Village meeting on possible LI casino gets tense

Village meeting on possible LI casino gets tense

The Marriott Hotel in Islandia is the proposed site of a casino plan. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Residents of Islandia crowded outside village hall at a tense board meeting on Aug. 2, regarding the possibility of a casino at the Marriott Hotel in Islandia on Expressway Drive North.

“I do not want to see litter on the floor, people sleeping in cars or having sex.”
— Dwayne Johnson

Delaware North, a Buffalo entertainment company, reached out to the village and submitted a permit to build a casino inside the hotel space, and residents of the town are divided on their opinions of this possibility.

A public hearing was held Tuesday night, but no vote has been held on the issue by the village board.

The 54-person village hall meeting room closed its doors more than a half-hour before the 7:30 p.m. start, as public safety said capacity was already reached.

A speaker system was set up on the steps of the entrance for the residents outside to hear the audio of the meeting.

Mayor Allan Dorman started the meeting by saying he was “limited” in expressing his personal opinions on the casino, and any board member that “goes out and gives the impression that they have already made a decision … they put this village in jeopardy.”

Residents stand outside village hall listening to the meeting. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
Residents stand outside village hall listening to the meeting. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Despite this statement, he referred to residents outside loudly protesting the casino as “miserable people.”

He also said the casino issue garnered attention from people all over the area, including many nonresidents, and that only residents were allowed to speak.

“We’re not looking to build a bigger hall so we can put more people who are not residents here,” he said in response to the hall not fitting in all the residents.

Locals expressed their frustration at not being allowed to participate inside, but as the meeting got to public comment, public safety allowed one resident in at a time to voice his or her opinion.

And community members made sure they were heard, even when they were stuck outside — booing at statements the mayor made.

Thomas Brauner, an Islandia resident, was the first to speak in support of the casino.

During the meeting, Dorman referred to non-residents who opposed the casino.

“I am in favor of Delaware North,” he said. “I feel that this proposal, when properly vetted, will cause no problems in our village. No town or village survives without the aid of a healthy business community.”

Dwayne Johnson, another resident who said he lives just a few blocks from the site, said he is staunchly against the proposal.

“The last thing we want to see is for our area to turn into Brooklyn — or worse,” he said, to a round of applause from the audience outside. “I do not want to see litter on the floor, people sleeping in cars or having sex. What happens when you have a casino is you draw the worst attention. Next thing we’re going to have is a strip club.”

Johnson was one of the many residents who asked for a public vote on the casino.

Dorman also expressed concern about his deputy mayor, Diane F. Olk, during the meeting, saying he does not have trust in her. He demoted her and asked Trustee Michael Zaleski to become the deputy mayor.

The meeting was adjourned after cursing was heard over the microphone from inside the meeting, and village security officers escorted a man out who tried to confront village officials.

No decision has been made on the issue.

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