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Let’s roll! Marty wants casinos on Coney Island

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Wonder Wheel, meet the roulette wheel.

Borough President Markowitz wants to see casinos on Coney Island if Gov. Cuomo makes good on his plan to legalize table gaming in the state.

“Casino gambling ... would bring jobs and revenue to potential locations in New York City, especially Coney Island, which is a natural,” Markowitz said in a release.

In the latest lofty vision for a revitalized Coney Island, gambling would help draw visitors to an area that the city hopes to turn into a glitzy, year-round recreation destination boasting amusements, restaurants, arcades and hotels.

“It could be the savior for Coney Island as a major destination,” said the neighborhood’s unofficial mayor Dick Zigun, who runs Sideshows by the Seashore.

Zigun hopes casinos will one day do business on a swath of land currently slated for residential use, which had been largely set aside for amusements before the Bloomberg administration controversially rezoned the neighborhood in 2009.

“I’d like to rezone the rezoning — to take that from condos and turn it into casinos,” Zigun said.

But other community leaders say casinos are too much of a gamble to endorse.

“I just want to make sure that people in the community don’t get hurt,” said Councilman Domenic Recchia (D–Coney Island). “People get addicted to gambling; it’s a problem.”

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D–Sheepshead Bay) cited a 1999 study that found areas within 50 miles of casinos have a 50 percent greater instance of gambling addiction and an 18 percent higher bankruptcy rate.

“While we might be looking at an economic engine that could generate over a billion dollars annually for the state, thousands of new jobs and increased recreational venues for New Yorkers, we are also looking at a substantial increase in problem gambling,” said Cymbrowitz.

Mayor Bloomberg has long sought to transform Coney Island from gritty a home of sideshows into a into a cleaned-up, Disney-like fun zone, but it’s unclear if he supports Atlantic City-style gaming by the Boardwalk.

A spokeswoman declined to comment on whether Hizzoner would back casinos in Coney Island.

The city does not have zoning rules regulating casinos because they are not legal in the state — meaning if gambling is given the go-ahead, it’s uncertain whether casinos could open in areas currently zoned for hotels and amusements, or, as Zigun suggests, in areas slated for residential use.

Either way, don’t bet on anything happening anytime soon.

Before visitors of the People’s Playground can play the tables, the governor’s plan needs to pass state legislature and survive a referendum, which won’t reach voters until 2013 at the earliest.

If Cuomo’s amendment passes and casinos open in Coney Island, it wouldn’t be the first time that the area was a gambling hub.

Starting in 1860, Gravesend and Brighton Beach were gambling havens, run by the notorious John McKane, Brooklyn’s version of Nucky Thompson from “Boardwalk Empire,” said Zigun.

“Anything and everything gambling was legal, from Three-Card Monty to betting on horses,” said Zigun.

That party came to a halt when gambling was outlawed in 1910, but in the late 1970s, the Coney Island Chamber of Commerce backed a proposal to develop casinos near the boardwalk, even going as far as putting up a banner by the Belt Parkway reading, “Welcome To Coney Island, the Perfect Resort for Casino Gambling.”

All that gambling talk sparked a speculative real estate bubble on the Boardwalk, where property values briefly soared — but casino plans fell apart when state politicians refused to back gambling in the city.

Earlier this week, the state revealed its plans to expand Queens’ existing “racino,” a newly opened gambling space at the Aqueduct racetrack — less than 14 miles away from Coney Island — that skirts state laws barring table games by featuring only slot machines and digital gambling consoles.

Reach reporter Dan MacLeod at dmacleod@cnglocal.com or by calling him at (718) 260-4507. You can also follow his Tweets at twitter.com/dsmacleod.

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Reader Feedback

John from Ditmas Park says:
A great idea.
Jan. 10, 2012, 2:22 am
Peter from Park slope says:
A terrible idea.
Jan. 10, 2012, 5:50 am
Eric McClure from Park Slope says:
A terrible idea. Few places are as morally and literally bankrupt as those with casino gambling. Las Vegas? Highest foreclosure rate in the U.S. Atlantic City? 354th out of 372 US metro areas in employment rate. Guess who's 355th? Las Vegas.

