Will Coney Island Be the New Atlantic City?

Imagine the Wonder Wheel as a giant roulette wheel.
  • Imagine the Wonder Wheel as a giant roulette wheel.

We hope not. After all, Donald Trump is the best-known face of Atlantic City and his is the face of a bloated orange lizard wearing a bad toupée.

But forces are at work, forces that are stronger than the hurricane-force gale that would be required to blow Donald Trump, and his hair, out of New York City forever. Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz has been pushing for gambling to come to Coney Island for some time now and it seems like everything is lining up for him to get his way.

First, a proposed deal for a casino site in Queens crumbled earlier this summer and now the Daily News reports that state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, after years of opposing the idea of casinos in the city, has said that “he’s open to a casino at the seaside amusement mecca.”

Markowitz is ecstatic, although, when is he not over-the-top joyful about everything having to do with Brooklyn? Seriously, if the Borough President’s job is to be the borough’s biggest cheerleader than Markowitz has that shit DOWN. If the Borough President’s job involves other things, well, we’re sure he does good work there too.

Markowitz spoke with the News and told them, “Back in January when I called for casino gambling, at that moment I was like playing blackjack and asking the dealer to hit on 20, but now the idea of casino gambling is coming up aces.” Is it as amazing to all of you as it is to me that somebody actually speaks like this?

Although there is some political opposition from people like State Sen. Dov Hikind (Borough Park) and Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (Sheepshead Bay), there is also plenty of political support including from State Sen. Diane Savino, who actually represents Coney Island. Assemblyman Joe Lentol (Greenpoint) looks at the issue pragmatically saying, “People are going to gamble, that’s a matter of fact, and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t share in the revenue that it brings.”

Which we guess is definitely one way to look at it. But another way to look at it is to think of all the places that have legalized gambling, places like Atlantic City or Reno or even the grubby sidewalks surrounding New York’s own late, semi-lamented OTB venues and wonder if that’s how we want to continue to re-vitalize Coney Island. Because, don’t get us wrong, Coney Island continues to need attention and development. As a neighborhood, it still has some of the highest unemployment and crime rates in NYC. But since when do the presence of casinos guarantee safety? Atlantic City’s crime rate is actually higher than Detroit’s.

When I went to Coney Island in July, I spoke to a man who had worked there every summer for more than a decade. He told me that he was sure casinos would be next and that it would change everything. He imagined that Surf Ave would just be full of buses bringing hordes of senior citizens out to spend the day stationed in front of slot machines. I don’t know. It’s just hard to feel comfortable with the knowledge that all this extra tax revenue will be coming from the pockets of people sitting glassy-eyed for hours in front of clanging machines. But I guess everyone else is doing it, so why shouldn’t we? Is that the right attitude to have?

Or should we all just follow Marty Markowitz’s lead and bring out our pom-poms so that we can be the first to cheer when Donald Trump breaks ground on his next architectural monstrosity, right here, in Brooklyn.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen

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