Hofstra University officials formally opposed the Las Vegas Sands’ casino and entertainment proposal at the side of the Nassau Coliseum and surrounding area known as the Nassau Hub.
A letter from Hofstra trustees published online said potential “traffic congestion, crime, economic harm to local business” would have a negative impact on the school community, directly adjacent to the area.
“The Nassau Hub is an entirely inappropriate location for a casino,” officials said. “There are other locations in and around New York City to site a casino that are not in such proximity to multiple educational institutions where so many young people live and learn.”
Efforts to reach Sands officials for immediate comment were unavailing.
Sands Vice Presidents Ron Reese, in January said the company and Hofstra have engaged in discussions regarding the proposal and hopes to have a continued dialogue throughout the process.
“We don’t build $4 billion casinos, we build multi-amenity real estate developments and we want to engage with the community and local labor leaders,” Reese said. “We’ve spoken to Hofstra and we hope there are more opportunities to engage in conversation.”
Despite Hofstra’s opposition to the plans, a pair of other local colleges have expressed support for the idea, with Nassau County Community College and Long Island University announcing they will aid Sands in their plans.
Nassau Community College officials said they will help the Sands train future potential employees at the site of the Coliseum while Long Island University said they will work with Sands and Nassau Community College to develop a hospitality program for students looking to advance their education.
The partnership between the two colleges will progress students’ two-year associate’s degree to a four-year bachelor’s degree, officials said. The program, according to Sands officials, would be beneficial to graduates seeking to pursue a variety of hospitality roles.
“Sands believes in the power of true partnership and we strive to create an environment of collaboration around all of our developments,” Reese said in a statement. “We are extraordinarily proud to be working with Long Island University and Nassau Community College to build a world-class hospitality program, creating new pathways to success for Long Islanders.”
Reese and David Paterson, the former New York governor, said the company’s plan includes a casino, hotel, a live performance venue, restaurants and a spa.
Reese told Blank Slate Media in January the hotel will be at least 800 rooms, the live performance venue will have a 5,000-7,500 seat capacity and there will be roughly 400,000 square feet of “corporate meeting facilities” to go along with other amenities.
Hofstra President Susan Poser previously expressed concerns in a guest essay in Newsday that a casino would exacerbate traffic, contribute to addiction and mental health tendencies in college-age students and would not guarantee an increase in revenue to the area.
“A casino at the Hub is not about the future, and it would not be an engine for economic and social prosperity,” Poser said in the essay. “It would be dangerous for adjoining neighborhoods, and create a nightmare of traffic and pollution, not to mention anti-social behaviors that often crop up around casinos.”
Despite the company’s name, Reese said, Nassau residents should not anticipate structures that belong in Las Vegas coming to Long Island.
“I want to be clear that I don’t want to call it a Las Vegas-style resort because I don’t think that’s appropriate,” Reese said. “It will be Las Vegas style in terms of amenities, but the size and design is going to fit in with the local look and architecture.”
Paterson said the company has a self-imposed April 1 deadline to have the application completed and be ready to go before the state. Reese said the company launched the plans to develop the Hub into this entertainment center a few weeks ago and did not make any commitment on what the fate of the Nassau Coliseum would be.
Reese said that the company anticipates a minimum of 5,000 people working at the site, though no residential buildings are part of the Sands’ plan. Reese said the next steps for the Sands is for the Nassau County Legislature to approve the lease transfer of the Coliseum and the Hub.
The state’s gaming commission, he said, would then have to establish a five-member local board to approve the Sands bid. The board would be made up of appointees from the town supervisor, the county executive, the governor’s office and the local Senate and Assembly member representing the area.
Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman discussed what would warrant approval for the Sands’ proposal during his State of the County address.
“It must be world-class with a luxury hotel and entertainment component…it must bring significant revenue to the county and surrounding areas, including construction and permanent jobs…and it must have the support of the community,” Blakeman said. “We will continue to explore this possibility and we’ll keep county residents informed throughout the process.”