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Opposition to Fresh Meadows OTB strong

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Several Fresh Meadows residents say Off Track Betting could never do enough to convince them that a new gambling facility would fit right into their community.

OTB planners are trying with limited success to ease the fears residents expressed when Community Board 11 voted to disapprove the organization’s plans to move into 183-07 Horace Harding Expressway .

“How could they even think of putting an OTB here?” asked an upset Christine Orefice, who lives on 183rd Street near the proposed location. “It’s not fair. We’ve lived here for 44 years and now they want to put this on our backs”

Residents are worried that if OTB moves from its current location at 61-44 188th St., it will create quality-of-life problems such as increased parking congestion and loitering on 183rd Street. There is already a movie theater in the area and a bar located next door to the proposed site.

People in the neighborhood have complained that many teenagers from nearby Francis Lewis High School hang out by the movie theater and often litter on the block. An OTB parlor would attract more people who may stay until late at night, residents say.

“That’s all you need. A bunch of gamblers with a bar next door,” cried John Buhera of 183rd Street. “They’re going to be a good neighbor. You’ve got to be kidding me,” he added, unimpressed with OTB’s promises to address neighborhood concerns.

A spokesman from OTB has said the new facility, which would replaces Tumbles, a children’s play area, would be state of the art and would not pose the same problems older branches have. The new OTB would include seating for 60 patrons, a 20-seat smoking room so no one would have to go outside to light up, a handicap- accessible bathroom, and automated teller machines for people to place private bets.

Residents have called for the help of Queens politicians such as state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) and Borough President Helen Marshall.

“Queens doesn’t need another OTB parlor, particularly in a neighborhood where schoolchildren are coming and going,” said Padavan. “I’m happy that the community board did not approve the proposal.”

But Marshall’s office was not as quick to condemn the plans. “At this point we’re waiting to see what” OTB submits as a final proposal, said Dan Andrews, a spokesman for Marshall. “We are listening to what the community has to say.”

An OTB site selection board, comprised of City Planning and the Office of Management and Budget, Marshall, Comptroller William Thompson and the commissioner of Citywide Administrative Services, will make the final decision on the proposed facility.

Reach reporter Brendan Browne by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 155.

Posted 7:05 pm, October 10, 2011
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