Roc Nation Pens Open Letter Touting Caesars Times Square Proposal

Jay-Z's entertainment agency among entities vying for NYC casino license

The Caesars Times Square casino proposal might face 99 problems convincing its neighbors it will be a good addition to the bustling heart of Manhattan, but apparently having Jay-Z on the team isn’t one.

For months, the forces behind the plan to erect a 250,000-square-foot casino and 950-room hotel in the heart of Times Square have been battling vocal opposition from theater owners and Manhattan politicians leery of the project’s potential traffic tie-ups and impact on the neighborhood’s character.

The proposal is backed by Caesars Entertainment, SL Green Realty, and Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Entertainment, which are hoping to land one of three downstate casino licenses being offered by the New York State Gaming Commission. Late last year, the backers organized pro-casino business owners in the neighborhood to counter the narrative pushed by the No Times Square Casino Coalition that had been created by theater owners and operators.

Now, the project is relying on the sheer New York star power of hip-hop’s first billionaire. Roc Nation on Thursday released an open letter to New York which begins with the phrase, “IT’S TIME, TIMES SQUARE.”

Promises of fairness and diversity

The letter states that “conflicted parties have attempted to spread misinformation, so we wanted to speak to you, New York City, directly.

“The winning group must have a track record of turning words into deeds – of putting New York City and its residents first – people of all races, religions, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations and socio-economic statuses. New Yorkers in every corner of every borough – all of us. The winning organization must have a history of campaigning for fair hiring, representation, and reform. Hate, as well as groups that have a history of oppressing the most vulnerable, have no place in New York.”

The plan is to convert existing office space at the 1515 Broadway high-rise into Caesars Palace Times Square, which promises to attract more than 7 million new visitors to Times Square and generate at least 600,000 new overnight hotel visits along with $166 million in local retail spending on top of spending from the project itself. The scope of the project has drawn criticism from some Manhattan forces that would prefer a smaller casino that caters to high rollers.

Proponents tout that the project would generate 3,000 full-time construction jobs over a two-year period, with more than 4,700 permanent jobs during operations, and at least $50 million in annual tax revenue for the city.

Other details emerge

In Thursday’s letter, Roc Nation asserts that the project would benefit mass transit; invest in sanitation and security; develop and deliver a transportation plan; and protect the interests of the actors, producers, and other theater workers nearby. It also promises $115 million for “diverse theater programs” that include day care for Broadway workers and their families.

“Our bid honors the city of dreams, New York City, and the people that have made this place we call home the cultural and entertainment capital of the world,” the letter states. “This is our moment, our opportunity to capture the energy of Times Square and invest in our city. You’re a New Yorker, you get it.”

Neighborhood support is critical at this stage since the Gaming Facility Location Board won’t consider any applications until they first pass muster with a local Community Advisory Committee to “gauge local support, and ultimately issue a finding determining whether there is adequate support for the proposed project,” according to the board’s website.

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images


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