Jewish group the Sephardic Community Federation fights Coney Island casino

The Brooklyn Paper
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A Jewish community group is leading the charge against the plan to bring a casino to Coney Island — and is upping the ante by recruiting other religious group and Southern Brooklyn politicians to join its cause.

The Sephardic Community Federation — a Manhattan-based advocacy group claiming to represent 100,000 Sephardic Jews in the metro area — unleashed a salvo of ads against the proposed slot house in December, claiming it would bring debauchery, sin, and seedy characters to the People’s Playground.

But the group claims stopping the casino isn’t just a matter of faith.

“When you bring in a casino, everything negative goes up, crime, gambling addiction,” said Steve Zeltser, a Coney Island native working as a spokesman for the Stop the Coney Casino campaign. “This isn’t a Jewish issue, it’s a south Brooklyn issue.”

Zeltser admitted the Sephardic Community Federation got involved because many Jews live in nearby neighborhoods, but said gambling would only bring crime to the area, as it did near a newly opened slots-only casino in Queens, and hinder the development of anything in Coney Island that isn’t a pawn shop.

The Sephardic organization found an anti-casino ally in the Russian-American Jewish Experience and is hoping the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, as well as smaller neighborhood congregations, will join forces as well.

Zeltser, a former aide to Councilmen Mike Nelson (D–Brighton Beach) and Lew Fidler (D–Sheepshead Bay), is also courting politicians. Southern Brooklyn electeds have also bought in: Assemblymen Bill Colton (D–Bensonhurs­t), Steve Cymbrowitz (D–Brighton Beach), and Dov Hikind (D–Borough Park), along with state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge), who have all promised to block the casino, which could come up in the state legislature as early as this month.

Also on board is the Coney Island preservation group Friends of the Boardwalk and the anti-addiction Safe Foundation.

“We’re building a coalition from Bay Ridge to Marine Park,” said Zeltser.

But there’s one big name in Brooklyn politics that’s missing from the anti-gambling initiate: Borough President Markowitz.

The Beep is a big booster of the casino plan, which he says would be a big win for Brooklyn economics and pride.

“We already have the built-in powerhouse branding of Brooklyn and Coney Island,” he said. “The addition of a casino would serve as a catalyst for further economic development and solidify Coney Island as the city’s premier year-round amusement and seaside entertainment destination. When you really get down to it, where else but Coney Island?”

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at
Updated 5:38 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Jim from Cobble Hill says:
Oh the magical sky-daddy anyway argument... If your magical sky-daddy doesn't want it then it wouldn't happen right?
Jan. 7, 2013, 7:18 am
Dave from Park Slope says:
Aside from all the usual reasons for opposing a casino, and there are plenty, you've also got the "Marty Meter." If Marty's for it, you can rest assured it's a bad idea.
Jan. 7, 2013, 7:25 am
o3 from BK says:
there's ALWAYS 2 constants in gambling arguments:

1) casino supporters ALWAYS overstate the benefits while the opponents ALWAYS overstate the problems


2) the house ALWAYS wins.
Jan. 7, 2013, 8:52 am
Mickey Shea from Greenpoint says:
The state couldn't even make money on a bookie operation, much less a casino...
Jan. 7, 2013, 2:56 pm
Joe from Bensonhurst says:
Leave it to the "Five Families" to get the casino running like a well lubricated machine.
Jan. 7, 2013, 4:02 pm
adamben from bedstuy says:
yes, crime will go way up, but there is money involved so you know how the politicians will vote.
Jan. 7, 2013, 4:38 pm
Or from Yellow Hook says:
Jan. 7, 2013, 6:09 pm
JAY from NYC says:
Maybe its me, but we just went though this whole thing of shutting down the OTB stuff because it was bad news and we are going to replace it with more bad news? This makes no sense from a public point of view.
I would be all for putting something out at Coney Island like some nice fancy 4-5-6 star hotels and trying to turn the beech area into a hot spot (like maybe a northern version of Miami, or even better Rio!!) but this proposal is just putting crap on top of crap.
Jan. 7, 2013, 6:30 pm
Pat I. from 70's Brooklyn says:
Most local politicians are required to take a course called
"Urban Renewal For Dummies" - usually it applies to run down waterfront areas but it applies to any sort of urban eyesore:

Build a state subsidized Casino.

Get The state to pay for a minor league baseball stadium.

Open up clubs, sports bars, strip joints and hotels.

Turn a blind eye to increased organized crime, drugs, prostitution, assaults and drunken brawls.

Re-do radium and asbestos factories into expensive hipster-iffic lofts.

Do not increase police presence.

Shut down churches and parochial schools. Convert them to apartments.

Complain to Gothamist and gawker every time someone named Zack or Molly gets mugged for using their I-Pad in a dark alley photographing a bunch of thugs for their gritty urban blog.

Convince everyone that the taxes collected from this venture will greatly benefit education and senior citizens.

Tell every newspaper how minimum wage jobs as bartenders, porters, and parking attendants will benefit the local economy, when it's more lucrative to stay on welfare.

Ignore panhandlers, mental deficients bums, homeless people who harrass the like-yahs, Tony Soprano wannabes and bridge and tunnel crowd.

I speak from experience. I've seen this happen over and over. No one chooses to do the job right - bring in companies that pay good wages anddevelop technology zones? Why aren't the lofts and apartments priced resoanbly and offered to teachers, fire fighters, cops, sanitation workers and EMTs? I mean - the foundation of any community is not some d**chebag fist pumping emporium that pours jello shots, it's FAMILIES.

Families lay down roots. They make the community, spend money locally, force the city to improve schools, do charity work, take care of the neighborhood and improve the living environment for everyone.
Jan. 7, 2013, 6:44 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
The problem with most of these politicians is that they do so many favors for their rich buddies because they will endorse in the next election making it a follow the money trail.
Jan. 7, 2013, 8:50 pm
old time brooklyn from slope says:
Ave Pat - though there is a place for casinos I dont think CI is one (just as midtown is no place for an arena) - upstate would do better - put it in middle of nowhere so a lot easier to keep tabs on things. Plenty of whore houses - check out city hall for one. City and state have been biuilding sports arenas forever and with good reason however rarely is the giveback to the communities realized.

mazel tov
Jan. 7, 2013, 9:49 pm
Ms. Maserati from Bensonhurst says:
WOW!..... what a novel idea!!!!!..... ANOTHER casino in the "Hood"...... being as 82% of the population in Coney Island is on public assistance, I suggest that the residents of CI should just hand over their EBT cards to the "Comps" department in exchange for a $5 food credit, which is ALL they will get for playing there anyway........ WHOMP-WHOMP!...
April 8, 2013, 7:44 am

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