By Matt Youngfrau
SOUTH FALLSBURG June 25, 2002 United States Senator Charles Schumer paid a visit to Sullivan County Friday afternoon to offer an update on the gaming situation.
The event was a luncheon sponsored by the Sullivan County Chamber of Commerce and the Sullivan County Partnership of Economic Development and held at the Raleigh Hotel in South Fallsburg. Approximately 85 people attended.
"I appreciate everyone coming on short notice," Schumer remarked. "I came here after I was elected to learn your position on gambling. Some were against it, but most people were for it.
"Now, were getting close," Schumer continued. "We spent a lot of time battling on this issue. Now we are on the edge of victory."
Schumer offered updates on the two applications sitting with the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA): the St. Regis Mohawks (who are looking to put a casino at Kutsher's Sports Academy) and the Stockbridge-Munsee Tribe (who want a casino on Bridgeville Road). That morning, Schumer spoke to the head of the BIA, Neal McCaleb, for an update on the situation.
The Mohawks application is the furthest along. Their environmental statement was initially deficient, but they were allowed to re-submit it with some modifications. Schumer stated the application looks very good and should pass muster. He estimated approval should happen within four months. (After that, it still needs state approval.)
Schumer also announced that both applications would be considered on their own. Stockbridge, of course, is much farther back in the process. However, Schumer felt that once one approval was granted, it would make the other approval easier.
"The process is like the Colorado River creating the Grand Canyon," Schumer stated. "It is slow, but it can't be stopped."
Schumer discussed other issues he felt would become priorities as economic development swept the county: transportation, housing, and water and sewage. In addition to offering an update on I-86, he asked local officials to form a committee and let federal officials know what areas were considered priorities. Schumer further suggested that New Jersey Transit extend a rail line to the county from its terminus in Port Jervis.
"He has lived up to his campaign promise and continues to visit the area," County Manager Dan Briggs said of Schumer. "He is familiar with the area. He lives up to our needs. He continues his efforts to help us."
"It is always gratifying to have our federal officials take a personal interest in us," stated Sullivan County Legislature Chair Leni Binder. "The senator has been particularly active in our county. We will take his advice and try to meet with the other counties and see what their needs are."
Schumer had to cut his visit short due to an obligation in Westchester County. He left representatives at the lunch to answer any further questions or discuss more issues.