“Blood money”: Locals fight Soloviev’s Manhattan casino proposal

Hundreds of residents shout down Midtown East plan at town hall

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A photo illustration of Stefan Soloviev (Getty, Soloviev Group)

If Stefan Soloviev is going to get his Midtown East casino, he’s going to do a lot of work to convince the local community to get on board.

State Sen. Kristen Gonzalez hosted a town hall last week largely centered on the casino proposal, The City reported. More than 800 people signed up to attend the meeting, and some of them voiced their concerns about the casino proposal.

Elected officials expressed concerns about gambling, which one audience member referred to as “blood money.” Rep. Jerry Nadler’s district director, Robert Gottheim, acknowledged that “casinos prey on the most vulnerable people spending their paychecks,” but acceded that this is the “reality.”

Residents also bemoaned the ties between the gaming facility and the potential for hundreds of affordable housing units, which a Soloviev Group representative confirmed cannot be developed without the casino.

The town hall came a day after the community board almost unanimously passed a resolution opposing a city-backed measure for casinos to bypass local land use reviews.

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Previously, the community board for the undeveloped parcel’s district voted to reject any casino plans.

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The Soloviev Group’s proposed project would include 1,325 apartments, 40 percent of which would be affordable. The 513 below-market rentals would be for households earning an average of 80 percent of the area median income.

Soloviev’s proposal for the vacant seven-acre site on First Avenue between East 38th and East 41st streets also features a 1,200-room hotel, retail and restaurant spaces, a “Museum of Freedom and Democracy,” and nearly five acres of public green space on the East River. Soloviev scrapped initial plans for a ferris wheel after community members opposed it.

Bjarke Ingels Group is designing the development, and casino operator Mohegan is a partner on the project. The project could begin construction in 2025 if the gaming license is awarded to the developer and if zoning is approved.

Holden Walter-Warner