Please send letters to the NYS Gaming Commission, with copies to state officials, by September 30, 2014 (addresses below). Suggested talking points include:
- The proposed Caesars NY casino complex will sit on 129 acres of beautiful rolling hills and wetlands alongside the Ramapo River and Ramapo Mountains adjacent to Harriman State Park. The pastoral beauty of this area, including views of trees, mountains, and wildlife seen from New York State Thruway 87 and Route 17, is in sharp contrast to urban and suburban development just a 20- or 30- minute drive south. This spectacular area is a scenic gateway to the Catskills and upstate New York. The historical significance of this land, its rural character, and the protected forests and mountains will forever be marred by a huge hotel tower and casino complex standing tall in its midst, visible for miles around. Woodbury is the wrong location for a casino complex.
- The Village of Woodbury is corrupting the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process by not requiring the applicant to prepare an original Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) specific to the proposed Caesars project. Instead, it is allowing the applicant to prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) to a 27-year-old EIS referring to a project that did not contemplate in any way a casino/hotel—or any project of this size and volume. This is completely contrary to the intent of the State Environmental Quality Review Act and the criteria for preparing an SEIS, which is meant to address changes in circumstances or design regarding the same project that was the subject of the preceding EIS. The existing conditions affecting the property—including surrounding land use, traffic volumes and patterns, zoning, flooding, and vegetation—have changed since 1987. By design, an SEIS is intended to provide a far more limited environmental review. It is difficult to understand why Caesars will not approach the serious environmental issues presented by its application with a new and fresh environmental study of its own unless it is trying to hide something or circumvent the process.
- The Caesars complex will include a nine-story hotel tower with 300 rooms, suites and villas; a seven-deck parking garage; a four-level building to house the casino, meeting spaces, and restaurants; and an outdoor performance venue. Bringing a projected 10 million visitors to the Woodbury-Harriman-Monroe area per year is the equivalent of dropping a small city into this cherished space. Inviting an average of 27,000 people per day onto this property creates a greater population density per acre than Manhattan—and it’s more than twice the actual population that resides in Woodbury. This many people—and cars—going to one destination will impact the area negatively. Woodbury is the wrong location for a casino complex.
- The 44,000-acre Harriman State Park is one of the crown jewels of Palisades Interstate Park land. The open space to the east of the proposed casino site will also one day become Park property. Harriman’s great trails offer spectacular views of natural beauty from their scenic lookouts and ridges, appreciated by hikers and park visitors in search of respite from suburban/urban development. These are treasured views that would be marred forever if a casino/hotel is built in Woodbury. To spoil the view from this park is unconscionable. Woodbury is the wrong location for a casino complex.
- The tranquil northwestern entrance to Harriman State Park via Arden Valley Road on the eastern side of Route 17 is just south of the proposed casino entrance. Park visitors will be impacted by the tremendous traffic expected on Route 17, Route 6, NY State Thruway 87, Route 106, and Arden Valley Road. An additional traffic concern arises from Caesars’ plan to remove the Norfolk Southern Railroad Bridge in Harriman, which will open Route 17 to 18-wheelers intent on avoiding NY State Thruway tolls. Adding big trucks to the traffic mix barreling through Harriman, Southfields, Tuxedo, and Sloatsburg on the curving, narrow four-lane road that includes several sudden changes in speed limit will make that already dangerous stretch even more perilous. Vehicle collisions with wildlife will increase.
- Furthermore, the removal of the railroad overpass will permanently foreclose a significant potential future recreational opportunity. Currently, this same abandoned railroad right-of-way has been converted to the Orange Heritage Trail, an extremely popular linear park used for hiking, jogging, biking, and walking. Plans call for the extension of the park from Howells to River Road in Harriman. But if the trail can be extended a short distance farther to the Harriman Train Station, it would exponentially increase the value of the trail by opening it up to users who could bring their bikes by train from as far away as New York City. The removal of the bridge for the casino would eliminate this potential forever.
- Arden Valley Road, which intersects with Route 17, is of special significance—the famed Appalachian Trail (AT) crosses Route 17 and follows the road above the NY State Thruway. The winding and beautiful road is owned by the Palisades Interstate Park Commission and comes through the Park from Seven Lakes Drive, a route that will be utilized by casino-goers if a casino is built. Park land also sits on the west side of Route 17, where historic farmhouses are located. The AT, accessed from the Route 17, will put hikers in danger as they make their way through the backed-up traffic. The proximity to heavy traffic will impact the serene park experience for all visitors, including those walking along Route 17, Arden Valley Road, or on the park’s trails, while wildlife and ecosystems will be impacted by noise and air pollution. Woodbury Commons, choked with cars just north of the casino site, is already noncompliant with required clean air levels.
- In the summer, park roads (and parking lots) are already busy with vehicles full of people seeking recreation outdoors, including many vehicles towing canoes and kayaks navigating the winding roadways—yet the experience remains bucolic and peaceful. This will not be the case if even a small percentage of casino-goers try to reach the Caesars NY Casino by cutting through the park via Seven Lakes Drive, Arden Valley Road, or Route 106. The park experience will be negatively impacted by congestion. Any traffic plans, new exit ramps, and road widening promised by Caesars cannot possibly mitigate these negative impacts. Woodbury is the wrong location for a casino complex.
- The planned 800,000 square foot casino complex includes walls of windows to take advantage of the spectacular views—while concurrently ruining the view from outside the complex. The current plan includes site lighting and huge interior chandeliers that will surely light up the night sky. The darkness of night in this semi-rural area will be impacted, and the treasured view of the stars will become invisible due to the glow of the complex on the surrounding towns and Harriman State Park. The light will be an inescapable disturbance to residents, stargazers, and hikers. For wildlife, the light pollution will be extremely detrimental to behavior and survival. Additionally, walls of windows pose a threat to birds in the Ramapo River Valley. Woodbury is the wrong location for a casino complex.
- An outdoor music venue—likened to Tanglewood, a 5,700-seat outdoor music venue in Massachusetts, by a representative of the Caesars site design team—is planned for the site. The noise created by outdoor performances, amplified by its sound system and exacerbated by its location in a valley with adjacent mountains, will cause a disturbance to park-goers, residents, and wildlife. The ongoing noise of construction of the project alone will create a nuisance to the area for several years. Woodbury is the wrong location for a casino complex.
- This plan will deteriorate the water quality of the Ramapo River, which directly impacts New Jersey’s water supply intakes, due to increased traffic and stormwater runoff, sewage discharge, and lower flows of the river. Woodbury is the wrong location for a casino complex.
Summary: We do not want a casino in Woodbury, and we cannot allow this project to move forward in this beloved area. It sits alongside our second-largest state park, at the gateway to the Catskills and upstate New York, and is adjacent to the Ramapo River, which plays a critical role as a drinking water source in the Ramapo River Basin Aquifer. We must do everything we can to protect this region. Regardless of what Caesars says, a project here will only be damaging—it will forever mar our spectacular views, be a burden to Harriman State Park, negatively impact visitors and wildlife, and be detrimental to area residents and local municipalities. Woodbury is
Send Letters to:
New York State Gaming Commission
Facility Location Selection Committee
c/o Gail P. Thorpe
P.O. Box 7500
Schenectady, NY 12301-7500
Or via email to: [email protected]
Palisades Interstate Park Commission
P.O. Box 147
Bear Mountain, NY 10911 [email protected]:
The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor, State of New York
NY State Capital Building
Albany, NY 12224
Rose Harvey, Commissioner
NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation
Albany NY, 12238
Joseph Martens, Commissioner
NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
Albany, NY 12233-1010