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Sunday, September 6, 2009


The online website of elmontcivic.com has been upgraded during the past year. It is not fully integrated, with posts and news information. Its blogging style also been added to finally include comments from viewers. This blog will no longer be updated.
I encourage everyone to simply visit www.elmontcivic.com from now on.
Thank you.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Elmont Health Center Work Authorized?

The Civic received numerous phone calls today pertaining to construction occurring at the Elmont Health Center. Residents of Locustwood Estates, the neighborhood directly south of Belmont Park are furious.

Despite the inclement weather, with snow and mixed rain, construction and work with machinery were taken place on Sunday, December 21, 2008. None of the neighbors were advised and the manner in that the work is being done have residents questioning whether it is authorized and whether proper safety precautions are being taken.

Many questions arose from this secret construction. Were Town Building Inspectors aware of the work, and was the roof integrity inspected to ensure the safety of the workers, and the future condition of the building?

As neighboring residents were not aware of this work, residents also question whether or not the Town Zoning Board were aware of this construction.

Phone calls to local officials pertaining to this manner have been unanswered.

Community Civic and Residents Oppose VLTs

The Locustwood Estates founded in 1929, and renamed in 1989 to the Locustwood / Gotham Civic Association serves as the civic that represents the homeowners, families and children of the residents that reside in the western section of the hamlet of Elmont. Slightly over eighty percent of Belmont Park is within the area referred to as Locustwood Estates. As the civic with the closest proximity to Belmont Park, and ultimately the greatest impact to development at the location, we had done an extensive research and study as to what would best fit the community, as well the needs of the taxpayers and the benefit of the horse racing industry.

The Locustwood / Gotham Civic Association, in conjunction with research and community responses from Elmontcivic.com recommends the State of New York and the New York State Racing and Wagering Board to oppose Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) at Belmont Park.

The State is in a tough economic situation. There is a conscious strategy across the nation on part of the gambling industry to take advantage of States who are forced to make these tough decisions. There is no evidence that states with large sources of gambling revenues are better financially or better off in providing services to the citizens of its State.

In 1999, a Federal Commission reported, “States should refuse to allow the introduction of casino style gambling including VLTs into pari-mutuel facilities.” Largely because of deceptive advertising practices, and how these facilities tend to target minority and poor communities. As Newsday recently reported, Elmont is a lower-middle class, working and multi-cultural community. Elmont is a community that is most at risk and vulnerable to the social and economic damages that VLTs create.

The University of Alabama in May 2008 identified scientific proof that gamblers of VLTs have the same chemical reaction similar to cocaine, according to high-tech imaging that looks inside the brain. A 2004 New York State Senate study found that VLTs are the most addictive and most dangerous form of gambling. In 2002, even casino advocate US Senator John McCain, acknowledged to a crowd in South Carolina, those electronic games such as VLTs hurt families and communities.

While New York State may receive some financial benefit because of expanding gambling, the social and economic burden will fall on the community. Counties that have gambling facilities have bankruptcy rates go up by over 18%. Small business around casinos often close due to financial loses, and there is a degradation of quality of jobs, and the local work force and their opportunities for self-growth. Ultimately, the result to the local community is another mandated cost. Social costs are staggering after a few years a VLT operator opens. The cost to the local community is $13,000 to $22,000 for each problem gambler. Taken into account the average of problem gamblers generated by VLTS across the nation, it will cost the hamlet of Elmont $14.43 Million to $57.72 Million a year, to cover the social costs of VLTs alone. The federal study also noted that communities like Elmont with a high minority population and or youth population tend to have substantially higher financial burdens as a result. This figure does not include the costs of infrastructure, or the costs of increased police coverage nor the financial implications to other surrounding communities such as Bellerose, Floral Park, South Floral Park and Queens Village.

States across the nation are cutting back from gambling projects. Massachusetts stopped their plans of three casinos. In Buffalo, New York, the current economic climate halted the construction of a casino. In the province of New Brunswick, Canada the government eliminates 50% of VLT locations and the result was million of dollars more for the horse racing industry. Evidence that more is not always better.

Casinos in New Jersey and Las Vegas are going bankrupt and laying off thousands of jobs. Last month, Mayor Oscar Goodman of Las Vegas opposed the construction of VLTs in the city’s downtown. Instead, the Union Park downtown revitalization project focuses on creating a community and performing arts center.

