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E23: The proposal for an Albany casino

e23 casino rendering2

A rendering of the proposed casino/resort.

The management group proposing a casino/resort for a parcel of land on the city of Albany's south side made its initial pitch to the Common Council Friday afternoon with an overview of the project.

The casino -- currently dubbed "Project E23" because it'd be adjacent to Exit 23 on the Thruway -- promises a shot of new tax revenue for the city and 1,800 permanent jobs. And unlike the proposal previously floated for the First Prize site, city officials appear to be generally open to listening to the pitch.

Here's a quick overview of the proposal and a few of the issues.

Renderings of the proposed project are above in large format -- click or scroll all the way up.

Who's involved

flaum presentation 2014-03-21
Friday's presentation from Flaum Management to the Common Council.

The company pitching the project is Flaum Management, a commercial real estate company based in Rochester. It's aiming to partner with Capital District Regional Off-Track Betting on the project. Capital OTB operates the Clubhouse Race Book facility on Central Ave, where the tele-theater once stood (the site is now the Shop Rite).


The project would occupy a parcel on Noonan Lane on the city's south side, next to the Thruway. As the TU's Jim Odato reported Friday morning, the road is named after the Noonan family -- Kirsten Gillibrand's grandmother was Polly Noonan, a key ally of Erastus Corning -- and the family still owns properties there. Flaum says it has an option contract to buy the 60-acre site.

For the moment, at least, the location of the site appears be a positive in the eyes of city officials. Mayor Kathy Sheehan noted that unlike the First Prize site -- to which her administration was very cool -- the Noonan site isn't directly adjacent to any already-existing residential neighborhoods. It also has potentially very good access from the Thruway, and could have easy access to downtown Albany.

What the project would include

As with pretty much anything like this, the first stage is usually the everyone-gets-a-pony stage. From a press release about the proposal:

+ 63,000 square foot casino

+ A 275-room resort style hotel; multiple room types including: luxury suites, family suites and standard rooms. Also a parking garage with 750 spots and 975 surface spots.

+ "Elite" dining facilities. "Everything from fine dining to fast casual will be available."

+ 40,000 square foot indoor waterpark -- "The indoor water park will be among the largest indoor water attractions in New York State..." Also: arcade game room, outdoor recreational trail system.

+ 1,800 permanent jobs. (During a press conference, Flaum officials said the jobs would average $43,000 a year.) 1,500 construction jobs.

+ New city tax revenue (a figure of $5 million has been floated), and $11.4 million a year in revenue sharing to be split by the city and county.

+ A $2 million "Albany community benefits fund" for grants to schools, law enforcement, and cultural orgs, and gambling addiction services.

+ A shuttle to downtown Albany.

What is notably absent from the list of proposed amenities: convention space or some sort of performance venue. Flaum says it would rather work with existing cultural events venues in the area. (This event venue issue has been a point of conflict in the discussion over a potential Saratoga casino because city officials are worried a venue could draw events away from the City Center or SPAC.)

Potential benefits

"This is a proposal that we have to take a serious look at," mayor Kathy Sheehan told the media after the presentation.

More from Sheehan:

"This is a process and we have to hear from the public. But when you look at this location, it really checks a lot of boxes. It is accessible immediately right off the highway so we're not dealing with the traffic issues that sometimes plague these types of attractions. And it also complements what we're trying to do downtown. Hearing that they do not seek to build meeting space and a convention center, but want to complement the convention center that we're building, is certainly an additional asset that would bring people here to this region for conventions." ...
"This is an opportunity to grow our tax base. We've seen a 13 percent decline in our commercial tax base since 2009. And we are limited in our ability to grow that tax base when you look at that 300 acres at the Harriman Campus that is owned by the state. This represents an opportunity for us to see a significant increase in our tax base, along with new jobs -- these are not jobs that are coming from anywhere else -- that are well within the reach of our residents and provide significant career opportunities for the residents of the city of Albany."

The potential tax base increase -- and resulting revenue for the city -- is an important part of this discussion. The city is facing a significant, persistent gap in its budget. And the opportunity to address a big chunk of that with one development -- a project that backers say will not seek tax breaks -- appears to have the attention of city officials. Said Sheehan: "I'm looking at this as, how does it complement all of the things that we are trying to do and give us the ability to really get more control of our own destiny, reduce our dependence on the state, and really put us on a path to a sustainable city budget and to us really being in control of our own economic development."