Can we really not come up with a better idea than casinos? If not, we need to elect new people.
Jan. 10, 2012, 6:38 am
Or from Yellow Hook says:
The State of NY could not even run a bookie joint (OTB) without going broke, and they didn't even need to feed the horses.

The mob rubs their hands together in anticipation.
Jan. 10, 2012, 8:18 am
Dennis sinneD from Williamsburg says:
Brooklyn has such an area and population that wherever easy and terrible ideas such as these are implemented, much better money-making and culture-building venues like University can be instituted. Such as in Bloomberg's recent and wildly successful bidding to draw an applied sciences University to Roosevelt Island--Stanford is now going to be there, with a conservative projected revenue of $6 billion in the next 25 years. The billions are only one reason--there is also the greater fact of education: engineering, technology and infrastructure development that can make Brooklyn the city of the future.

I'm amazed that an idea like this is even being considered when more imaginative options continue to tantalize. I agree with Peter and Eric, and in a sense with Or from Yellow Hook--this is a terrible terrible idea that has agents of corruption salivating. Just terrible.
Jan. 10, 2012, 8:29 am
mike from GP says:
An awful idea for so many reasons.
Jan. 10, 2012, 8:44 am
Dennis sinneD from Williamsburg says:
I wonder how much of this terrible idea is coming from Cuomo--his recent speech indicated he wanted to bring casinos to all over NY State to help "balance budgets" and "reform education." Reminds me of a time when Lotto was supposed to be for education. Will we ever learn?
Jan. 10, 2012, 9:04 am
Dennis sinneD from Williamsburg says:
Here is the text of the 2012 State of the State speech if anyone wants to review it. In it, Cuomo gets "ambitious" about casinos--sigh.

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/01/04/nyregion/04-state-of-the-state-text.html
Jan. 10, 2012, 9:05 am
Bay Ridger from Bay Ridge says:
I'm going against the tide and say "why not?" It means jobs, economic development, 24 hour activity and entertainment. It'll make Coney Island a destination.

And, fyi, the State won't run this thing. As at Aqueduct, they'll license a group to run it. That way it's an efficiently run operation and everyone makes money. Well, except the gamblers, but that's their choice.
Jan. 10, 2012, 9:13 am
common sense from bay ridge says:
Coney Island is already a lot more enjoyable to go to since the ballpark opened. Casinos would reverse any progress that CI has made recently, and turn it into Atlantic City with subways. No one wants that.

Why not stick with condos, since Bklyn is such a hot real estate market now, even in a down market. Having 4 different subway lines, express bus, and miles of beaches outside your door would be very enticing.

Brooklyn does not need casinos, it's doing quite well without them.
Jan. 10, 2012, 9:16 am
Lee from Coney says:
Sounds promising, but a ways away. CI needs a substantial year round retail and entertainment development NOW to bolster the off season and provide residents JOBS, JOBS, JOBS!
Jan. 10, 2012, 9:40 am
Moses from Park Slope says:
What kind of rookie reporter misspells Domenic Recchia's name? The guy is an elected official, for Pete's sake.
Jan. 10, 2012, 10:13 am
jerry from brighton beach says:
The gambling lobbyists are probably donating money to Marty Markowitz's Brooklyn USA as we speak.

Does he have a sky box yet at the Barclay Center or Marty going to munch off some corporate sky box like Walmart's?

He'll do anything to make a buck.
Jan. 10, 2012, 10:15 am
Rich from bensonhurst says:
I'm all for it. please push these plans forward! we don't need a string of casinos like the AC boardwalk. I don't see the harm of introducing a potential tourist attraction to CI.
Jan. 10, 2012, 10:55 am
Rich from bensonhurst says:
but I don't see the harm*
Jan. 10, 2012, 10:56 am
S from Bklyn says:
If you want Marty to be against casinos in Coney Island, just tell him they will also have to install bike lanes on neighboring streets. Then watch his head explode.

