Save East Greenbush Wins Big - Then and Now

Friends - one year ago on December 17 we won the battle of our lives in this town. And, as TU reporter Chris Churchill noted, the way we got sold out be the then Town Board would remain an issue for months and years to come. Make no mistake: the landslide victories in EG this past November 3 proved him right. You can fight city hall - and WIN BIG. 

We still have work to do to finish our fundraising and to continue the growth of our community ties! SAVE THE DATE: Saturday, March 12, 2016 at The Elks Lodge on Columbia Turnpike. 

Meantime, enjoy this beautiful article from Chris Churchill and the truth it bears witness to one year later.

Churchill: East Greenbush casino opponents win big

Here's one of the lessons from Wednesday's duo of blockbuster announcements: Citizen action can influence public policy.

You have to believe New York would have allowed fracking if not for the deeply committed activists who so loudly oppose it. And there's little doubt that the dedicated opponents of a casino in East Greenbush stopped that project cold.

Those foes were out in force again as the state's casino siting board announced that Schenectady would get its recommendation. They were once again waving their "Save East Greenbush" signs, and they exploded in celebration when word came the casino would be built elsewhere.

"They say you can't fight town hall," said Cara Benson, a leader in the opposition. "But this proves you can."

OK, Schenectady was probably going to win this thing anyway. The Rivers Casino and Resort had the strongest application from the start — as evidenced by the understated confidence of its team.

Schenectady has an accomplished local developer, the Galesi Group, teaming with an experienced casino operator, Rush Street Gaming. It has an appealing waterfront site that's near a growing roster of downtown attractions. It has a proposal that blends the casino with retail and houses. It has a city that desperately needs the revenue and economic boost.

Will the Schenectady casino actually succeed? Will it deliver on its promises? Can the casino draw gamblers from beyond the Capital Region?

Your guesses are as good as mine. It's clear, though, that with gaming competition increasing across the Northeast, success isn't guaranteed.

Schenectady does have residents who oppose the casino, centered mostly in the historic Stockade neighborhood. But that opposition was never as vociferous and determined as it was in East Greenbush.

Every chance they got, East Greenbush opponents were there, waving their signs and voicing their objections. The grass-roots group hired legal help and developed into a well-oiled publicity machine that peppered the media with news releases.

Imagine what would have happened if the board gave its recommendation to the East Greenbush proposal, Capital View Resorts and Casino. The room would have erupted in boos. The project would have endured lawsuits and controversy. It would be anything but the feel-good economic development story the state is hoping to see.

No, there was no way the siting board could choose Capital View, which was backed by Saratoga Casino and Raceway. The East Greenbush casino got off to a rough start.

You'll remember that its backers originally wanted to build in Saratoga Springs, but residents there opposed it. So backers switched gears on the fly and looked to East Greenbush, where the Town Board secretly passed an initial resolution in favor of a casino, without notification or public discussion.

Not surprisingly, the secret vote didn't go over well. Why would it?

"The town got woken up by this process," Benson said. "We had no idea what was happening behind closed doors." 

Benson said Save East Greenbush will remain active. It will go ahead with pending lawsuits that challenge the town's casino approval. The group will also seek what Benson described as "100 percent turnover" of the Town Board.

"There's no way we're going back to sleep," Benson said.

The biggest target?

Supervisor Keith Langley, without a doubt. The Republican was the casino's biggest supporter. He guided the town's secret process.

Sure, proponents of the East Greenbush casino always maintained that a silent majority in town backed the project — an assertion that will be tested in coming elections. This much is clear: The casino may be headed to Schenectady, but the issue will remain alive in East Greenbush for months and years to come.

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