Another reason why city officials are interested: it's a potential defensive play. Sheehan said there's some concern that a casino across the river in Rensselaer could result in spillover problems for the city -- without any direct benefit.

Or, as Common Council president pro tem Richard Conti summed up one of the questions facing city leaders regarding the project: "If you're going to have [the casino] in the region, is it better to have something we can benefit from?"

Potential problems and complications

Of course, a casino also carries potential downsides. During the presentation, Common Council member Cathy Fahey, who represents a ward near the site, expressed concerns about the potential impact of gambling addiction and other negatives on city residents.

Another potential concern: traffic. It sounds like there's hope the casino would have easy access directly from the Exit 23 toll area. But if not, a spot that already sees significant congestion could become even more clogged.

The potential of increased problem gambling, traffic, crime, and whatever else will have to be balanced against the possible revenue. Because all those potential problems could end up costing the city in terms of extra resources for services/infrastructure/policing.

What's next

Flaum officials said they're expecting the state to issue its request for casino applications April 1, with them due back within 90 days. As part of its application, Flaum will be seeking a resolution from the Common Council supporting the project. Though the specifics of that process haven't been mapped out yet, it will almost certainly involve public hearings and a public comment session.

Voters in the city of Albany voted down the state constitutional amendment allowing full casinos -- 51-49. So it will be interesting to see how the public reaction to the proposal shakes out.

Both Sheehan and a small handful of Common Council members we talked with Friday seem to be looking at the project as an opportunity that deserves serious consideration -- though they're also looking forward to seeing more specific details.

"I am intrigued by this, it sounds very, very good," Sheehan said after the presentation. "But I have to listen to our residents. We have to consider all of the different points of view on this. And I always say I reserve the right to get smarter. And so this is the beginning of process where I'll be getting a lot smarter on these issues."

Capital Region casino field

Sites that have been mentioned as possible Capital Region casino sites:

+ The Saratoga Casino and Raceway

+ Rensselaer, perhaps the de Laet's Landing site

+ First Prize site on Albany/Colonie border -- apparently no longer under consideration

+ The redevelopment of the Alco site in Schenectady

+ A spot near Howe's Cavern in Schoharie County

+ Noonan Lane in Albany ("Project E23")

renderings: Flaum Management Company


Ah yes, another boondoggle.

This city has to stop putting all of it’s eggs in one proverbial basket after another and develop a well thought out cohesive plan. It’s like the Wild West here and everyone seems to need a darn ribbon cutting ceremony to validate their existence.

"a shuttle to downtown" ah ha ha ha ha ha to do and see what?!

Is there ANYONE out there that could inform me of ONE NICE City that has casino gambling? Please don't reply Las Vegas!

It all feels pretty gross to me. Albany and Rensselaer are going to be pitted against each other, since Rensselaer has come out pro-casino, but in order to avoid the negative affects of having one in downtown Rensselaer, Albany might woo the casino to just outside downtown, despite local resistance.. And not to mention the casino would be paying the Gillibrand family for their land? Yuck.

I wonder what the people around south Albany and Delaware Street think of this?

The developers of the Tobin location were going to buy all the houses around it for 3x market value

What's with the "race track" label on the Thruway Authority building on the site plan?

@BS - Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. What they've done with the old steel factory land is truly remarkable.

What, no monorail?

This will have a negative effect on Bethlehem. Having one of the better school districts in the capital region was always a selling point for bethlehem. Now the schools will be 5 miles away from a casino. Who would want to raise a family that close to a casino? Who would want to live that close to a casino?
This stinks.

@BS: Monte Carlo. :)

Ryan: This Delaware Ave resident wants to puke. Why would anyone thing this would be better than any other city that has a casino? These things are compounds that suck money out of the area and send it to the Caymen Islands or wherever it goes. Casinos belong in the middle of nowhere where they can't suck everything good around surrounding areas. I would much rather see Albany become more business friendly for small/medium-sized businesses that grow organically from our college and university grads.

The residents around St. Joe's scuttled a way more beneficial and less impactful project over there. The red tape in Albany discourages people who actually care about the residents of the city of Albany from opening businesses. I think we should focus on smaller issues before we turn the small city that we choose to call home into a casino town.

If they want to build the water park without the casino I'd be fine with that though.

