Coney Island Casino Backers Say Plan Will Create 4,000 Jobs, But Some Locals Not Impressed

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Thor Equities, the main financial backer behind a planned casino in Coney Island, New York, has told media outlets this week it expects more than 4,000 new jobs to be created if the project goes ahead.

The proposed casino resort, to be named “The Coney,” will offer wages of $30 an hour for some base level positions, as well as other benefits.

Local politicians and community activists weighed in on the issue into this week. Some pointed out the jobs would offer upward mobility and social benefits, as well as a good wage.

Opponents of The Coney project said there were no guarantees, despite developer’s promises, that the created jobs can or will be optioned to local Coney Islanders first.

The Coney is just one of half a dozen casino proposals competing for one of three upcoming New York State gaming licenses.

Related: Our expert guide to the top online casinos in New York

Decent Paying, Year-Round Jobs

Thor Equities plans to spend $2 billion on the casino resort, alongside its partners. They include tribal casino operators The Chickasaw Nation, local racecourse operator spinoff Saratoga Casino Holdings, and New York-based sports media operator Legends.

Coney Island is one of the more deprived areas in New York City. The Brooklyn neighborhood has a 24% poverty rate compared to 20% for the wider borough, and 20% for NYC as a whole. It also has a higher rate of unemployment than the city average.  

Some of that is down to the seasonal nature of the beachfront and boardwalk-based neighborhood. But the area also has a lot of retired people and senior citizens who work part-time jobs.

Former City Council member Robert Cornegy is behind the developer’s promise to focus on recruiting through local communities first.

“Being able to bring decent paying, year-round jobs is something that I feel like I am compelled to push and demand,” he told the Brooklyn Paper last week. “Labor has created a pathway to the middle class in a lot of different industries. The hotel trade is one of the more lucrative opportunities.”

Cornegy has previously collected 3,000 signatures from local business owners and residents in support of the plan.

No Guarantees

However, local opposition to a casino remains strong. Lucy Mujica Diaz is chairperson for Community Board 13, who last month voted 23-8 in favor of officially opposing the casino.

“How do you guarantee a percentage of jobs are going into the community? You just can’t,” she said last week.

A significant number of Coney Islanders live in developments provided by the New York City Housing Authority, or NYCHA. Around 11,000 people ae in the projects, from 2023’s data.

Diaz says that many of those people would not find a $30 an hour hospitality job at the new casino viable, as if they did so, their housing authority rents would increase – and they would end up worse off.

Diaz says this makes the casino project’s promise to hire locals first a nearly impossible task.

“I know for a fact many people that live in NYCHA housing will not take certain kinds of employment because it will cause them to go over their brackets and then their rent goes up double,” she said.

“It’s not because people don’t want to work. It’s because if you work, they take more from you.”

Meanwhile, The Coney’s developers have been the most tight-lipped about their exact resort plans of all those competing for a New York casino license.

“Any judgements about this project – which is going to have enormous benefits – before the full details and community benefits agreement are finalized is premature, shortsighted,” the consortium said last month.

Other casino operators and their investment backers looking for a new downstate casino license include Wynn Resorts and Related Companies in the Hudson Yards district on the West Side and Las Vegas Sands in Long Island.

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