Can't wait for this buffoon to be gone.
Jan. 10, 2012, 11:04 am
adamben from bedstuy says:
bad idea since crime will shoot up. why not find one of those islands in the east river and use that instead, that way it will be isolated from residential neighborhoods and coney island can become a safe area for "families".
Jan. 10, 2012, 11:27 am
Fed up from Park Slope says:
As with everything else, the money will be made for only a few not for the good of education or the neighborhood. I will never forget visiting Atlantic City. The town was a dump but the strip was gorgeous. Although many years ago--gambling had been in Atlantic City for many years at that point. Not worth it!
Jan. 10, 2012, 12:08 pm
Dennis sinneD from Williamsburg says:
Sure, the area needs jobs and commerce, as a few of us here are demanding, and entertainment, too [what's life for, then?]. But wouldn't it be more in the legacy of Coney Island and yet also moving Coney Island forward if Markowitz enticed gaming companies to the area? How many of us were first exposed to video games there? To rides? To Dungeons & Dragons, for God's sake--haha. What if Coney Island made a call for, say, virtual reality development and artificial intelligence research? You know how much money gaming companies spend on development? On sets? Don't be fooled--because the end result is a console and a TV doesn't mean there isn't manufacturing involved, set design, lighting, UNION work. And that it doesn't have theoretical research and exploration value.

We can do better than casinos.
Jan. 10, 2012, 1:09 pm
Dennis sinneD from Williamsburg says:
Ha! I meant Dragon's Lair, but I won't deny some D&D, either.
Jan. 10, 2012, 1:21 pm
Charles from Bklyn says:
Don't be fooled by Marty Markowitz! He is a man who works against the middle class and poor for the benefit of the very wealthy. If he is advocating this idea, he has already promised the profits to one of his friends.
Jan. 10, 2012, 2:23 pm
Miguel Carraway from Clinton Hill says:
The morality argument against gambling isn't convincing to me even though I personally dislike the vice. Who should be so righteous as to decide what another grown adult can do with his or her money? Gambling doesn't directly harm anyone else.

With that being said, there's no shortage of reasons why casinos in Coney Island would further tarnish the quality of life in Brooklyn and the city. Imagine the ungodly traffic. Envision the corruption it would invite from the caliber of politicians who weaseled their way into office. It's a horrid idea, but not on moral grounds.
Jan. 10, 2012, 4:26 pm
Tony V from Park Slope says:
I don't even have to consider the morality of this foolhardy idea --

My initial reaction is: look at Atlantic City and look at Vegas. Plenty of crime, no jobs, no improvement to the surrounding areas -- when was the last time you heard anyone wanting to go to Atlantic City to see the sights. When an idea like state-wide casino devleopment gets such widespread appeal and traction, it means its time has past.

Has anyone in power in Brooklyn noticed that Mohegan Sun is contemplating bankruptcy. It is run by an Indian tribe that is exempt from the municipal and mob issues that plague everything in NYC. Or that casinos all over are frequent filers in bankruptcy court?

This is another bait and switch tactic -- instead of investing in fellow citizens, the government wants to exploit people's basest inclinations to make money.

OTB and Lotto demonstrate that money will not be used honestly here in NYC. Atlantic City & Las Vegas shows you that private enterprise will siphon off every cent because they see everyone as suckers.
Jan. 10, 2012, 5:29 pm
Or from Yellow Hook says:
Casinos goooooood.

Wal-Mart baaaaaaad.
Jan. 10, 2012, 6:01 pm
Greg from Park Slope says:
Why can't they model Coney Island after Wildwood down in NJ. That place honors the traditional boardwalk theme with modern-family friendly attractions. It's a huge success, unique and not cost prohibitive. CI should be a destination and has so much history just waiting to be capitalized on.
Jan. 10, 2012, 8:39 pm
Billmore from North Brighton Beach says:
Will they never learn.

In the 50s the mayor wanted to rezone Coney Island's amusement district for residential. This lead to a land boom that saw Luna Park developed into those dreadful apartment towers, and both Feltman's and Steeplechase Park being torn down. At least the Alberts came around and decided to use the Feltman property for their Astroland, but Trump Sr. turned Steeplechase into a permanent vacant lot.

In the 70's the mayor wanted the amusement district rezoned for gambling. Another land boom and this time we lost the Tornado Bobs, the Bobsleds, Stauches, Fabers and Washington's. All those vacant lots created and Gambling never happened.

Bloomberg wanted to rezone half the amusement district for residential and another land boom happened. This time Bloomberg's good friend J Sitt tore down three amusement parks including Astroland, Henderson, Shore Hotel, and the bank building. More vacant lots and no one is building any condos or hotels.

