The thought of a Vegas-style casino in Plainview may seem far-fetched to some.
But Lance Gumbs says the , based in Southampton, believes an undeveloped parcel of land between Old Country and Round Swamp roads is a very viable location.
When asked about the prospect in a recent interview, the Nation's leader answered in a single word: "Absolutely," he said. He stressed, however, that the Shinnecocks would not go anywhere they weren't welcome.
But a casino being welcome in Plainview appears to be a longshot.
"A casino is totally inconsistent with our single family community character," said Plainview's Carol Meschkow, a civic leader who has long been active in area development issues.
"There are better uses of the land than a casino," said Gary Epstein, president of the Plainview-Old Bethpage Chamber of Commerce. "The project would draw traffic that would not be suitable to our community's residents and would not add to our stature as a town where people would like to 'live, work and play.' "
The property, now owned by Islander's owner Charles Wang, has long been a magnet for controversy. Nassau County operated a tuberculosis hospital on the grounds for decades. The abandoned shells of the Georgian-style buildings still stand. The county sold the property as a "one-shot revenue stream," several years ago," Meschkow said.
Wang recently partnered with home building Michael Dubb of the Beechwood Organization, based in Jericho.
Dubb told Newsday recently that he hopes to build a residential community similar to the his Meadowbrook Pointe project in Westbury. That project, with 720 units is limited to people 55 and older, but Dubb told the newspaper that the Plainview project would feature a mix of ages and types of homes.
That project is in the planning stages, however. Wang couldn't be reached for comment.
Meschkow speaks passionately about the reclusive property which, she said, is among the area's last remaining and most expansive green spaces.
"This is a pristine property; it's magnificent," she said in a recent interview. "There are 100-year-old trees, shrubbery found in the pine barrens, and an occassional red fox."
Meschkow would like to see about 40 acres of the land set aside for recreational use. The property already contains several athletic fields.
(A casno) is totally inconsistent with our current single-family character of our community," said Meschkow, the president of Concerned Citizens of the Plainview-Old Bethpage Community, Inc.
Gumbs said has been doing business with White settlers since 1640, when oil from whale blubber fueled the lamps of Dutch settlers to the so-called New World. From his perspective, the Shinnecocks' senior trustee says building a Long Island casino and resort is just continuing a long tradition.
"We're not new to business," Gumbs said.
The casino issue came to the forefront in June when, after a 32-year-fight, the Shinnecocks earned federal recognition as an Indian nation. That designation means the Shinnecocks could build a casino on their own land, but their leadership wants to explore all the options.
A dozen or more potential sites in Nassau and Suffolk counties have been proposed to the Shinnecock's by developers and public officials. The most mentioned have been a 95-acre parcel in Calverton and a much larger area – 650 acres – at the Brookhaven Calabro Airport. Shinnecock leaders say they are reviewing several good proposals, but declined to discuss specifics or a timetable.
Extensive rounds of federal approval would have to occur in order for a casino to be built off the Shinnecock reservation.
Gumbs said his people once claimed all of Long Island as their homeland. Now they occupy a 900-acre reservation in South Hampton near some of the most expensive real estate in the world.
"In our language (Algonquin) Shinnecock means 'the level land,' " Gumbs said. "The playing field on Long Island has been level for every one but us."