Developer: Casino's impacts means jobs
If the state grants license for proposed Sterling Forest Resort, Genting will build Thruway Exit 15B, slashing commuting times from Warwick
By John Haughey
GREENWOOD LAKE — If Genting Americas’ proposed million-square-foot resort in Sterling Forest wins one of the four casino licenses the state will grant this fall, Warwick will not directly benefit in terms of property tax relief or infrastructure enhancements because it is not a “host community.”
But if Malaysia-based Genting, Asia’s largest casino developer, gets the green light to build its proposed 238-acre Sterling Forest Resort, nearby Greenwood Lake will see “spillover impacts” in terms of exposure for local businesses, increased employment opportunities (up to 2,500 construction jobs and 2,000 permanent positions), enhanced property values and the realization of a 30-year plan to build a Thruway exit for Route 17A - the long-awaited, mythical Exit 15B.
These tangible, albeit indirect, Warwick benefits from a Tuxedo casino were dangled before about 100 people by Genting Americas’ Senior Vice President Christian Goode during a 90-minute presentation at the Greenwood Lake Elks Club on June 10.
Of 24 people who addressed Goode during the presentation, organized by the Greenwood Lake Village Board and moderated by Warwick Town Supervisor Michael Sweeton, 17 favored the proposal, four opposed it and three asked questions but did not express an opinion.
Goode said Genting wants to build a “world-class resort” on sites off 17A now occupied by Tuxedo Ridge Ski Center, Renaissance Faire Village and the former Sterling Forest Gardens.
Goode said the resort and new exit ramp - which would slash commuting times by 10-20 minutes - will enhance property values in Warwick, particularly in Greenwood Lake, by as much as 30-40 percent.
He said property values in the area around the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut “tripled” after that resort opened.
As part of the application process, the state requires casino developers to pay $1 million to submit a bid. The four Orange County applicants must also agree to commit at least $350 million to their project. In addition, the state requires applicants to secure a letter of support from host municipalities. The Tuxedo Town Board endorsed the proposal in a contentious 3-2 decision on May 12.
‘Opportunity and challenge’
Although Genting does not need an official endorsement from the adjacent Town of Warwick, Village of Greenwood Lake or the Greenwood Lake and Warwick school districts, the proximity of the proposed casino - six miles “over the mountain” - means “we would be impacted greatly,” Greenwood Lake Mayor Jesse Dwyer said.
Therefore, Dwyer said, the village board requested the “information only” presentation by Genting designed specifically for Greenwood Lake School District residents.
Several residents questioned Dwyer’s recent disclosure that his public relations firm has been hired to do “public affairs and outreach” for Genting’s local subsidiary, RW Orange County, LLC. Dwyer said he would recuse himself from any formal village board votes regarding Genting, but noted that since the village and town do not have a jurisdictional role in the process, “Our vote is not necessary for approval.”
“This is an opportunity and a challenge,” Dwyer said. “I see this as the biggest boon we will ever see in our lifetime.”
Most in the audience agreed, particularly if Genting delivers the jobs and builds the Thruway exit.
Goode said if Genting gets a casino license, the state will require it build and open the resort within two years. This will generate up to 2,500 construction jobs, he said. The resort itself will employ about 2,000 people with an average salary range of between $50,000 and $70,000, he said.
“A lot (of workers) will come from Greenwood Lake,” Goode said, noting 70 percent of the resort’s projected workforce will come from northern New Jersey, and Orange and Rockland counties.
“These are good, quality jobs,” he said. “Not just a job, a career. Good wages. Good benefits. Something you can be proud of.”
Goode said Genting will create partnerships with local businesses to encourage guests to explore the surrounding area. “We think there is an opportunity for everybody to benefit,” he said.
Genting has already agreed to spend $25 million to “fully fund” the Thruway 15B Exit for Rt. 17A, originally approved in 1985 but never funded by the state. Goode said the developer tentatively plans a roundabout to funnel traffic from the Thruway onto Rt. 17 and Rt. 17A, but is “considering” an overpass, and will lobby Metro North for a train station at the exit site as well as an additional track for the span between Suffern and Woodbury.
“We’ve looked at the 17A interchange every way possible,” he said, noting Genting will also request the Thruway exit be toll-free.
Greenwood Lake Chamber of Commerce President Kevin Sweeney said he was initially opposed to a Tuxedo casino but after doing “an awful lot of research, I whole-heartedly endorse it,” as does the chamber which, he said, “unanimously supports” the proposal.
The few objections raised fears of crime, traffic, underpaid - and undocumented - resort workers cramming into inexpensive housing in Greenwood Lake, which would be see more impacts than benefits from a nearby casino.
Others said rising property values isn’t necessarily good news because it will mean higher tax bills and several doubted that the Tuxedo School District will lower the tuition rate it charges the Greenwood Lake School District for its students to attend George Baker High School in Tuxedo.
But the vast majority of those who attended the presentation, especially business owners, enthusiastically endorsed Genting’s proposed resort.
“We need to embrace this company,” Greenwood Lake resident Eric Hastings said. “This is our ship that has come in. We need to secure it to the dock.”
“I’ve been a resident since 1964 when Greenwood Lake was a busy town,” business owner Carl LaMarca said. “I would like to see it busy again.”
Decision by fall
Genting’s Sterling Forest Resort is one of 22 casino proposals - including four in Orange County - expected to be submitted to the New York Gaming Commission’s five-member Casino Selection Board by June 30. The Malaysian gaming giant, which owns 51 resorts staffed by 58,000 employees on three continents, operates the Aqueduct Racetrack racino in Queens.
It is also proposing to build a casino in Newburgh and is partner with Empire Resorts in its proposed casino in the former Concord Hotel in Sullivan County.
Last fall, New York voters approved a measure that allows the state to issue four casino licenses in three areas of the state - the Capital District near Albany, the Southern Tier and the Catskills, which includes the lower Hudson Valley. The Casino Selection Board is expected to select the four casino sites in the fall.
About 40 miles from Manhattan, Genting’s Sterling Forest Resort would be the closest of the 22 casino candidates to New York City.
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