Environmentalists Fear the Sterling Forest Resort Could Taint Water Supply
In the coming months, officials in New York will decide whether the Genting Group out of Malaysia can build the proposed $1.5 billion Sterling Forest Resort in Tuxedo, New York. While the plan is being considered, a cross-section of environmentalists and state officials are afraid the development could threaten North Jersey’s water supply.
History of the Sterling Forest Preservation Movement
The states of New York and New Jersey combined in the 1990’s to preverse the Sterling Forest. At the time, the states paid $100 million to see the local ecological niche was preserved. But critics of the Genting Group casino plan fear their 238 acre development might dump too much run-off in the area. If so, then the drinking water in North Jersey could be affected.
For its part, Genting says its $1.5 billion casino complex would be designed with the highest environmental standards in mind. Their complex has runoff controls and cutting edge sewage-treatment facilities. With such technology in place, Genting believes the casino will have a negligable impact on the nearby waterways. Drinking water for the million in North Jersey will be no problem.
Genting Group’s Casino Plan
When Genting Group chose the Sterling Forest area for a development, it found land that it considered long-barren and neglected. They hope to build a 1,000 room hotel, garden, and ski center alongside the casino floorspace. Other amenities, such a spa, restaurants, and clubs are likely to be built at the site. Genting sees themselves bringing jobs and investment capital to an area which has long needed it–all with a clean and healthy approach. One-and-a-half billion dollars can do a lot of things right.
Critics of the plan see Sterling Forest as a bad place for a major developer. They point to the bipartisan, bi-state effort twenty years ago which halted earlier efforts to develop the area. At the time, national politicians joined the effort to preserve the forest, from House Speaker Newt Gingrich to President Bill Clinton. The idea of that effort was to ensure the integrity of the local water supply. If the resort’s sewage entered the Ramapo River, then it could bring sewage into the region’s aquifers.
Sierra Club Is against Sterling Forest Resort
Jeff Tittel, the New Jersey Sierra Club’s executive director, recently said, “This is our Yellowstone. This is our Yosemite, and we would not be putting a casino in the middle of those parks.”
New Jersey State Senators Voice Concerns
A current crop of politicians have joined the chorus of critics. New Jersey State Senator Kevin O’Toole, a Republican from Cedar Grove, told his colleagues, “Putting this smack dab in the middle of a preservation zone could alter our water system for years to come.”
NJ State Senator Loretta Weinberg, a Democrat from Teaneck, who tends to be on the other side of issues than O’Toole, agrees with her fellow senator. Loretta Weinberg sponsored a bill back in 1996 which would have marked the entire forest for preservation. Weinberg added, “If I could pick a worse spot, I’d be hard-pressed to do so. It’s environmentally sensitive. We spent all this time and money to preserve it. And it’s land that protects our drinking water.”
Skeptical New Yorkers
Not everyone has joined the chorus. In fact, New Yorkers have been a great deal less vocal in opposition. More than one person has pointed out that the lawmakers in New Jersey are concerned about any casino in Orange County, so they want to eliminate (or hamstring) any developer who would place a casino 50 miles from New York City.
If a casino is built in Orange County, then New Yorkers and international tourists visiting the Big Apple are less likely to visit Atlantic City. New Jersey’s gaming destination is facing tough times, as it could have as many as 4 of its casinos closes their doors in 2014 alone. A Sterling Forest Resort might be the death knell of casino gambling in Atlantic City.
Sterling Forest Retort
New Jerseyans are quick to point out that New York and North Jersey visits to Atlantic City have tailed off significantly already, so much of the damage is done. They have inventive plans to counter an Orange County casino with their own rival gaming location in North Jersey. They might even provide for tax revenue out of that casino’s proceeds, helping Atlantic City survive and even thrive. And they can point to the long history of concern about Sterling Forest.
New York has 17 different gaming companies and real estate developers seeking licenses. Even if Genting doesn’t receive a license for an Orange County casino, some gaming company is likely to do so. The Sterling Forest debate is the kind of issue discussed when billion-dollar business deals are in the making. Genting Group is more than an entertainment and leisure company. It owns oil infrastructure and plantations in numerous countries and has dealt with many types of business and political leaders.
Genting is considered a model company in Asia and may be the most successful Malaysian conglomerate ever. There’s a reason it can afford to spend $1.5 billion on a casino, and there is reason to believe it would do the job right if given a chance. In the end, New York officials might look at the money being spent and decide Genting is the best choice.
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