Sunday, August 31, 2014

No East Greenbush Casino II

There's more from No East Greenbush Casino.....Very important information.  


Within pages 12 - 16 of Clough Harbor Associates' PDD application to the Town of East Greenbush will be fought the next and final battle of the Great Casino War. As in all wars, this one has many elements. It started with secret negotiations between East Greenbush investors/operatives and Saratoga Gaming and Raceway representatives. Strategic objectives in place, tactical plans were drawn up within Supervisor Langley's office during the late days of April 2014 and throughout the months of May and June. It was here that battlefield general James "Feathers" launched a series of coordinated attacks with the help of the entire Town Board.

These attacks included a strong propaganda campaign of mailers, lawn signs, social media, purchased radio time with AM 1300's Paul Vandenburgh and Town spokespersons Ed Gilbert and Sue Mangold, robo-phone calls, carefully timed press releases, phony fronts such as pretend job and vendor fairs, a less than slick public presentation with Churchill Downs reps at Columbia High School, quietly dispositioned one-on-one visits with key supporting arms leaders such as County Executive Kathleen Jimino, EG Superintendent of Schools Dr. Angela Nagle and Board of Education Chairman Dr. Shay Harrison, very public visits with Albany Mayor Sheehan (legalized "bribery") costing Feathers $10 million for nothing more than a non-exclusive signature of support, and critical local business support from Linda Hillman, President and CEO of the Rensselaer County Chamber of Commerce.

Hillman is a quietly powerful and efficient element of the type needed on any successful general's staff. In 2011 Ms. Hillman was Gov. Cuomo's appointment to the Capital Region Economic Development Council, "...helping the relationships between State government and business to stimulate economic development and foster job growth."

Alongside Ms. Hillman stood the Chamber's Board Chairman Dan Slote, broker at NAI Platform, the local real estate giant able to flip the Thompson Hill casino site lands almost overnight for more than twice what NAI paid, providing a stable NAI platform on which the casino could be built. From Kenneth Crowe's 4/24/14 Times Union story:

"Two parcels at the north end of Thompson Hill Road at the intersection of State Route 4 were sold by Richard B. Lynd to Village at Thompson Hill, LLC. This company, which is affiliated with Platform Realty Group, then sold the acreage to Greenbush GB Associates, Inc. James Featherstonhaugh of Saratoga Casino is listed as the manager of Greenbush GB. Lynd sold the residence on a 2.75-acre lot at 102 Thompson Hill Road for $390,000, according to the deed. Village at Thompson Hill then sold it to Greenbush GB for $900,000.

Lynd, through his Red House Farm Inc., also sold the adjacent 61.22 acres for $450,000. Village at Thompson Hill sold this parcel to Greenbush GB for $1.1 million. Greenbush GB borrowed $3 million from Village at Thompson Hill for the two parcels, according to a mortgage filed at the county clerk's office. The filing of the deeds came as Saratoga Casino representatives met with Rensselaer County Executive Kathleen Jimino and her staff, and gave plans for the estimated $300 million project to the town of East Greenbush."
Using the military's KISS rule (Keep It Simple, Stupid) it looks like this: Lynd sold to Platform (brokered by Dan Slote) who then lent $3 million to Greenbush GB LLC (Feathers) so that Saratoga Gaming could buy the casino land at more than twice what Platform had just paid for it. Why would anyone do that? Because Feather's power and connections make a 1-in-4 chance for a local casino license look more like 60 - 40 in his mind ( from May 2014 Town Hall meeting notes between Feathers and the East Greenbush Town Board).

Other Chamber Board members offering support- Carrie Hillenbrandt, of BBL Hospitality. From the PDD application we learn the following: "Moreover, a hotel partnership has been established with BBL Hospitality, with overflow guests directed to BBL’s hotels in East Greenbush; the Holiday Inn Express and Residence Inn."

Also on Board with the Chamber, so to speak: Robert Horan, Schodack Superintendent of Schools, which submitted an unambiguous letter of support for the casino in Capital View's submission package.

