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East River Development’s High-Stakes Gamble: The Casino in ‘Freedom Plaza


Manhattan skyline with a huge Ferris wheel in the front
Graphic: Rendering courtesy of the Soloviev Group

Sheldon Solow's long-awaited East River development project, spearheaded by his son Stefan Soloviev, has finally been unveiled, and it's making headlines for one big reason: a casino. The project, named "Freedom Plaza," features three towering buildings, a giant Ferris wheel, a 1,000-room hotel, a performance space, and a democracy-themed museum. But it's the casino that's causing a stir.


Stefan Soloviev is competing for the only downstate casino license to be issued by New York State, putting him in competition with other potential operators at Citi Field, Hudson Yards, Coney Island, and other locations. If Soloviev secures the license, the hotel-casino will become a reality; if not, it will become an office building instead.


The introduction of a casino in the heart of this development raises concerns, including traffic, aesthetics, and the socioeconomic impact. It's a divisive move, as many view casinos as predatory and addictive. While the casino could be a cash cow, it may come at the cost of neighborhood goodwill established by the green spaces and other amenities in the project. Ultimately, the fate of this ambitious endeavor hinges on the outcome of the casino license competition.

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