The fight to bring a casino to New York City landed in the heart of Hell’s Kitchen today, with Roc Nation bringing free food and flyers to Manhattan Plaza — a move called “predatory” by the President of the Tenants’ Association.
Jay-Z’s Roc Nation is lobbying for locals to bet on their bid to bring a Caesars Palace casino to Times Square — just a couple of blocks away from their two-day promo popup at The Purple Tongue on W43rd Street. New York City is only expected to grant one gaming license, and Roc Nation has partnered with property developer SL Green and Caesars Entertainment to put forward a plan for installing a casino in their 54-floor office building at 1515 Broadway.
Flyers saying “It’s Time, Times Square” were being handed out around Hell’s Kitchen this afternoon (Monday) by Roc Nation, with the message that “some conflicted parties have attempted to spread misinformation, so we want to speak to you, New York City, directly.” On W43rd Street between 9/10th Avenues, passersby were encouraged to come into the popup, learn more and sign to support the new casino.
Aleta LaFargue, President of the Tenants’ Association at Manhattan Plaza — a 1,689 apartment complex that takes up the whole block — said it was frustrating that Roc Nation had come without warning to a residential area. She said offering free food in the hope of getting a signature of support from locals for a casino that would “do nothing but harm to our community” was predatory.
LaFargue added that Manhatttan Plaza residents had not been notified of Roc Nation’s casino popup. “How could you simultaneously invite members of the community and surprise us? This has most definitely been a surprise attack. As you can see, our block is filled up with people with signature clipboards, with little iPads, asking for people to sign, and then handing them flyers that say how they’re going to revitalize your community,” she said.
“When people think of Times Square, they don’t realize that it’s adjacent to a residential area where the people are really in jeopardy of falling prey to the predatory business that a casino is,” LaFargue said. “My family is from Atlantic City, and so I know very well what the methods of casinos are, and they are not to revitalize the communities that surround them.”
Angela Rye from Roc Nation shared why they had picked Manhattan Plaza and opted to provide lunch and dinner for locals on Monday and Tuesday. “From our perspective, the most important thing is the opportunity to break bread with people and answer questions. I know that when you have a conversation where people have strong opinions without breaking bread, it gets a lot more contentious and we don’t want that. We want to invite people in to receive feedback, whether it’s positive or negative or indifferent,” she said.
“Alicia Keys is a part of the Roc Nation family and she actually grew up in Manhattan Plaza,” said Rye. “We’ve learned about this building and the incredible ways in which they’ve built and established a community. It was a place where we knew we had to come.”
Artist and rapper Fat Joe told reporters that choosing Roc Nation’s casino option would bring diversity. “You’ll have Black and brown leadership,” he said while promising to be “ready to take care of all the arts” and “give hundreds of jobs out in this community”. When asked about the opposition from Broadway to the group’s casino proposal, Fat Joe said: “That’s the same people who’ve owned it for 150 years.”
In their flyer, Roc Nation say their proposal will draw tourists, enhance lives, give back to businesses, benefit mass transit, develop transportation, invest in sanitation and security, protect Broadway interests, provide opportunities and honor New York City’s culture.
Meanwhile, the No Times Square Casino Coalition describes the proposal as a “bad bet” and is concerned the proposed casino will increase congestion, draw visitors away from theaters and restaurants and attract more gamblers to the area. They believe this could jeopardize the neighborhood’s revitalization and have forming a coalition — which includes The Broadway League, in partnership with the Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Association, Hell’s Kitchen Block Association, W47/48th Street Block Association, Manhattan Plaza Tenants Association and CHEKPEDS pedestrian safety group, among others — to oppose the casino plan over its potential negative impacts.
Other casino plans on the table locally include Silverstein Properties leading a casino and hotel development on 11th Avenue and W41st Street in partnership with Greenwood Entertainment and Entertainment Affiliates, and Hudson Yards developer Related and Wynn Resorts‘ proposal to build a 3-million square foot casino at the Western Rail Yards.