Public input session scheduled for March 28 in Goshen

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:58

    GOSHEN-Casinos in Sullivan County could become "weapons of mass destruction pointed at us," an Orange County legislator said last week. Speaking at the Legislature's regular March meeting last week, Spencer McLaughlin of Monroe said Route 17 would become the main route to the five casinos proposed for Sullivan County. While much of the focus has been on the traffic bottlenecks and their inconvenience, he added, the health effects of the additional air pollution are a more severe consequence. "Just living in this county is the equivalent of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day," he said. McLaughlin compared the barbs being traded between some Orange County officials and those in Sullivan County to the Marx Brothers movie, "Duck Soup," in which two tinpot dictatorships go to war over trivial insults. McLaughlin asserted that while the two counties fight, Gov. George Pataki and the casino interests are preparing to move in and take over. McLaughlin was speaking to a resolution calling for New York State to hold a public hearing on the casinos in Orange County, so county residents would be able to express their views more easily. County Executive Edward Diana and several legislators attended a public hearing in Monticello last Thursday, March 3. The resolution, which passed unanimously, asks that the state hold a hearing in Orange County so local people have an opportunity to give their views without traveling to Sullivan. If the State Assembly does not hold a public hearing in Orange County, the Legislature will sponsor a public input session - not an official public hearing - at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 28 in the Legislature chamber in Goshen. The minutes of that session would be given to the Assembly representatives at a public hearing now scheduled for April 7 in Sullivan County, said Minority Leader Anthony Marino of Newburgh. Should the state agree to hold a hearing in Orange County, the input meeting would be called off, he added. While McLaughlin supported seeking a public hearing in Orange County, he was not hopeful that it would have any effect n changing Pataki's plans to permit five Indian casinos in Sullivan County. With the executive and legislative branches of state government united in favor of casinos, he said, "the judicial system is our best hope. The Rules Committee will be considering judicial remedies." Roxanne Donnery of Highland Falls said it is important for Orange County residents to speak out against the casino plan. "We should never shut up. Most children in Woodbury schools are close to that highway (Route 17)." And legislator Dimitrios Lambros of Sugar Loaf noted that his daughter suffers from asthma because of air pollution in Orange County, adding, "I hope the state listens, and listens well to our concerns." Frank Fornario of Chester said the traffic problem would inevitably spill over onto side roads, as it does now when traffic peaks during the summer or on holidays. "There is an increase in traffic on our county and town roads," he said. Jeffrey Berkman of Middletown, who attended the Sullivan County hearing last week, said "it was disconcerting to hear a legislator in a neighboring county say he did not care about Orange County. We have called for a fund from casino profits to pay for the impacts on Orange County. I think there's an issue of negligence that comes to mind." In a departure from is prepared State of the County speech, County Executive Edward Diana said he has written to the state Legislature pointing out that casinos in Sullivan would represent costs to Orange County. One point he made is that "Route 17 is over capacity even without the casinos." He said the road needs a third lane in each direction, and that this and other impacts will be costly. Who pays for this? "It can be the state, or the Indians or federal dollars, but what it can't be is the local taxpayers dollars," Diana said. Thomas Pahucki of New Hampton said he is uncomfortable with the idea that money can compensate for the health effects on Orange County residents. "What value do you put on an asthmatic child?" he asked. "How can one county compensate for the disastrous effects of an action on its neighbors?" During the public portion of the meeting, Woodbury councilwoman Lorraine McNeil thanked Diana, Berkman and Donnery for attending the Sullivan County hearing. While Sullivan County will face some negative impact from the casinos, that county will also reap the benefits. "Orange County will have the burdens, but no benefits," she added.