I know it sucks but to create wealth you need to have a real plan in place with the conditions ripe for GOOD investment that will move forward not sideways or backwards. Look at Germany or South Korea...they are not rich because of gambling! It's call OLD FASHIONED hard work, education, investment, and ability. We cannot pad the pockets of a few developers and landowners with false promises of riches and tax revenue. Unfortunately in this country we think of things like the lottery,casino gambling, or a new Walmart as a way to create money! It is not! Again even the developers can chime in and show me one nice, functional, safe city with casino gambling where anyone would want to live and raise a family..again do not say Vegas!

I like my exit 23 the way it is. I don't want it to turn into another Exit 24.

The indoor water park sounds fantastic. Can we combine that with the aquarium facilities and let people place bets?

Sharks v politicians?

I think a lot of people reading this are envisioning a massive complex like Caesar's Palace or MGM with their 5000 rooms. It appears to be a modest hotel with 275 rooms, a Water Park, good restaurants, greenery, etc. Someone upstate will be benefiting from revenue of this. Why not Albany? If it is put across the river, we will still encounter the same potential problems without the benefits. I believe if properly run with strict controls, it could really help with our tax base and create new jobs and possibly the idea of not always begging the state for help. Of course, there are always problems to consider as with any new venture, but in this case it looks like the benefits far outweigh the problems.

Completely agree with V.

To whoever listed Bethlehem PA you've got to be kidding me.......I grant you it was once a "beautiful" center for US steel manufacturing that employed thousands and created more wealth for people than could be imagined but now it is just another empty depressed post-industrial relic now crowned by a casino!!! To whomever replied Monte Carlo...I meant to limit the question to US cities only, not foreign centers of wealth and slime! NAME ONE US city with casino gambling that you'd be proud to call home?? Last time I was in Niagra I almost jumped off the Falls after spending an evening in the sordid casino there, Ditto for Atlantic City and Shreveport LA. The Casino in New Orleans kind of contributed to the city in a good way I guess if you can think of New Orleans as a city worth emulating! How about Reno?? Detroit? Branson? I am getting more and more depressed by the minute thinking of what could happen here! WAKE UP people!!!!!

A casino is going some where in the capital district folks the million dollar question is where. We can all argues why casinos are bad but let's pick the lesser of the evils and I think this location fits well.
The location is away from any residential area unlike Tobin first prize or Rensselaer. The taxes help a city that desperately needs it.
It's only a 275 room hotel that's about 100 rooms less than the Marriot on Wolf Rd were not talking a major casino here. The water park is the same size as the Great Escape water park in Lake George no major traffic problems there during the winter when he park is visted the most. With this size casino/waterpark it leads me to believe the 1800 jobs that pay $43,000 is way over stated.

BS, how about Montreal? I know it's not in the US, but it's also not a "foreign center of wealth and slime". It's a North American city I think a lot of people would be "proud to call home". There, the casino is on an island, isolated from the rest of the city. This Albany proposal isn't quite as isolated, but it is cut off from the rest of the city and neighboring towns.
I have no idea how much success the casino has brought Montreal, but it certainly hasn't destroyed it.

Anyone who has tried to travel on Route 9W between 7am and 9am, and 3pm to 6pm in this area knows what a crappy idea this will be. Welcome to gridlock, Albany!

"Unfortunately in this country we think of things like the lottery,casino gambling, or a new Walmart as a way to create money! It is not"

Speak for yourself. The people who own casinos and Walmart are really, really, reaaaaallly, rich. And most of the politicians who allow this to happen are just really rich. The rest of us just need to embrace the suck and keep playing the lotto.

BS needs to take a breath and consider there are other ways of looking at this. The casino in Bethlehem, PA didn't drive away the steel industry. It *started* the revitalization of a city which was already an "empty depressed post-industrial relic". It created jobs, gave a reason for people to visit and spend money, brought arts and entertainment to an area that probably didn't have much going on, and, I'm sure, helped the city with financial problems.

V hit the nail on the head - this would a small casino, isolated from the surrounding neighborhoods, and would expand Albany's tax base while bringing in some tourism that could lead to many other exciting things around the city.

Complainers go home.

Why is it that tacky decor, neon lights and bad font all go hand in hand with casinos? Let's put a little lipstick on this pig and class it up a bit. Just because they're ramming a casino down our throat doesn't mean it has to be garish, right?

