Federal ruling revives Calverton casino talk
Supervisor-elect warns of 'social costs' of Indian gaming
BY PEGGY SPELLMAN HOEY
Federal recognition of the Shinnecock Indian Nation in Southampton, which gained preliminary approval this week, opens the door for a possible casino in Calverton.
But local leaders don't think that may be such a good idea.
Riverhead Supervisor-elect Sean Walter called Tuesday's ruling long overdue but expressed concern that the tribe is setting its sites on the Enterprise Park at Calverton, or EPCAL, where hundreds of acres are available for development.
Mr. Walter said he would have to weigh his options as an elected official but added that he doesn't believe a gaming facility would "create the kind of atmosphere I would like to see at EPCAL."
"I think that is a tremendous burden to put on the west end of Riverhead and the east end of Brookhaven with regard to the social costs," Mr. Walter said. "But as an elected official I have the duty to look at every side and weigh everything."
MaryAnn Johnston, president of the Affiliated Brookhaven Civic Organization, also welcomed the preliminary recognition, but had concerns about the possibility of a Shinnecock casino here.
"I don't see any reason why [the casino] needs to go anywhere else other than their reservation," she said.
Tuesday's ruling by the U.S. Department of the Interior recognizing the tribe starts a public comment period that is likely to end with the tribe being added to the list of federally recognized tribes as early as June 2010.
With recognition, the tribe will be eligible for federal funding and Class II gaming, meaning they would be allowed to install video slot machines on their land but no table games. In the past, tribal leaders have expressed interest in running a full-fledged gaming facility at Belmont Racetrack or the former Northrop Grumman site in Calverton. A spokeswoman for the tribe said Wednesday there are no plans and no favored site, pointing out that the recognition process it not yet complete.
"As a result of this finding, our more than 30-year quest for federal recognition is finally within our grasp," Shinnecock Board of Trustees chairman Randy King said in a statement. "We look forward to reclaiming our rightful place on this list, which will enable us to qualify for federal programs long denied to our people. To be denied the ability to partner with the federal government on housing, health care, educational and economic justice initiatives is no longer tolerable.
"This recognition comes after years of anguish and frustration for many members of our Nation, living and deceased," Mr. King added.
The Shinnecocks began their effort to secure federal recognition in the late 1970s. Their latest petition comprised more than 500 pages, with 40,000 pages of supplemental information, including genealogical reports and historical documents such as land deeds.
The news was welcomed by local officials.
"Today is truly history in the making," said Southampton Supervisor-elect Anna Throne-Holst. "We recognize the Shinnecocks as the region's first inhabitants, and the town's relationship with them is a deep, long-standing and very special one."