NYRA Chairman Charles Hayward publically noted to CBS Sports that VLTs at Belmont is not necessary for NYRA to be profitable. In fact, last week in Bloodhorse he was quoted saying, “VLTs will not be bringing in revenues 10 years from now.”

Video Lottery Terminals bring more harm than good; provide no long-term economic benefit and only breeds corruption and degradation of families and the quality of life of communities. Russia has completely banned them. States across the nation are stopping projects. Multiple referendums last November had voters opposed to new casinos.

Tough decisions call for tough answers. While we look for quick solutions to our troubled economy, we must not forget who will have to front the burden and the most importantly the consequences in the future. It is the children, and the many who attend schools around Belmont Park, some just a hundred feet away that ultimately would face the consequences. We must look at the harsh reality. Though VLTs seem to create a quick fix, we must not be blind to the economic, social and scientific evidence that prove that not only in our State, our nation, but the world that ultimately VLTs cause more harm than good.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Schools Need More Information

Advising the public, especially the school districts about heroin arrests and the like, is vital to the security and safety of school personnel and the children that attend the public schools. At this present time, there is no way of knowing if personnel from after-school programs could be a risk, not only due to their presence but also increase trafficking. We are all aware that children are unfortunately targets. The Civic Board, had approach this idea for some time, and hope that it would have been expanded to a complete background check to school board members.It is our hopes that the wording of the bill would be accommodated to meet the needs of both caucuses to ensure the safety of school personnel and most importantly the children of our public schools.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

On This Veterans Day: Perhaps All is not Forgotten

There are major holidays that we celebrate during the month of November. November 4th we had perhaps the greatest historical, if not memorable election in our life times. Whether the candidates of your choice won or not, it was clear that people were proud to vote. As President Elect Barrack Obama stated in his acceptance speech: "If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer."

Anything is possible if we work united. Elmont for some time has been on the heels of a great renaissance. Multiple plans for revitalization, and we are glad that Governor Paterson is taking the initiative to listen to all viable plans for revitalization. Let us not forget that revitalization does not mean condemnation, destruction or even necessarily creating new elements in the community. Revitalization involves reviving a neglected part of a community, or to give new life or greater recognition.

It was the year 1998, when the community was completely united with civic associations, the ECCC, the Elmont Chamber of Commerce, and County officials to “focus on the west side of town and beautify the area around the Belmont Race Track.” The community stated, “we would like to see an equestrian museum go up on that side of town, and perhaps a few souvenir shops."

Ten years has past and what has been accomplished? The community and its youth having to “clean-up” the mess created by others. If anything is to come out of this, is the unity of frustration and disappointment that the lack of, or misguided revitalization projects had occurred. This clearly stated in multiple letters from resides expressing

If we really want to see an example of successful revitalization, all we have to do is examine Harlem. We have to explore ideas for people to want to come. Building a hotel is not a solution for bringing people. As evident with near by hotels such as the Courtesy Hotel and the Garden City Hotel they give more headaches than good. What positives would a hotel do in the middle of a residential zone area? What type of jobs would it attract? What types of people would it bring?

Ultimately, it is the residents of the Locustwood Estates area (Locustwood / Gotham / Belmont) of Elmont who has to face the burden. We once had a beautiful park, worldwide known as the finest track and training facility in the world.

We cannot be close-minded. We have to explore all possible options that are available to us. We have to listen to local input, professional input and input from outsiders. Ultimately, if we want people to come and improve the local economy we have to listen to what people from outside the community wants. We do not necessarily have to agree. Just like 20 years ago, there was a plan from individuals from New Jersey to build a hotel and the community disapproved it. For so many years, Elmont has been the source of economic assistance to the State, County and Town. It is time that financial benefits be return to Elmont and the surrounding communities.

Ultimately, if we really want to see true renaissance in our downtown, we have to explore all options and analyze its pro and cons. For example, where will people park their cars for the big races if the parking lot is gone? How would a parking garage affect the aesthetics of the Park, and the surrounding residential homes?

