Not all support casino in town of Florida
With all of the hype surrounding the proposed casino in the town of Florida, one would think that everyone in the town supports it. This is not the case. There are many, including myself, who strongly oppose the construction and operation of a casino in the town.
The town of Florida was established in 1793 as an agricultural community. It prides itself as a rural town scattered with small family farms and rolling hills. The town’s own website boasts of its own rich agricultural history and rightly so, for the natural landscape has proven to be ideal for farming. Perhaps this is one reason why so many Amish have settled throughout the county in recent years.
My own family has been farming in this community for over 100 years, and my son hopes to continue farming as well. The proposed casino alone would alter the landscape and would most likely spur other large-scale development nearby, i.e. gas stations, chain stores and plazas, thus permanently destroying the cultural and physical integrity of the town.
Proponents of the casino highlight the economic benefits it will bring to the town and to the city of Amsterdam. No one is disputing the fact that Montgomery County is in need of an economic revival. However any major development must be done prudently. Fifty-years ago, we heard many of the same talking points from those who wanted to build a mall in downtown Amsterdam as we hear today from casino advocates. The Amsterdam Mall was built, the crowds came and left, and now the building is all but abandoned. Today, I think any reasonable person would admit that putting an indoor shopping mall on main street was a major mistake, and any economic benefits that came along with the mall have long since expired.
The mall is living proof that real revitalization and long-term economic development must include a sound vision, intelligent and fact-based planning and should take into account how it will effect the quality of life.
If economic revival and jobs are what we are seeking, I suggest mitigating the systemic economic pitfalls in the city of Amsterdam. Why is no one asking what can be done to attract businesses where infrastructure is already in place? How can we imitate what Schenectady, a city with similar demographics, has done to turn itself around?
If, in fact, a casino is really what this community wants, then why not tear some of the vacant buildings down, for example, the mall, and build it there?
Finally, what is the game plan if this area is not selected to have a casino? In any case, we should be asking ourselves what could be done to revive a broken city and create an atmosphere conducive to real and sustainable economic revival, rather than risk permanently destroying a beautiful rural community, all for a bet on a casino.
Kenneth J. Slezak