This Delaware Avenue neighborhood home owner is all for it. The value of my Del-So home has gone nowhere since I bought it in 1988 - I need something - gentrification, casinos, something... I have to pay for the kids college and baby needs a new pair of shoes!

My letter to City of Albany Common Council representatives:

Personally, I have mixed emotions about Casinos. I believe they can be a plague upon municipalities when relied on to revitalize an area. One not need look further than Niagara Falls, Oneida/Utica, and Monticello. Have these communities benefited from Casinos? Absolutely not. Then consider Saratoga, a community with Casino gaming, that has banded together to oppose expansion and development of additional gaming. These facilities do little more than suck the equity out of surrounding communities - like a cancer. Growth for the sake of growth is deadly and it's not smart policy.

I'm not as dug in as most people when it comes to Casinos, however. Given the right plan, the right place, the right community benefits and job packages - and I can be swayed. Heck, plop a Casino on the Rensselaer waterfront, provided it has a great look, community access to the water, and it's a part of the urban fabric - I'd be on board... especially if it came with a connection to the Livingston Ave. Bridge Walkway :-)

But the "Noonan proposal" in Albany is a non-starter. There could not be a worse location within the immediate area.


It's unconscionable that with all the vacant, under-utilized, under-performing land in this city that this Noonan site is even being considered. Could vehicle access to the site be worse? The only access point is Noonan and Southern Boulevard - a large scale 24-hour development here with an intense traffic generating use will be a nightmare for the area. It's anticipated that this facility will create jobs for neighborhood residents. How will they access the site if not by car? Can CDTA update the Route 7 bus service accordingly? This would seemingly be the only route that services the facility.

Economic Development

First and foremost, no city business will benefit what so ever from a casino at this site. People will come in off the highway, lose their money at the Casino, and drive right back out. You could not find a more isolated place in the city. We have a comprehensive plan on the books that promotes walk-able dense neighborhoods. We're spending hundreds of thousands to develop a downtown tactical plan. We want to attract development to the downtown, not to the suburban fringe. What supporting businesses could possible sprout up along the 9W corridor that would benefit the city?

There are no utilities to support development here. The County's South Water Treatment Plant is at capacity. Where will the infrastructure come from? I hope that taxpayers won't be asked with providing new infrastructure from the source to the end of the pipe when this infrastructure already exists.

The environment

As mentioned earlier this city has a number of build-ready sites, buildings begging for adaptive reuse, and infrastructure waiting and underutilized. Why clear-cut acres and acres of green space? This is an area bounded by steep ravines and run-off that will find it's way into the Normans Kill. Wide-scale clear cutting will result in slope destabilization and erosion that could be disastrous. It wasn't too long ago that a rain event contributed to the collapse of slopes along Delmar's Rt. 443 due to over development along steep slopes and failure to manage stormwater. Let's keep this land natural as a buffer between the city, highway, and the industrial port and preserve it for future generations.

Where else could the casino be sited that would be more beneficial to the city residents and businesses?

- Broadway and Spencer
- Central Warehouse
- Broadway south of the U-haul Building
- Morton and Pearl (Nothing could be more depressing that the deplorable DMV facility)
- Division St (We already have that land in the public domain thanks to the Convention Center Authority)
- 500 block of Central ave
- Adapt the Argus Building at 1031 Broadway
- And what about the site at DeLaet's landing in Rensselaer...

Please reject the concept of locating a Casino at the Noon site. It's a non-starter.

Oh, look: a bunch of complainers with no alternative plan! Welcome to Albany. Here's the deal: what the heck are you people protecting? Anytime someone wants to site a transformative business in this city the Common Council and neighborhood associations beat the drum and the only thing that happens is we create another verse in the song of decline and poverty they loves to sing in rounds. Do you have a plan? If yes, share it! Enlighten! If you don't have a plan, get out of the way and stop complaining. So long as the city doesn't give too much away, this is great. Once the convention center goes in, there will be a connection between this place and downtown. Anyone that's ever tried to stay in a casino's hotel knows how expensive it is. This will be 2 miles from downtown hotels that will reap the benefits and probably create additional service industry jobs.

Last thing: who cares what this does to Bethlehem? The City of Albany needs to worry about itself. The residents of Bethlehem love to come into the city and earn a living and then retreat to their bourgeois white haven to call Albany a dump. They can build a fence encircling the Town if they want.

