Murray Hill Neighborhood Association Announces Survey Results on Soloviev Casino Proposal
Friday, May 19, 2023
Respondents Indicate Strong Opposition to the Casino and Its Potential Impact on the Community
Positive Response to the Green and Recreational Space
PURPOSE OF THE SURVEY
Following a meeting with the Soloviev Group on March 14, 2023 about their proposal for an entertainment complex that would include a casino, The Murray Hill Neighborhood Association trustees decided to implement a survey to gauge community sentiment about this potentially controversial proposal.
The Murray Hill Neighborhood Association distributed an anonymous survey regarding the proposed changes to the Soloviev Group’s development plans for the 6.5 acre property between 1st Avenue and the FDR Drive and between 38th and 41st Street. The survey was distributed by email to the MHNA email list (1700+ names). People were encouraged to share the survey with others in the surrounding neighborhoods. The survey was launched on April 4, 2023 and closed on May 2, 2023.
Respondents were requested to complete it once. IP addresses were examined to ensure there were not duplicated responses and integrity in the process. The 1028 total responses were analyzed by tabulating each question and calculating the percentages. For the one open-ended question, the responses were categorized by topic and tabulated by category.
SUMMARY OF RESPONSES
Strong negative reaction to the casino (and Ferris wheel)
The main response to the Soloviev development plan was a negative reaction to the proposed casino. 81.7% of the responders indicated they would be unlikely to or never visit the casino if it were built as part of the plan. In the open-ended question, 233 comments were in opposition to the casino (there were 3 positive comments about the casino). Some of the comments included:
- “I hope and pray that the development will not include a casino. In one large city that I know well, its recently built downtown casino has become a magnet for drug traffickers and organized crime.”
- “A casino and entertainment venue is the complete opposite of what we expect from the charming family-oriented Murray Hill. How do we stop this from happening?!”
- “I've lived here since 1977, my grandparents in Murray Hill since 1955, and you're pushing me and my family out. If there's a casino, my family and I will leave for good.”
- “I have a daughter at the River School. I would not want the riff-raff of a casino next to our home and school. A casino would not provide any benefit to the community.”
- “I think having a casino would be a TERRIBLE idea for this area. This is a young professional area. With a casino, comes drinking, prostitution, and drugs. This part of Murray Hill is a sleepy quiet residential area.”
- “Can't think of a desirable urban area centered on a casino. Atlantic City? Las Vegas? Reno? Macao? None of the above!”
- “Murray Hill is an historic, residential neighborhood and shouldn’t start to become another Times Square!”
- “No neighboring businesses will make a dime because all food will be purchased inside casino. (We spend our summers next to Mohegan Sun casino. It is a self-contained venue. No outside businesses can compete.)
- “I enjoy gambling…But I do not want gambling and its negative impacts to come to our city - in Murray Hill or elsewhere. Casinos are a big sucking sound - pulling dollars from the community and exporting them to the owners who are likely not part of our community.”
- “Given we currently cannot get a handle on the crime taking place daily and making our residents feel unsafe, I highly doubt introducing more elements ripe for crime and delinquency would make this situation better.”
- “Saying this nicely, adding a casino to the densest area in the country (Manhattan) with an already robust thriving economy is the dumbest idea ever- that too in the heart of the city with the midtown tunnel traffic and FDR traffic, not to mention the residential neighborhood and schools nearby.”
- A casino so close to Murray Hill would be a detriment to the neighborhood and all who live here increasing density, overwhelming infrastructure, increasing traffic to the point where the quality of life here would be seriously impaired.”
- “We are very concerned about the Casino in a residential neighborhood, especially its proximity to the UN and UN Consulates. The neighborhood already comes to a halt with the UN-related activities.”
- “This is the far east with poor transport options to be a major tourist attraction.”
- “Casinos being good for economic development overall is smoke and mirrors BS. People can and do gamble online now. No one needs a casino for that.”
