnership group putting together the bid – composed of Thor Equities, Saratoga Casino Holdings, Chickasaw Nation and Legends Hospitality Group. The release said that a significant number of community members are vastly in favor of a casino in their backyard.

It stated that a “field program,” spearheaded by Robert Cornegy, former council member and current consultant on the project, whereby “thousands of doors were knocked on,” garnered more than 3,000 signatures from community members stating their approval of the project.

“I have not heard from one of those people,” said Community Board 13 Chairperson Lucy Mujica Diaz, who also served as emcee of the event.  

“Those 3,300 voices count; I personally spoke with a few of them, and they said they didn’t attend today simply because they didn’t want to be intimidated or shouted down by the opposition,” Cornegy countered.

Community Board 13 Chairperson Lucy Mujica Diaz; Michael DeLoach, consultant at Red Horse Strategies; and Robert Cornegy, former council member, and current consultant on the “Coney” project.

“Where are they? What are they afraid of? There’s only a couple hundred of us here, but supposedly thousands of them!” A resident bellowed.

A 75-year Coney Island resident pleaded: “Please leave us alone!”

Proponents of “The Coney” did their best to contrast the fiery crowd, but appeared very much on the defensive most of the evening, and did not offer much to counter.

However, both Diaz and Cornegy spelled out a breakdown of the pros and cons exclusively to The Brooklyn Eagle.  

“Crime is most definitely going to be a problem – especially for seniors,” Diaz said. “Seniors like to go to casinos, and my fear is that a senior will get mugged. Another fear is young people and gambling addiction; and of course, overcrowding. We really can’t handle this type of tourism in this district; it’s just not possible.”

Charlene Davis, a 40-year Coney Island resident, said that her neighborhood is already overcrowded, and she is also afraid that the crime will increase.

Diaz also pointed out that she said she does not see businesses – especially small businesses – benefitting from this project.

“Who is going to walk down Mermaid (Ave.) when there is a casino with all of those shops already there? I’m not.”

However, according to Cornegy, “If you ask small businesses what they’d like to see, they want more foot traffic – more opportunity to bring in new customers.

“The only focus that people have had on this is the casino portion,” he said. “But that’s only part of it; there are entertainment venues, a hotel, a convention center – and they all present opportunity – between 4,000 and 5000 good paying jobs with great benefits – in their own backyard.”

Refuting another argument – crime – Cornegy explained: “If you ask any major law enforcement organization, they will tell you as a crime prevention technique they want more people – more lighting – things that this project will bring. It’s literally a crime prevention technique; statistically there is less crime when there is more activity happening in a designated area.”  

Cornegy pointed out that there have been “so many misnomers” about this project, and his primary objective is “to let the community know what this is and what this is not.”

Gargiulo’s was host to Wednesday’s community meeting.

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