Blatstein casino plan causing more rifts

Posted: January 24, 2014

BART BLATSTEIN may get the community non-opposition deal he wants, before his Tower Entertainment's Provence Casino plan goes to the Gaming Control Board next Tuesday.

"I anticipate that the agreement will be signed, or not, this week," Kevin Greenberg, the lawyer representing the North Broad Community Coalition, wrote in an email yesterday.

Dena R. Herrin, president of Congregation Rodeph Shalom, said the coalition's five-member steering committee voted 3-2 to sign the agreement Tuesday.

The pact provides hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for a community-development fund if the coalition takes a non-opposition stand on the casino license.

Still, the agreement stated the community "would prefer that the property be otherwise developed."

The synagogue "voted no because the signing of a community-development agreement with Tower does not resolve the fundamental challenges of the Tower Entertainment project proposal, including traffic and parking," Herrin said yesterday.

The North Broad coalition was formed to address traffic, safety and other concerns after Tower announced plans for the Provence Casino at Broad and Callowhill streets, the former home of the Daily News and Inquirer.

At three days of suitability hearings next week, five applicants will present testimony on why they deserve the city's second casino license.

Rodeph Shalom and the Mathematics, Civics and Sciences Charter and Friends Select schools won the right to intervene in the Provence hearing. They will present evidence arguing that a casino doesn't belong in a neighborhood of about 30 schools and religious institutions.

The North Broad steering committee voted Tuesday morning, but members of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association held a special meeting that night during the snowstorm, after six Logan Square board members asked that the Logan vote be reconsidered.

The dissidents wanted to reconsider Logan Square's Jan. 14 vote approving the agreement because the next day the Daily News published details they had not known.

The article reported on a conflict-of-interest waiver - that also had been reported in March - because the lawyer for the North Broad coalition works for the same firm that also represents Isle of Capri, the casino operator for Blatstein's project.

The agreement said Tower will pay the coalition $90,000 to cover Greenberg's legal fees, regardless of whether Tower wins the license.

According to emails obtained by the Daily News, some Logan Square board members said the waiver was never discussed with the board before it first voted 18-0, with one abstention, to OK the pact.

They also said the board did not see the agreement seven days before a vote, as bylaws require.

"Our only information basically has been via a short slide presentation," one email said. "There was no 'meeting of the minds' as required of any agreement and LSNA Board did not perform its due diligence on behalf of the public interest regarding an important community issue and which huge sums of money are involved."

At the snowstorm meeting Tuesday night, only four of 23 Logan board members voted to reconsider the Jan. 14 vote.

In the draft agreement, should Tower win the license, Tower would pay $25,000 per quarter into a neighborhood fund during construction.

Thirty days after gambling begins, Tower would pay $350,000 a year for five years and $450,000 a year after that.

Veronica Joyner, founder of the Math, Civics and Sciences school, said the money isn't worth a casino.

"If one person is killed or robbed, is it worth the money that's being offered?" she asked. "If one child is hit and killed , will it be worth it?"

David Searles, president of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, declined to comment until the agreement is signed. A Blatstein spokesman also said he would comment later.


On Twitter: @ValerieRussDN

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