Published: January 12, 2024

New York City: Midtown East residents oppose the $10 billion Freedom Plaza casino project

A measure proposed by New York City Mayor Eric Adams to bypass the standard city zoning approval rules for casinos is facing growing opposition.
On Wednesday, Manhattan Community Board 6 voted 39 to 1 against an amendment allowing casinos to be built without zoning approval. The vote concerned developer Soloviev Group‘s major proposed Midtown East casino complex. The proposal included 1,325 apartments, nearly 40 percent of which would be below-market rent.
The board’s decision reflects a rising concern among local communities about fast-tracking approvals for casino developments. The city’s proposed amendments would grant new state licenses for gaming facilities in certain commercial and manufacturing districts, deeming them compliant with local zoning.
"With [the] text amendment, DCP will not have to process an individual rezoning application for each casino application, including those that are ultimately not granted licenses — a more efficient use of city time and resources,” Casey Berkovitz, spokesperson for the Department of City Planning, told The City.
These measures intend to streamline the process, with Planning Commissioner Dan Garodnick stating in November, "it’s important that we create a level playing field for applicants within New York City.”
Community boards in other areas of Manhattan, such as Hudson Yards and Times Square, also have expressed opposition to similar proposals in their districts. In contrast, Brooklyn’s Community Board 13 showed a split stance, with its economic development committee supporting the fast-track proposal while its land use committee voted against it.
Backers of the Soloviev Group’s Freedom Plaza project said in a press release in October the project aims to provide significant community benefits. The project is supported by Mohegan Gaming, owner of tribal casinos in Connecticut, Washington, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Nevada.
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