A group of residents in Orange County is threatening a lawsuit, challenging a decision by a town board over zoning for a proposed casino.
The Tuxedo residents are putting up a legal challenge to annul what they allege is an illegally adopted so-called gaming overlay zone that would pave the way for Genting’s proposed Sterling Forest Resort. They allege the Tuxedo Town Board skirted an environmental review prior to adopting the overlay zone. The residents also allege the zone allows for gambling within Sterling Forest State Park in direct violation of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and Palisades Interstate Park Commission regulations. Bridget Morris is one of the residents bringing the legal action.
“But I just think a very clear message needs to be sent to the Town Board through the courts,” Morris says. “Unfortunately it’s come to that.”
The residents are being represented by Goshen-based attorney Michael Sussman. Again, Morris.
“This parcel of land is surrounded by Sterling Forest State Park, which is part of our American heritage, and there also is a watershed area for the drinking water of the residents of New Jersey,” Morris says. “I think it’s just really a tremendous amount of gall on their part that they feel that they can take this action without studying the effects of the forest.”
That action, she says, is the Town Board’s approval of the gaming overlay zoning district. Messages left for Tuxedo Town Supervisor Michael Rost were not returned in time for this broadcast. A spokesman for Genting Americas, in an e-mailed statement says, “We believe the Town of Tuxedo has proceeded in a prudent manner and this will be resolved expeditiously as the proposed use is consistent with the Town’s Comprehensive Plan Update completed in 2011.”
Back in April, when Genting representatives delivered their initial public presentation in Tuxedo, there was an opportunity for public comment. Nearly 20 area residents spoke in opposition to the proposal during a Tuxedo Town Board meeting, with concerns about impact, crime, gambling in general, and preserving the forest. At the time, the Town Board had not yet voted on whether to support the proposal. Here’s what Rost said at the time:
“I’m keeping an open mind,” says Rost. “There are plenty of people who have reached out to me prior to this meeting to say that they support it. And at the end of the day it’s the town board’s responsibility to do what’s best for the town. And we’re going to listen to everybody.”
The Town Board since voted in support of the proposed casino, a requirement for the casino application to have moved forward. Morris contends that building a casino resort would inflict irreparable damage.
“This really amounts to greed, corporate greed, and the fact that some people in town feel that the quickest way to lower their taxes would be to stimulate business, which is certainly one route, but not at the expense of our natural resources,” says Morris. “You cannot replace natural resources.”
Some who have previously spoken in support of the proposal did so based on the promise of jobs, especially for local union labor, economic development, and help for the school district.
Sterling Forest Resort is from Resorts World, the leisure brand of Malaysia-based Genting Group, which operates Resorts World Casino New York City at Aqueduct Racetrack. The proposed casino resort in Tuxedo would sit on a 238-acre site buffered by more than two miles of forest from the Town of Tuxedo and Tuxedo Park. The Route 17A property has long hosted the New York Renaissance Faire.
“The vast majority of residents have spoken in opposition to whatever they have proposed regarding a casino going forward and yet we’re being ignored,” says Morris. “So this is also to serve as a wakeup call to the town that we’re not going to be silenced.”
There are six proposed casinos for Orange County; the most recent also comes from Genting – Resorts World Hudson Valley in the Town of Montgomery.