I am opposed to the Rush Street Gaming Casino being proposed at the former ALCO site in Schenectady, and following the city council meeting on Monday in which they voted 5-2 in favor of the casino proposal I found myself deeply agitated by the outcome…an outcome that was predetermined.
I know that casinos are not the economic panacea the supports claim them to be, and the upstate casinos are no exception. And yet at the same time, the negative effects espoused by the opposition are also overblown with most of the effects being felt locally by residential areas. My home is far enough away from the casino to significantly minimize any negative effects, but still I found myself upset.
Part of my opposition may be due to the council’s decision to completely ignore public input, but Ms. Perazzo is correct – a public hearing would not change the outcome and are often a nuisance more than an effective means of soliciting public input. The council meeting in which the vote took place is a prime example. A quick look around the room demonstrates that the typical Schenectady resident was not represented.
But how the council should solicit public input is a topic for another post, and I won’t dwell on it here except to say I don’t usually get upset with the ineffectiveness of these hearings for other matters.
So why did I get so upset about the casino? I have gambled before and do not have a moral opposition to it, but I do believe society has a responsibility to care for the most vulnerable citizens.
What bothered me most was the loss of such a great site to improve the quality of life for residents and build upon a plan that people would want to live near and be a part of. The plan has not always been static, but I was really excited to see the development of a family friendly waterfront that was integrated into the surrounding neighborhoods and downtown. This plan had a great potential to attract residents to live downtown and continue the economic development that has slowly been taking place in Schenectady over the past decade. I fear that most people do not want to live near a casino and downtown development will be stymied.
It’s like watching a recovering alcoholic start drinking again. The loss of so much potential is heartbreaking. This regret is what made me so disappointed at the vote on Monday.
If Schenectady is chosen for the casino, I’m sure that in its first several years we will hear a lot of positive press. We may even receive that promised tax break. But long term, the benefits are questionable, the lives damaged difficult to quantify, and the lost potential of the ALCO site the most regrettable of all.