Eli Ruiz | Democrat
About 300 supporters showed up at The Sullivan in Rock Hill on Wednesday evening to mobilize voting in favor of this November’s statewide resolution to legalize gambling in New York State.
Taking no gamble on casino vote
Story by Eli Ruiz
ROCK HILL August 16, 2013 A who’s who of county movers and doers, legislators, businesspersons and union representatives were among the horde of supporters to pack The Sullivan in Rock Hill on Wednesday evening for a rally whose purpose was singular: Vote Yes for Prop 1, the November 5 statewide referendum seeking to amend New York State’s constitution to allow for Class III casinos.
Rock Hill resident Amy Goodstein and businessman Randy Resnick organized an impromptu strategy session earlier this month to think of ways to mobilize the vote. The meeting attracted the likes of Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, County Legislative Chairman Scott Samuelson, Legislator Ira Steingart, Partnership for Economic Development President Marc Baez and more.
The group kicked around ideas on how best to “put out the word” on the November referendum, and more importantly, garner support from not only Sullivan County voters, but voters statewide.
And it was clearly apparent Wednesday evening that Resnick, Goodstein and their small army of volunteers’ hard work paid off with the support they were hoping for, as about 300 showed up.
Goodstein was ecstatic: “This is absolutely incredible. Wonderful turnout, and the vibe in here right now is unlike anything I’ve ever felt. I haven’t felt the love like this in a very long time,” she said. “I feel like I’m finally amongst my people. As positive as this is for Sullivan County, New York and the mid-Hudson Valley I think right here today was the best possible scenario we could have asked for.”
“I’m excited and I’m here to stand with my constituents and import this message that we need this proposition passed,” said Assemblywoman Gunther. “This will not only benefit the mid-Hudson region, it’s going to benefit the whole of New York State.”
Regarding this moment in Sullivan County history, Gunther recalled her husband and predecessor Jacob, who passed away after a short bout with cancer in July, 2003:
“I went through it with [him]. We’d been hearing about casinos here since 1972,” she said. “You know, we negotiated this bill until probably 11 o’clock… until they printed it to make sure the tax incentives were there for someone to be able to construct a casino in Sullivan County. I’ve worked very hard on this, and I was a co-sponsor [of the bill] and this really means an awful lot to me. I think that history’s being made if this passes.”
“This county needs a good shot in the arm as far as economic development,” affirmed Samuelson. “These casinos are going to be that shot in the arm, and we need to get everybody in our community to understand what it is and then to vote yes for it… it’s now up to us.”
Town of Liberty Supervisor Charlie Barbuti, whose board on Monday will hear a presentation from developer Louis Cappelli’s Sullivan Resorts on a proposed casino hotel resort and housing development at the former Grossinger’s resort, explained, “We need to rally these troops to vote yes on this thing.… We’ve never gotten this far before.… This is just fantastic. I’ve never seen so much excitement in Sullivan County.”
Sullivan County Chamber of Commerce president Terry Ward was equally optimistic: “The Chamber has been in support of a Sullivan County casino since the idea’s inception in the early ‘70s and over the last 9-years as Chamber president I’ve been to Albany and I even went to [Washington] D.C. once and we’ve been lobbying for casinos for a really long time. This is the absolute closest we’ve ever been… it’s really do or die now, and it’s up to you New York State. It’s finally out of the politicians’ hands and now it’s in our own . . . we’re going to push this through with this very real grass-roots effort.”
“It’s a total win for us,” said Sullivan County Visitors Association President Roberta Byron-Lockwood. “This referendum will put us [Sullivan County] in a whole new arena in the marketplace.”
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 363 Business Manager Sam Fratto who was in attendance along with more than 100 Hudson Valley Building Trades union men was also hopeful. “I think this could be an example to the rest of the Hudson Valley,” he said. “It feels really good to be this close but that doesn’t mean you can be so happy that you’re gonna rest, no, now’s the time for work, and now is the time to inform residents of the whole state that this is a very real possibility.”
And then there was long-time Sullivan County business owner Noel Lopez of Neversink, who offered, “We desperately need to make this area a destination again. Not maybe, not possibly [but] desperately. Casinos will not only mean jobs, but they will also mean business, business this county needs at all levels. The status quo obviously hasn’t been working for us . . . It’s about time now and it’s really nice to see this much support. Besides all the other obvious benefits casinos will bring to the area, local businesses will flourish.”
With November fast approaching, it remains to be seen how this latest casino gambit will play out, but as Samuelson put it, “This is the point where the rubber hits the road. It’s now up to us . . . we’ve wanted this for over 40-years. Now is the time.”
For more information on the November referendum, future rally dates, or to support the “Vote Yes” initiative, please send all correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the group’s Vote Yes for NYS Gaming Amendment Facebook page.