In this day of energy conservation, it must be noted that during the 70s a united plan with Nassau County, the city of New York and NYRA was established to create Belmont Park as a Metropolitan Mass Transit Transportation Hub. With Belmont Park’s access to busing, and trains (and subway), the parking lots serves as unique car-pooling center. The plan in the 1970s was to have express trains between Belmont and Penn Station.

Let us not forget that August Belmont was the pioneer who invested and funded the New York City Subway system. Often, the original Belmont Park Station was nicknamed the Penn Station of Long Island. A major transportation hub, would serve economic wonders to the surrounding businesses, promote energy conservation and help revitalize a lost element of Belmont Park’s past success. It also serves as an alternative to the Third Track that would affect negatively to our neighbors.

On November 11, we celebrate another holiday and that is Veterans Day. As we continue to reflect on Belmont Park, let us not forget that August Belmont himself at the age of 65 volunteered and served in the arms services. While fighting in WWI, his wife named their new colt, Man O’War. That horse later became one of the greatest horses of the twentieth century and one that “galvanized the slumping sport of horse racing and became a national hero.” A horse named in honor of a service man and the founder of the greatest thoroughbred track in America.

He was not alone, and is one of many forgotten veterans. As we reflect on Veterans Day we must take the time to give thanks and credit to all those who serve today and in the past. We must thank the living veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to United States national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served not only those who died have sacrificed and done their duty. We as a community must thank them for protecting our liberties and bringing a sense of honor in being Americans. Some came home, some never did. Some live in our memories, some in our tears.

It is my hopes and inspiration that Belmont Park would become revitalized and beautiful once again. Just as the area of Locustwood Estates was created for WWI veterans, it would bring me great privilege and pride in my community to see the day that the Park be finally dedicated to the men and women who served our country so proud. Some of us have not forgotten 9/11 either, as Belmont Park served as the first sporting event in New York after that great tragedy. Belmont Park is more than just horses, or the trees of which it symbolize. It is about pride of being an American.

Belmont Park’s image and legacy, and ultimately that of Elmont, Bellerose, Floral Park and South Floral Park alike, will depend on the actions and decisions that this generation do. It is my firm belief that forgetting one’s past ultimately leads to a forgotten future.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

No taxation by exploitation

"Using predatory slot machines to take hundreds of millions of dollars from the elderly, the desperate and those with addictive disorders as the preferred way to fund government completely contradicts the message of both candidates [for president]," wrote Les Bernal, executive director of StopPredatoryGambling.org. "We are a nation of strong families and communities…not a collection of selfish individuals who prey on the weaknesses of our neighbors for profit."Here's more from Bernal:"Why don’t the owners and promoters of slots, including public officials, often use slots? Because they know it is a near total waste of their money. They know the odds of winning are truly near impossible and they also know the way a person advances in America is by working hard, saving money and investing over the long-term."The truth is slots are government’s version of sub prime lending, best described as predatory gambling. AIG and Lehman Brothers executives were all part of what’s been called casino capitalism – using predatory practices and financial gimmicks to promote an illusion of free money, all at the expense of unsuspecting Americans."Among many well-intentioned people who presently advocate for slots, there is a complete lack of understanding about the design, technology and marketing behind the machines. If they did understand how predatory the machines are, there is no question that most would strongly oppose them. "Every feature of the machine -- the mathematical structure, visual graphics, sound dynamics, seating and screen ergonomics -- is geared, in the language of the predatory gambling trade, to get gamblers to 'play to extinction,' which means until their money is gone. "MIT Professor Natasha Schull has called the machines a 'high-tech version of loaded dice.' For those unfamiliar with the term, using loaded dice is cheating."One of America’s most sacred founding principles was: 'No taxation without representation.' It’s time the principle of 'No taxation by exploitation' was added right beneath it."

