Coney Island Official Opposed to Casino Causes Controversy With Muslim Comments

Posted on: August 21, 2023, 11:15h. 

Last updated on: August 21, 2023, 03:46h.

A Coney Island official is facing backlash after questioning on social media how members of the local Muslim community could support a proposed $3 billion casino for the Brooklyn seaside town.

Coney Island casino controversy Community Board
Marie Mirville-Shahzada, a Muslim Coney Island resident, is calling for the resignation of Community Board 13 President Lucy Mujica Diaz for questioning how a Muslim might support a casino resort development. Coney Island is one of a dozen neighborhoods in New York City and in the downstate region that’s targeted for a casino. (Image: Facebook/LinkedIn)

Lucy Mujica Diaz is the chair of Brooklyn’s Community Board 13. Community boards in New York consist of unsalaried members appointed by borough presidents and borough councilors. The community boards act in advisory roles and liaisons between local governments and their residents.

Diaz is a strong opponent to a casino coming to Coney Island on beliefs that a commercial gambling destination would negatively impact the neighborhood with additional traffic. Diaz also contends that gambling would result in increased crime and other societal drains.

The casino project, pitched by a consortium consisting of New York real estate firm Thor Equities, the Chickasaw Nation’s Global Gaming Solutions, Saratoga Casino Holdings, and Legends Hospitality, is bidding for one of the three downstate casino licenses in New York. The development, dubbed “The Coney,” is targeting a five-acre plot of land owned by Thor and located at Surf Avenue and W. 12th Street.

Controversial Comments

Diaz ruffled some feathers online after she came across a photo from a recent event held by Alfadila Community Services in which some attendees were seen wearing T-shirts in support of The Coney casino.

Marie Mirville-Shahzada, the New York Post reports, is the Muslim founder and executive director of Alfadila Community Services. The nonprofit’s mission is “to break barriers and bridge diverse communities to opportunities.”

On Facebook, Diaz shared a photo of Alfadila event attendees sporting “The Coney” t-shirts. The Community Board chair questioned how someone could be Islamic but still support a gambling enterprise.

Someone explain this to me,” Diaz posted with a confused emoji. She added a Wikipedia excerpt on the Quran that reads, “It is stated in the Quran that games of chance … are a ‘grave sin’ and ‘abominations of Satan’s handiwork.'”

Mirville-Shahzada quickly fired back, saying the photo Diaz shared included children with disabilities. She told the Post that The Coney T-shirts were donated to the event and that some attendees simply chose to wear the garments. But there was no discussion on the casino.

Mirville-Shahzada subsequently called for Diaz’s resignation. She also wrote New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, who appointed Diaz to the Community Board 13, to request her resignation.

I am writing to request the immediate removal and investigation of Lucy Mujica Diaz, Chair of Brooklyn Community Board 13, for her ongoing bullying, personal attacks and last but not least, her recent anti-Muslim statements and insensitivity to parents with disabled children,” she stated.

Diaz countered by saying her comments were taken out of context.

“I want to be clear; the post was in a personal capacity and did not contain any hurtful, negative, or hate attacks in my language,” Mujica Diaz said in a statement. “I reject the characterization … that this was ‘public assault’ and ‘prejudiced actions.'”

New York Bidding

The Coney is one of many casino projects finalizing their bids for the three New York downstate casino licenses. Other casino operators expected to bid include MGM Resorts, Genting Group, Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts, Caesars Entertainment, and Hard Rock International.

The front-runners for two licenses are MGM and Genting, as they operate Empire City Casino in Yonkers and Resorts World New York City in Queens. Those racinos can currently only offer video lottery terminals and electronic table games.