Business, Labor Leaders Back SL Green’s Times Square Casino Proposal

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As the Broadway League and Manhattan’s Community Board 5 mobilize to keep a casino out of Times Square, SL Green (SLG) Realty started its own PR push and rounded up a share of backers for its proposal.

Up to 24 business leaders and labor unions have signed on to a coalition led by SL Green itself to see that its partnership with Caesars Entertainment and Jay-Z’s Roc Nation delivers on the “boutique” gambling house without a hitch.

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“We’re excited to have the support of representatives of all the segments of the Times Square community,” Caesars Entertainment, SL Green and Roc Nation said in a joint statement. “We’re proposing a New York project, not a Vegas project, and because of that, it’s going to benefit all of Times Square.”

Some of the groups joining the union — known formally as the Coalition for a Better Times Square — include the ​​Mason Tenders’ District Council of Greater New York, Construction and General Building Laborers’ Local 79 and the Actors’ Equity Association.

The group announced its formation on Friday with eight statements from the groups, local business owners and Times Square residents.

“Unfortunately, many tourists have yet to return and businesses still haven’t fully recovered from the impacts of the pandemic, which means lunchtime business is gone,” Jeff Bank, of Alicart Restaurant Group, which operates Carmine’s Italian Restaurant at 200 West 44th Street, said in a statement. “We need a new entertainment destination, like the facility proposed by SL Green and Caesars Entertainment, so we can bring our economy back and invest in needed safety, sanitation and traffic flow.”

Brett Herschenfeld, managing director for SL Green, has said that they have no plans for a domineering presence in the streets of Times Square. Instead, the partnership plans a small gaming floor on the second floor of 1515 Broadway — sans phony Roman columns and statues of Julius Caesar.

In spite of these details and the band of support, opponents still say SL Green is crossing the Rubicon by bringing a casino to the Theater District.

“While we aren’t specifically opposed to a casino in Manhattan or downstate New York, we just know it is not something that works for a district that is already congested beyond any city in our country and, of course, don’t want to run off the almost 15 million theatergoers that attend Broadway shows every year,” Charlotte St. Martin, president of the The Broadway League, said in a statement.

St. Martin’s organization is not the only one concerned that luring gamblers to the already congested streets of Times Square will kill any desire for regular fans of live performances to venture there. During its December board meeting, Community Board 5 adopted a resolution calling on the city to ban any casinos from setting up shop within the boundaries of its district, which includes Times Square. 

The resolution was a commitment to reject any casino proposals making their way through the board, which generally gets an advisory vote on land use items needing city approval. The casino licenses themselves, however, need only the New York State Gaming Commission’s approval.

That approval will hinge on whether or not a casino would fit into the existing zoning.

“We believe that casinos are not of appropriate use in CB5, and it is our understanding as of now that it is not of conforming use — meaning that the zoning does not authorize that kind of use,”  CB5 land use committee chair Layla Law-Gisiko told Commercial Observer. “It may be a much better choice to put a casino in an area that doesn’t have the economic vibrancy [of Times Square] so that it can ingrain real economic development.” 

SL Green’s proposal is one of many vying for three downstate casino licenses approved by the state legislature about a decade ago. The Gaming Commission will issue a request for applications by Jan. 6.

Other casino proposals include Thor Equities’ $3 billion pitch for Coney Island, Brooklyn, and Related Companies and Wynn Resorts proposal for an undeveloped western section of Hudson Yards. Elsewhere, Stefan Soloviev’s Soloviev Group has proposed a casino for a section south of the United Nations campus, and Point72 Asset Management’s Steve Cohen is exploring the chances of building one near Citi Field in Willets Point, Queens.

Softer pitches include Vornado Realty Trust mulling a casino in Herald Square.

Mark Hallum can be reached at mhallum@commercialobserver.com.