Halfway through the casino public hearing in Colonie and officials with Howe Caverns are only getting started.
The proposed Howe Caverns Resort and Casino has had among the most local support compared to the other three proposed projects in East Greenbush, Rensselaer and Schenectady.
Schoharie County residents are coming to the hearing in Colonie by the busload, wearing bright yellow shirts promoting the casino project pitched by Michigan casino developer Michael Malik and Full House Resorts of Las Vegas.
Michael Fahey lives behind Howe Caverns in Cobleskill and said he is in favor of the casino, even though it would disrupt his quiet retirement.
“My quiet world as a retiree would be turned upside down,” Fahey said. “It’s not quite the way I pictured my retirement. But I see the benefits for Schoharie County.”
Three years ago the county was hit hard with flooding by Tropical Storm Irene. Residents and businesses are still working to rebuild the area.
Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, spoke to the Gaming Facility Location Board this afternoon emphasizing the area’s need for added jobs and revenue.
“This is the only true destination resort that will benefit an entire region and not just a specific community,” he said. “It can be up and running quickly, and we have an experienced team here. We need this.”
Officials at Howe Caverns are continuing to bring residents to the hearing in buses this afternoon. Also, the S’Cary Leg Runners are currently making their way from Cobleskill to Colonie — a 38-mile marathon — to pledge their support for the project. They plan to arrive by 4:30 p.m.
The Howe Caverns casino proposal is the most diverse pitched in the region. It includes a casino with two 250-room hotels, two waterparks (indoor and outdoor) and several restaurants.
Howe Caverns is already a tourist destination with nearly 200,000 visitors each year. Seward said putting a casino on the site would boost tourism across upstate New York.
“The Howe Caverns casino is the only project in this region that anchors with existing facilities in the area,” he said. “Cooperstown would benefit and other tourist attractions nearby would too.”
Stuart Rabinowitz, a member of the gaming board, asked a Cobleskill resident if Howe Caverns is a seasonal destination.
His question was followed by screams of “No!” and “It’s our time!” by the dozens of supporters in the audience. The gaming board laughed, thanking them for the clarification.