By Max Edelman
Part three in a series on the planned Las Vegas Sands Casino at the Nassau County Hub.
In February, PlayUSA, an online gambling hub, published an article detailing rankings of Walk Score that reported the Nassau County Hub is the least traffic-friendly site in the New York City metropolitan area for a casino.
Despite that assessment, Las Vegas Sands is moving ahead with plans for a $4 billion entertainment and housing complex at the Uniondale site that would, if approved, include a casino. Nassau County recently signed off on a 99-year lease that would allow construction of the casino. Both Sands and county officials say the project would bring thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue.
New York State and the Town of Hempstead must both sign off on the Sands proposal before construction can begin. Las Vegas Sands is one of several companies bidding for three downstate gaming licenses. Traffic will be among the criteria for approval that Hempstead will consider.
Walk Score, which assesses traffic at sites across the country, divides its scoring into three categories — a walk score, a transit score and a bike score — examining the ability of people to reach a site by walking, taking public transportation or cycling there.
On a scale from 0 to 100, with zero being no service and 100 being excellent service, the Hub site scored a zero for public transportation, a 27 for walkability and a 62 for the ability to bike there.
By comparison, a casino planned for Times Square scored a 99 in all three categories. A casino proposed for Coney Island scored a 63 for the ability to bike there, a 77 for walkability and an 83 for public transportation. And a casino planned for Citi Field scored a 50 for the ability to bike there, a 65 for walkability and an 89 for public transportation.
The Hub sits at the intersection of Hempstead Turnpike, one of Long Island’s most heavily trafficked and dangerous thoroughfares, and the Meadowbrook Parkway. There is a 10-mile walk/bike path that winds around the Hub, and there is some bus service along Hempstead Turnpike. There is not, however, readily accessible subway or train service as there is at sites in New York City. The closest Long Island Rail Road station is 2.3 miles away, in the Village of Hempstead.
The Hub’s scores indicate that Sands patrons would be nearly entirely dependent on their cars to reach the planned casino, so traffic congestion would be expected to increase in the area if a casino were built there.
A “Say No to the Casino” petition has circulated online since January, calling on county and town officials to halt plans for the Sands Casino. Among the reasons cited is traffic. As of press time, the change.org petition had 3,261 signatures, with a goal of collecting 5,000.
“This casino,” the petition reads in part, “will change the character of Nassau County and the surrounding neighborhoods and will lead to an increase in crime, traffic and noise pollution. It will also put a strain on our local law enforcement and governments.”
Sofia Sanchez, of Hempstead, a Hofstra University student, commutes to school each day. She said a casino would harm the surrounding area, in large part by increasing traffic congestion on already heavily traveled roads like Hempstead Turnpike.
“I think the casino would have a negative impact,” Sanchez said. “Though it may bring more revenue to the area, the influx of cars going to and from it, especially on the weekends, would cause more issues than there needs to be.”
Sanchez, who read PlayUSA’s report, said she agreed with the site’s findings and joined its editors in expressing concern about the low traffic score that the Nassau Hub received. “That kind of makes sense, given that it’s off a turnpike in a more suburban area in which there’s already a bit of traffic,” she said. “During rush hour, which I assume is when many people would go to the casino following work, traffic would be very heavy and cause more delays.
“This could also be impacted by those who drink while at the casino, which could lead to collisions and even more congestion,” she continued.
Hempstead resident and Hofstra University WRHU Radio news staff member Michael Dent, who has lived just off Hempstead Turnpike for the last year, echoed Sanchez’s sentiments. “I think the amount of traffic seen may increase exponentially, as a new casino reels in more and more customers contributing to more cars and therefore traffic,” Dent said.
Not all Long Island residents share that same concern, however. Matthew Page, another Hofstra commuter student, said he is confident that Las Vegas Sands would work to combat any traffic problems that might arise. Page, however, said he also believes the area, in its current state, is not ready for a large influx of cars that the casino could bring.
“On paper, it sounds like a bad idea,” Page said. “But the hope is that there will be plans to minimize disruptions. I’m sure that traffic is a concern that will be discussed before this plan gets approved. Hopefully, it will be addressed before the place is opened. I think what is in place around the area now won’t work, but a few changes could go a long way.”
Ron Reese, senior vice president of corporate affairs for Las Vegas Sands, released a statement to News12 regarding the traffic concerns in the area. “We are very appreciative of the support we’ve received from the residents of Garden City and the surrounding areas,” the statement read in part. “We look forward to continuing those discussions and sharing ideas with Long Islanders as we develop our bid for a world-class flagship resort and entertainment center for Long Island.”