Now it is gambling again. Just watch. This time they will tear down Nathans, Childs, the Wonder Wheel, the Cyclone, The Parachute Drop, The sideshow Building, Poppers, and anything left. Heck, even the new baseball field and aquarium will go this time. And don't give me that those things are protected landmarks. The city will just reverse any landmark protection because they stand in the way of casinos. And after all of that no casinos will be built.

The rides, games and freak houses have always worked just fine for Coney Island. Why cant we just have more of them instead of rezoning a pipe dream that will never be built. What a bunch of dumbasses we have running this city.
Jan. 10, 2012, 9:28 pm
Dennis sinneD from Williamsburg says:
Well put, Billmore. That was a nice summary.
Jan. 10, 2012, 10:11 pm
kelly from park slope says:
if we need money that badly, why not just bite the bullet and legalize drugs?
Jan. 10, 2012, 10:19 pm
Bruce from Coney Island says:
You will sooner see Barbara Streisand playing Martys Potato chip on the remains of Seabreeze Park then ever try to see if you can draw the 4th ace. The community stood up to Marty once and stopped him. The community will stop casinos too. Never will happen. And thats not a gamble, but a sure thing.
Jan. 10, 2012, 10:22 pm
Dennis sinneD from Williamsburg says:
Tony V also had some excellent points about Mohegan Sun and the casino-tourist industry. Definitely gives pause.
Jan. 10, 2012, 10:24 pm
Dennis sinneD from Williamsburg says:
Damn, Bruce--that's what I'm talking about. Right on with the spirit.
Jan. 10, 2012, 10:24 pm
George from Sheepshead Bay says:
isnt it evident to even the most simple minded person that Marty is pulling Dicks strings? If he was the real Mayor, he would have been voted out of office decades ago. Hey Dick, want to help bring tourists to Coney? Turn your building (purchased with City money) into a parking garage. The average person who comes to Coney needs a place to park, not to go to Sideshows by the Seashore.
Jan. 10, 2012, 10:29 pm
Jing Hi from Park Slope says:
Is the mayor stupid. I will not buy condos next to a casino. That would be no place safe to have family. All that planning for nothing. They good as not build any of the condos now.

Jing Hi
Jan. 11, 2012, 12:59 am
Jing Hi from Park Slope says:
是愚笨的市長。 我不會在賭博娛樂場旁邊買公寓房。 那是有沒有地方的保險櫃家庭。 沒什麼的所有那個計劃。 他們好作為不是修造其中任一公寓房現在。
Jan. 11, 2012, 1:05 am
boris from brighton beach says:
I know Marty Markowitz & I are about the same age.
We'll both be pushing up daisies by the time any casino gambling ever comes to Coney Island.

This project must be added to Marty Markowitz's Bucket List.
Jan. 11, 2012, 3:45 pm
Grimace from LES / Park Slope says:
One of the commentators above mentioned "Wildwood, NJ" as a model to follow for amusements. I second this notion, as Wildwood is an amazing amusements-focused boardwalk that probably extends about 50 blocks that is wildly popular / family-oriented and fun for all ages / communities. This is what Coney Island needs. Casinos on the boardwalk will change Coney Island and Brooklyn in a way that no one can totally predict at this point (positive or negative) and not worth the risk. I hope a way is found to scrap the residential / luxury condo projects, as that will do nothing positive for this special place..
Jan. 12, 2012, 3:51 pm
Alize from Coney Is. Brooklyn says:
Half of ya that agree with Marty's crazy idea ya'll all stupid! Im from C.I myself right there on Neptune. you think that casinos will make mattas better here? let alone Brooklyn? Nah I dont think so ,It will bring so much mo problems. There be shootings here ayday and with more tourist and money floatin' around , I promise you they will be a HIGHER CRIME RATE ! NO DOUBT! So instead of wasting money on bs he really should FIX subway stations , housing buildings , or even make more youth programs around town.
Jan. 14, 2012, 5:13 pm
Peter from Sheepshead Bay says:
What a gross lack of imagination from Markowitz and Cuomo. How about focusing on creating a decent public school system that creates minds that will bring entrepreneurship and opportunities to the city, instead of exploiting the vices of working class New Yorkers who will get nothing in return?
Jan. 15, 2012, 10:19 pm

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