- “Build for the locals, not for the tourists.”
NOTE: According to the latest presentation by the Soloviev Group at the Community Board 6 meeting, the Ferris wheel has been removed from the project because of negative community response. There was also a strong negative response to it by responders to this survey, but the Ferris wheel responses and comments will not be detailed in this summary.)
Positive reaction to green space and outdoor recreational facilities, Esplanade upgrade
82.4% of the responders said that they are very likely or somewhat likely to visit a park in the development area. For the open-ended comments, 68 people were positive about increased green space, outdoor recreational spaces and completion of this section of the Esplanade as part of the project.
Respondents indicated they would like a dog run, a public viewing area for 4th of July fireworks on the East River (currently the FDR Drive is used for this) and indoor public sports facilities.
Concern that the casino and entertainment complex would change the residential family-friendly character of the neighborhood
For the question, “How would the proposed development impact you?”, 21.9% of the responders indicated they would not like to see Murray Hill change its residential character. This also applied to people responding from Tudor City and other surrounding neighborhoods. For the open-ended question, 56 people stated that they feel that the project, especially the casino, would have a negative impact on the family-friendly residential character of the neighborhood and would turn it into what some characterized as a “Times Square" district. The proposed property development sits between Tudor City and Turtle Bay to the north and Murray Hill two blocks to the west of the property. Kips Bay is to the south of the proposed development.
Positive response to more housing, especially affordable housing
More residential density and some gentrification would be expected with this proposal: 87.1% of responders expect the development to increase residential density, and 63.1% of responders expect some gentrification and loss of affordable housing and businesses in the surrounding areas. According to the open-ended comments, there is general agreement that more housing is needed, especially affordable housing, although some are skeptical that the project will yield more units of affordable housing.
Concern that the development would increase already congested traffic in the area
Increased vehicle traffic and gridlock are expected as very likely and somewhat likely by 94.5% of responders. 24.8% of responders stated that they would be impacted by increased traffic on the FDR Drive. There would be increased traffic (foot, ferry and vehicle) serving both the proposed residential buildings and the entertainment complex. In the open-ended comments, 46 people expressed concerns about the traffic, especially during the United Nations lockdowns and during rush hours when the streets leading to and from the Queens Midtown Tunnel and the FDR Drive are already backed up, in addition to 1st and 2nd Avenue (2nd and 3rd Avenue have some of the most dangerous intersections in the city). Some responders noted that the hospital to the south of the property needs flowing traffic for its ambulances. Some concerns were expressed that the surrounding streets would not be able to handle the increased traffic and that some streets now have only one lane for traffic, due to bike and bus lanes. Solutions would be needed to handle the increased traffic.
General negative reactions
As stated, dislike of the casino (and Ferris wheel) influenced the majority of respondents about the proposed development.
- 64.6% of responders indicated that the development is unlikely to make Murray Hill a better place to live, work and visit,
- 60.2% of responders indicated that the neighborhood is unlikely to become more desirable, and
- 45.2% indicated that the property overall is unlikely to be much better than it currently is. Below is the breakdown for that question:
In the open-ended question people expressed an overall negative reaction to the project saying:
- It will do more harm than good for the area
- It benefits tourists and the developer, not current residents.
- It would bring traffic, noise (during construction and afterwards), crowding and crime.
- It would change the family-friendly residential character of the neighborhood.
There were also concerns about the height, aesthetics of the buildings, reflective glass (bad for birds), light pollution, solar glares, loss of current city-scape views.
Survival of neighborhood independent businesses was also a concern cited.
General positive reactions
- The idea of bringing economic activity to the area was viewed favorably, however respondents indicated the type of economic activity must be viewed as “the right kind, that will benefit the community”.
- Amenities viewed favorably are restaurants, shops, certain types of entertainment, community spaces, businesses catering to the new population.
- Some responders stated that any development would be better than what is there now.
- Concern that heavy construction will damage historic buildings in Tudor City.