So you see, the whole campaign has been carefully orchestrated to swoon public officials and sway public opinion. Feathers and friends won the battle for public officials almost immediately. The only ammunition he needed were promises of tax revenues and jobs. But as they say, the first casualty in any war is the truth, and jobs have already been sunk in the sea of politics and revenues are likely to step on the land mines of market saturation.

The trench war for public opinion hasn't even been close. Anti-casino forces rule the battlefield. Every public engagement since May has seen us route pro-casino forces handily.

That leaves only one battle yet to fight: zoning, and the interpretation of the Gaming Law's Section 1366 language: Does the PDD need special zoning approval for casino amenities like bars, restaurants, and a hotel, or are these things inherently and inseparably part of the Casino itself, which carries with it the impenetrable body armor of the Gaming Act: Casinos are legal, we need them, and the law allows the state to put them wherever the state deems best in order to accomplish the primary mission of raising money, heavy societal casualties be damned.

Who will decide that final battle? We may have found out at the last Town Board meeting, Resolution 109-2014, in the 6th Whereas:

Whereas, the aforementioned Zoning Law also provides pursuant to Section 4.2.3 that the Zoning Board of Appeals of the Town of East Greenbush has the authority to interpret any provision of the Zoning Law about which there is uncertainty, lack of understanding or misunderstanding, ambiguity or disagreement, which would include whether the proposed site for a Planned Development District meets the requirements of Zoning Law Section 2.9.4. (D), and...

There it is. One of the more contentious, politicized and convoluted pieces of legislation in the history of New York State, and certainly the most contentious issue in the history of East Greenbush, will ultimately be decided by an all-powerful Zoning Board of Appeals, whose forte is traditionally more along the lines of small business signage, above-ground pool fencing, and backyard storage sheds.

Still think you don't have to enlist in this fight?

Friday, August 29, 2014

No East Greenbush Casino

This piece by "No East Greenbush Casino" appears on Face Book and deserves and independent Post.

Nice turnout tonight for the Planning Board presentation. The room was easily 60% or more filled for an event which was, on its face, worthless. Clough Harbor Associates gave a brief presentation again, a "slightly refined version" compared to the one given in June. Downsized, in other words. This one has gardens and ponds on the way in. We heard again that this was just "the beginning of a long process," with ample opportunities to be heard via public hearings in the weeks and months ahead. We've already seen what that has accomplished- nothing. But you'll leave feeling better. One of the board members, Mike Bottillo, recused himself when the casino came up for discussion. After seeing what happened to the Town Board's Sue Mangold this was probably a prudent measure.

Channel's 6 and 13 were both there, as was the crew from J. Strategies, Inc. Some of us actually had a nice conversation with them after the meeting, a good opportunity to share thoughts and concerns. Again, probably not significant in the long run, but still important for them to hear how we feel. Like it or not we are locked in an embrace till death or the Gaming Commission do us part.

Which brings up the elephant in the room, James Featherstonhaugh. He was not there tonight but I must confess, shame on me for not introducing myself at the last meeting. He should probably hear from all of us, in fact. Maybe think about that at the next meeting. Julie Miner always makes a point of saying hello at these things, but she knows some of us by now. Feathers does not, and we should take advantage of his visits to at least let him know how we feel about his plans. As a lobbyist himself he will no doubt understand and appreciate that one-on-one time.

The Town's engineering consultant, Jim Connors, representing Chazen Engineering ( and hopefully all of us too) gave a nice summary of the events upcoming in the process. He said he hoped to have a link on the Town's web site up and running by the end of the week, a link that will take us to a special site where we can see everything the Planning Board sees and read everything they hear from the public at future hearings. It's nice to see an attempt at transparency after so many months of shadows, rumors and untruths, when it's too late to change anything.

Chairman Matt Polsinello closed the meeting out with a reassuring reminder to all that "this board was meant to be a non-political board...representing citizens." Does that mean they no longer are? Honestly, were they ever? I would love to be able to say "yes" to that, but the 1/15/14 rubber stamp sign-off of the Thompson Way development without Final Plat approval and after three years of nothing- no resolutions, no meetings, no votes- well, that makes the non-political thing a bit hard to swallow, because the Thompson Way development is what forced Sue Mangold into recusal, and by association Mr. Bottillo, I think. It is also the vehicle by which a sewer line came up the hill, without which there could be no casino, a sewer line in litigation for violating another man's property along a user road, a sewer line ostensibly designed to handle the 23 housing units of Thompson Way but which is actually capable of handling 10,000 gamblers a day. It's in the PDD application. Happy coincidence?

