Howe do you spell c-a-s-i-n-o?
By Patsy Nicosia
If you were in Albany Monday and you weren't wearing a bright yellow t-shirt with the words "It's Our Time," on it, then you were in the wrong place.
Hundreds of local supporters of the proposed Howe Caverns Resort Casino turned out-by bus, by motorcycle, on foot-for the New York State Gaming Commission's 12-hour long public hearing on the four casinos proposed for the Capital Region.
Likely only one will be awarded a license; which one it is won't be picked till later this fall-at the earliest.
Hard to miss by design, the brightly-colored Howe Caverns supporters easily dominated the hearing.
Not even a close second were opponents to the Capital View Casino & Resort, proposed by Saratoga Raceway and Churchill Downs in East Greenbush, nearly all of whom argued against a casino there.
A dozen or so supporters of the Rivers Casino & Resort at Mohawk Harbor in Schenectady wore bright blue t-shirts with message "Best Place to Work, Best Casino, Best for Schenectady."
Despite the high stakes of the hearing, the atmosphere was mostly genial.
Howe Caverns supporters joined the East Greenbush opponents in applause each time they spoke against that project; the East Greenbush opponents did the same for the Caverns.
In the hallways between speakers, opponents and competitors alike traded strategy; and Gaming Commission members joked they'd see a much tougher crowd at Tuesday's hearing downstate.
"It's Our Time!" shouted one Caverns supporter after a speaker's remarks.
"And for the rest of you, it's 2pm and time for a break," said one of the commissioners, laughing.
Not one speaker spoke against the Howe Caverns Resort Casino and the first to speak after lunch, State Senator Jim Seward, was only one of dozens who lent his support to it.
"Howe Caverns is the only project that meets all of the state's criteria," Senator Seward said, pointing to some of the highest unemployment numbers is the state, and the fact that no one's going to be moving nano-tech or state offices into Schoharie County.
"We've been left on our own," he said, drawing a standing ovation from local supporters.
Heather Marr, a Schoharie native who's worked at Cobleskill Stone for 10 years, said she sees the project as a way to keep young people like herself here.
"I love it here and I'm lucky that I have a job I love. I don't want to leave. But my friends...Everything's just falling down. There's nothing here for them. This will bring people in. It will be good for the community."
Chris Guldner, who with financee Mary Sagendorf, is restoring the Bull's Head Inn in Cobleskill and who chairs the Chamber of Commerce's Tourism Committee, said he's already working with local attractions and casino developers to promote the region.
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In addition to the yellow-shirted Caverns supporters, Schoharie County was represented by
The S'cary Leg Runners, who with participants from the Schoharie ARC, kicked off a 40-mile relay from Howe Caverns to Albany. Where a representative delivered a message in a baton to the Gaming Commission.
Riders from the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, some of whom made the trip to Albany and back more than once.
Three busloads of supporters, including firefighters and EMS volunteers and members of the Fraternal Order of Eagles.