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Texas GOP: Firm Stand Against VLTs

from: http://www.texasgop.org/site/PageServer?pagename=library_gambling
The Gambling Industry desires to expand gambling in Texas by introducing video slot machines (also referred to as “VLTs”) as well as casino gambling, and some of our legislators’ have said that they want to turn Texas into the “next Las Vegas.” Below are a few facts about the consequences of such a con game and why the Republican Party of Texas’ Platform states its opposition to the expansion of gambling in our State.
Video slot machines are the “crack cocaine” of gambling because of their addictive nature. People become addicted more quickly, lose more money more quickly, while buying into false promises of winning.
In 2002, the Rhode Island Gambling Treatment Program identified video slots as “the most addictive form of gambling in history.”
Addiction cycle is much shorter – about 1 year to become addicted.
30-50% of revenue from VLTs is generated from compulsive gamblers.
80% of casino revenue is from addictive slot machines.
In 1994, South Dakota closed all video slot machines for 3 months – the number of gamblers treated per month dropped by 93.5%.
Deceptive – Con Game
Game makers intentionally design games to be addictive with their speed of play and the games’ hypnotizing effect. Advertising is false and misleading in giving the perception that skill is somehow involved.
Game designers intentionally use psychological behavioral techniques to stimulate increased gambling.
U.S. Patent for computerized slot machines states, “It is important to make a machine that is perceived to present greater chances of payoff than it actually has.”
Combination of deceptive disclosure of odds of winning and games designed for players to have many near misses entices people to gamble more.
Illusion of success encourages even lucid player to behave compulsively – marked loss of control in even ordinary players.
3 of every 5 players interviewed in a recent study had a significant degree of impaired control when playing video slot machines
Ravages Families
Gambling ravages families, and children pay the price.
Results in increased divorce, separation, domestic violence, child neglect, and child abuse.
Incidents of child abuse, domestic violence and neglect increase by as much as 50 % among pathological gamblers.
Divorce rates among pathological gamblers (most often addicted by VLTs) are almost 3 times as high as those of non-gamblers. Millions of adults cite a spouse’s gambling problem as a significant factor in their divorces.
The National Gambling Impact Study Commission reported: “Children of compulsive gamblers are often prone to suffer abuse, as well as neglect, as a result of parental problem or pathological gambling.” VLT addicted parents are more likely to have children who are pathological gamblers.
Increased Suicides - Suicide rates among addicted gamblers are 30 % higher than in the general population.
Increased Illness - As gambling increases, so does illness including cardiovascular problems, anxiety, depression, cognitive disorders, chronic or severe headaches, and stress-related sickness.
Targets Victims
Slot machines are being designed to prey upon the young, women, seniors, and minorities.
Gambling is fastest growing addiction among U.S. teens, women, and senior citizens.
Pathological gambling for youth and young adults is growing at twice the rate for adults.
Poorest and least educated participants spend largest percentage of their income on gambling.
Texas experts estimate that video slot machines will cost poor Texans as much as a $1000 a year on top of the $1,000 they are already losing on the lottery.
One researcher noted that it is hard to lose thousands of dollars in one night in the lottery but not uncommon if playing video slot machines.
Gambling venues devastate the economy for both gamblers and non-gamblers:
Studies show that VLTs cost states $3 in social costs for every $1 of revenue generated.
Without including costs related to suicides and abused dollars, estimates of costs to taxpayers range from $13,000 - $52,000 a year per addicted gambler.
Compulsive gamblers cost the U.S. economy about $80 billion annually - $10 billion more than that spent to combat drug abuse.
The poor provide 90% of gambling revenue.
Gambling is a regressive, invisible tax paid directly by the poor and vulnerable, but indirectly by all taxpayers who must shoulder the burden for the subsequent social costs.
Skyrocketing Crime
Sept. 2004 research showed casinos hiked violent crime 13%.
Everywhere video slot machines have been legalized, crime rates have skyrocketed, including aggravated assault, rape, robbery, larceny, burglary, auto theft, embezzlement, and fraud.
1st 3 years of gambling in Atlantic City, New Jersey went from 50th in nation in per capita crime to 1st in the nation.
This results in:
Increased Need for Enforcement – police, fire, EMS, lighting, and other crime prevention costs.
Increased Overload of Court System.
Increased Overload of Prison System.
Increased Bankruptcies
Costs include lawsuits and legal costs as well as bill collection costs.
Bankruptcy rates in counties with state sponsored gambling are 18 % higher than in counties that have no gambling.
Increased Business & Employment Losses
Businesses suffer lost productivity, lost work time, unemployment related employer costs from employees who become addicted.