- Skepticism about whether the developer will deliver on the promises of community amenities, an improved waterfront that provides flood protection, affordable housing.
- Another hotel in the neighborhood was seen as unnecessary.
- The infrastructure of the area could not handle the additional people, leading to crowded sidewalks and streets, overcrowded schools, public transportation’s ability to handle new population, sanitation and safety issues, need for large amounts of underground parking space.
- Being in a flood zone would require water management (seawall, etc.).
- Mixed reactions and skepticism about the proposed Museum of Democracy.
- Need for a detailed environmental analysis about how this proposal will impact the area.
- Ferris wheel was viewed almost as negatively as the casino (dropped from the proposal).
Items respondents indicated they would like to see:
- A Middle School
- Affordable daycare or Pre-K
- A supermarket
DETAILS ABOUT THE SURVEY AND RESPONSES
Introduction to the survey
Dear Murray Hill Community,
The Soloviev Building Company owns the largest undeveloped plot of land in Manhattan. The plot has been vacant for 15 years, and is bounded by 38th Street on the South, 41st Street on the north, 1st Avenue on the west, and the FDR drive on the east. They currently have approval to build four towers (three residential and one commercial with a small green space), but since their original plan was approved, conditions have changed, and they would like to revise their plan.
Their new vision is in the first stages of planning and design. It is called Freedom Plaza, and would include a hotel tower, an underground casino/gaming venue and parking, two residential buildings (including some affordable housing and parking), a Museum of Democracy, community spaces, a Ferris wheel, a large public green space, possibly constructing a sea wall (to protect from rising sea levels), and completion of a section of the East River Esplanade. This project would bring economic activity and permanent jobs to the area, in addition to green space and housing. Learn more about the proposal.
The Soloviev team met with the Trustees of The Murray Hill Neighborhood Association (MHNA) on March 14 and affirmed that they want to work with the community at large to get feedback and understand the community's needs. They will be holding Town Halls for local stakeholders to attend, as this project would have to go through a community and environmental review (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), required by NYC when there would be a zoning change). They would also have to receive a casino license from the State. Soloviev has stated that they will be transparent about their plans.
The MHNA would like to understand what our community thinks about the proposal. We would appreciate your taking this brief anonymous survey so we can gauge sentiment from our community. Please answer the survey only once. If you have additional comments, questions or concerns, you may send them to email@example.com. This survey will be open until April 30, 2023. We will share the results with you and post them on the MHNA website murrayhillnyc.org.
|The Soloviev Group owns the largest undeveloped plot of land in Manhattan. The 6.5 acre property has been vacant for 15 years, and is bounded by 38th Street on the South, 41st Street on the north, 1st Avenue on the west, and the FDR drive on the east. They currently have approval to build four towers (three residential and one commercial with a small green space), but since their original plan was approved, conditions have changed, and they would like to revise their plan.|
|Their new vision is in the first stages of planning and design. It is called Freedom Plaza, and would include a hotel tower, an underground casino/gaming venue and parking, two residential buildings (including some affordable housing and parking), a Museum of Democracy, community spaces, a Ferris wheel, a large public green space, possibly constructing a sea wall (to protect from rising sea levels), and completion of a section of the East River Esplanade. This project would bring economic activity and permanent jobs to the area, in addition to green space and housing. View the presentation.|
|The Soloviev team met with the Trustees of The Murray Hill Neighborhood Association (MHNA) on March 14 and affirmed that they want to work with the community at large to get feedback and understand the community's needs. They will be holding Town Halls for local stakeholders, as this project would have to go through a community and environmental review (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), required by NYC when there would be a zoning change). They would also have to receive a casino license from the State. Soloviev has stated that they will be transparent about their plans.|
The MHNA would like to understand what our community thinks about the proposal. We circulated an anonymous survey in April to gauge sentiment from our community. If you have additional comments, questions or concerns, you may send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact email@example.com if you have questions.