Thompson Way is also at the heart of a special Town Board meeting last year at this time, a meeting to amend resolution 114-2013 (try to find it in its original form- the July minutes close with no. 113-2013 and August picks up with no. 115-2013) so that Thompson Hill Rd could be paved using mitigation money from FedEx. Yes, the road had been in terrible shape for years, so why the special meeting? The stated reason: the Mannix Rd. round-a-bout would be closed for a few days and traffic would be diverted along Thompson Hill Rd! Now, residents and regular pass through drivers had been navigating the endless pot holes for years, but what a wonderful opportunity to use Town money to repair and pave a road that was actually the Thompson Way developer's responsibility in many ways. Another happy coincidence. Unravel Thompson Way, including The Village at Thompson Way LLC (formed in 2008), and you'll understand how your casino ended up in the unlikeliest of places: on Thompson Hill Road.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Somebody sent me what appears to be a subscription to "Casino Journal."  It looks like a "trade magazine" for the casino industry.  Its sub-head is "All Gaming - All the World."  It was sent to:

Don Johnson
Casino Boss
Capital View Casino East G
(and then my address - misspelled)

Right inside the front cover - on page 2 is the Ad I scanned and printed above.  Read it and weep!!!  This is an example of what has been "invited" to our community by our Town Board.  Would YOU be proud to show that to your spouses, significant others, kids?  The people who engineered this train wreck fiasco should be deeply ashamed of themselves.  (And I just got an e-mail from the Republican Chairman comparing the casino initiative to FedEx.  Good grief!!)  Anything for the fantasy dollar, right? 

Our Board of Education, with its "head in the sand" neutrality should be ashamed of itself too.  Fine upstanding moral citizens having "no opinion" as to whether this trash belongs in our community?  Do your homework. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Being Played

Today's Advertiser letter by Gloria Rodgers is too good not to be a Post.  So here it is....

To the Editor:
Those proposing the Capital View Casino & Resort are trying to bully local residents into believing that a casino will be the answer to our prayers. With political connections, a seemingly bottomless advertising/PR budget, distorted numbers and a condescending “We know what’s best for you” attitude, they are attempting to manipulate residents as they manipulated the Town Board.
Forget that the proposal submitted to the Gaming Commission is radically different from the one presented to and voted on by the Town Board. Let’s face what we already know in our heads and hearts:  these people couldn’t care less about East Greenbush, Rensselaer Co., or any of us.
Said Mr. Featherstonhaugh in June 2013, ‘The proposed Las Vegas-type casinos will "… cannibalize as much as 85% of the state's current gaming market, shifting revenue and jobs from one facility to another but resulting in no real increase in new jobs and an annual loss of $1 billion of tax revenue for education."(    Mr. Featherstonhaugh was against it before he was for it. 
They NEED to build a casino.  The application states, ‘Taking away from the [Saratoga] racino’s customer base is expected to lead to a 48.2% decline — $90 million — in the facility’s annual revenue and result in an undisclosed number of job losses. “Revenue cannibalization on this scale would clearly result in reduced employment at the Saratoga Springs casino and the loss of accompanying benefits to Albany.” ‘  -- implying that this is why they should be granted a license.
They NEED to build a casino to compensate for the losses they will suffer at the racino.  Where will those who lose their Saratoga jobs likely find new jobs? At the new casino!  So much for all those jobs for local residents.
“If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”  Let Town Board members know that it’s ok to change their minds, and write to the Gaming Commission and object to this project.
Let’s not get played by people who are only looking out for their own best interests.
Gloria Rodgers

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Have you read the Casino Application?

Here's the link to the Application on the Gaming Commission website.  I'd venture to say that the Town Board members haven't read it.  Yet they voted to approve it sight unseen.  Lots of interesting reading.  And it raises some interesting questions too - which need to be addressed.

And Save East Greenbush has a new sign up which the goons can't steal!!