If we're going to be having casino gambling in our region, I think this is the best option I've heard of yet. The City of Albany deserves to be the biggest benefactor of the revenue it could/should bring. The Albany (Southend) neighborhood closest to it should be the first people to benefit from the jobs created! However I doubt (maybe I'm reading it wrong) 1800 jobs @ an average $43,000. per year? That figure does not sound realistic...but would be nice!

I don't really have an opinion on casinos in general- I don't understand the draw, but I have no problem with people who enjoy them. I also understand that this region is going to get one anyway, so there's no sense in fighting against that now.

I do however feel that it should most definitely not be built in Saratoga, which doesn't need it and doesn't want it. The Rensselaer site seems to be the best option as far as I can tell. Nowhere around here is as desperate for a shot in the arm than there. Not to mention that it is close to the Amtrak Station, 787 and downtown Albany.

I am not a fan of further promoting sprawl, which this plan most certainly does. This area really has to move beyond the 1950's version of the American Dream, where everything is as far away from where you live as possible, and you rely on your car for everything.

With that said, I would rather it be built within the City of Albany if the Rensselaer site is ruled out, so at the very least it can benefit from the tax dollars.

Let's see.....Albany is a city in decline for decades....there is NO LARGE private employer, all major manufacturers are gone and all we are left with is some government jobs that depend on tax payers to fund them. So we are left with urban decay, block upon block of dejected people living in poverty, likely on some type of government assistance, and we are surrounded by drugs, gangs, and violence....what do we need as a City???? Oh yes I have it casino gambling!!!!! I am giving up listening to the insane replies on this board. Having said that I go on record as saying that this casino, if built on Grandmother's land, will be the final nail in the coffin of this once proud, functional, and beautiful city. PS please all of you pick up the book The Death and Life of Great American cities and read it, along with a good book on economics and enjoy your happy gambling, at least you'll get a free Rum and Coke while you are donating your paychecks to the Fraum Management Co.

The casino is a gimmick solution to our gimmick economy. A dead end that will in all likelihood generate more problems than the revenues needed to pay for them.

What are the estimates for how much additional police, fire, first responder, and other city services (read: public) that will be needed if this thing is built?

Perhaps more importantly, what do studies show from other cities that build these things? My guess: nothing good.

Also, AOA, I would definitely move the fact that the land is owned by the family of a sitting U.S. Senator into the "potential problems and complications" category.

This project is the illusion of progress.

I would have much preferred the redevelopment of the Harriman Campus to bring in tax revenues to the city. Unfortunately, Cuomo killed that. That redevelopment would have brought in high-end condos, retail, private office space - it would have totally changed Albany's uptown in a positive way. Right now, Crossgates and Wolf Road sucks all of people's spending money out of Albany. Finding a way to bring in major retail to Albany and then using the sales and property tax collections would be a much better way to enrich the city, but I can't see that happening anytime soon.

Amen brother! I absolutely LMAO when I read about the head cop saying how great it was that this tacky dump would create "almost no foot traffic at all". This state is stuck somewhere between 1967 and 1984 with regards to urban-suburban planning. I am dumbfounded and ashamed.

I agree that the Casino will be located far enough from any densely populated area in Albany to minimize any negative effects on city life. Better that we have it than Rennselear.

This casino, combined with encouraging dowtown business development to attract people to downtown, e.g., building a multiplex theater/shopping/dining venue could be enough to make Albany come alive again.

maybe the fact that someone even WANTS to build ANYTHING in this City, I say go for it! The more the merrier. No need for entrance off 9w; have 787 and thruway all tie right in so all the rich downstaters have a place to stop on their way north...

waterpark equestrian center is intriguing, not sure on the market for that..could be big cash though, Johnny Signor has done well with OTB, give him the benefit on that. Having a local voice involved makes me feel slightly better about it as a whole, too.

I live within eyesight of this, but believe it can be done so as to minimally impact the surrounding communities (face it towards Elsmere hehehe) ...the benefits outweigh the detractions, especially when the City is in such dire straits.

lets name it Polly's Pond..give it an irish theme...lol

racetrack at the TWY?...all for that too....Kristi Downs?

"But the casinos also lead to a plethora of social ills, including increased substance abuse, mental illness and suicide, violent crime, auto theft and larceny, and bankruptcy. The latter three all increased by 10 percent in communities that allowed gambling."


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