Cannibalizes other industries – restaurants, clothing stores, theaters, and other retail shops suffer in direct proportion to the gambling industry’s success. Thus, it changes the economic base and character of local communities.
Fully half of the small businesses in Atlantic City closed in the first years of legalized gambling there.
Riverboat gambling in Natchez, MS gutted the local business community.
Increased Government Social Services
Need to create or increase government social services such as gambling addiction treatment/therapy costs.
Resulting increase in unemployment, welfare, food stamps, Medicaid, and other social services drain local resources as well as state and federal taxpayer programs.
Increased Government Regulatory Expenses
Requires expansion of regulatory agencies, infrastructure, and government salaries.
Increased Dollars Abused
Diverts resources acquired from family, friends, employers under false pretenses away from family needs.
It discourages hard work and saving.
State sponsored gambling – specifically video slot machines – promote a government sponsored message to citizens that getting ahead in life is a result of blind luck not education, hard work and initiative.
Building our government budgets on games of chance bolstered by deceptive state sponsored advertising campaigns sends a negative anti-work message to citizens and undermines the goals of personal achievement and individual contributions to our communities.
Breeds Corruption
Convenient front for organized crime to launder money from other activities such as drugs and prostitution.
Political corruption is rampant in states receiving revenue from casinos.
Does not stem illegal gambling, but rather creates a shadow industry.
State sanctioned advertising forces taxpayers to prop up this corruption.
Poor Tax Policy
Not neutral.
Invisible – not transparent.
Allows legislators to shuffle money around that would have been used for education.
Promises are always larger than the actual return.
States Gambled and Lost
Governor of Nevada said “the lesson from the last 20 years is clear; our revenue system is broken because it has relied on regressive and unstable [gambling] taxes.”
Even the Mayor of Las Vegas wants VLTs removed from neighborhoods outside the strip to prevent the creation of more gambling addicts.
Even the casino-industry in Nevada only provides the state with a third of its revenue, much less than promised.
Every state that uses gambling as a revenue source has a budget deficit – most notably Nevada and New Jersey.
In 1999 Louisiana voted to unplug almost 5,000 VLTs.
Louisiana leaders say that most of the revenue from gambling in the state is immediately taken out of the state and sent to franchise owners in New Jersey.
South Dakota, the first state to house video slot machines in 1989 still had an estimated $54 million budget deficit for 2004 and an estimated $17 million deficit projected for 2005 (Center on Budget & Policy Priorities).
Former South Dakota Governor Bill Janklow called VLTs “the biggest mistake the state ever made.”
Former Nebraska Governor and current United States Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns reported that he would be, “hard-pressed to think that gambling benefits outweigh the detriments.”
In South Carolina, lawmakers abandoned plans to institute VLTs when “the huge social costs in the form of addiction and financial hardship” failed to produce any real economic benefit.
New York reports that it has earned only half of what it was projected to earn from VLTs at its race tracks.
Historical odds predict that areas that embrace VLTs make a relatively quick slide to full-blown casino gambling.
Gambling Industry promised $99.2 million ($98 revenue + $1.2 million for Commission) in 1987 when legislation to allow race tracks first passed. The first track opened in 1990. Revenues peaked at $5 million and have been declining since that time.
The Gambling Industry has repeatedly asked the Texas Legislature for changes characterized as vital to the survival of the industry only to insist that more is needed.
Public debt – After claiming that Texas would make millions, the industry asked the State to forgive $10.5 million in public debt in 1993, only 3 years after the first track opened.
Now the declining racing industry wants taxpayers to bail them out again.
VLTs provide 80 % of the revenues at race tracks and casinos. VLTs are propping up a declining gaming industry. Texans should not subsidize a failing industry.
State sponsored gambling may be a tax on the ignorant – but it is a tax that the state encourages through massive gambling advertising. The cost of that advertising is not reflected in the public balance sheet on gambling.
A Risky Bet but a Sure Fall
In 1999, the National Gambling Impact Study Commission Called for a Moratorium on Gambling Expansion.
The experience of states that have legalized slots and casinos reveals that the much hyped revenue is a mirage that never fully materializes.
Relying on the pathological behavior of VLT consumers to keep state revenue steady is a gamble in itself. Texas cannot wager the education and future of our children by counting on revenue that is predictably undeniable.
We are the Party of strong families and personal responsibility. We believe in government that is accountable to the people. Governments should protect and serve not abuse and enslave.