The New York Times
June 15, 2013
On a recent Saturday afternoon I set out to explore South Ozone Park in Queens, […] Though it seemed as if it should be a busy place, full of pedestrian traffic and businesses servicing varied cultural interests, it has the bloodless feel of a Sun Belt village lost to misbegotten visions. The area itself is not poor; in the particular census tract I was visiting, median family income stands at $63,000 a year, above the figure for the city on the whole. But whatever vitality the demographics might suggest is so obviously lacking that one longtime resident mentioned that he hoped simply for a McDonald’s to energize the slackened mood.
How could this have happened? When the subject of politics came up, it elicited little interest (except from a man named Danny Napoli, who wore dark glasses and a flag bandanna around his head and said that he was supporting Christine Quinn, offering that it didn’t matter to him that she was gay). Few others seemed to have much sense of who was running for mayor at all or much faith that government could effect significant change — or at least significant good — locally.
Something unfortunate had happened in the neighborhood, and now there seemed to be no turning back, people said: the opening nearly two years ago of Resorts World Casino on Rockaway Boulevard, adjacent to the Aqueduct Racetrack. As Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo pushes for the authorization of three Las Vegas-style casinos in upstate New York, and as the possibility of additional casinos in the city looms in the years ahead, there are certainly lessons to be absorbed from what Resorts World has wrought.
As Alberto Livecchi, a longtime resident of South Ozone Park and the owner of a store selling musical equipment, explained, the construction of the casino — a racino, in gambling parlance — came with promises that have not materialized. Having been sold as a boon to local commerce, it has instead affected businesses negatively, Mr. Livecchi argued. “People are just funneled into the casino and don’t leave,” he remarked. Whatever street life there was has been destroyed, residents said; pawnshops are ubiquitous. “Casinos are only interested in enriching themselves,” Mr. Modica said.
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