Friday, 16 November 2012 00:00
On Tuesday, Oct. 24, at a press conference outside the newly opened Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York Islanders owner Charles Wang announced that following the end of his lease at the Nassau Coliseum on July 31, 2015, his team, the Islanders, would be moving to the Barclays Center. This came as little surprise to most Islander fans that figured the teams days in Nassau were numbered after the vote failed last year.
A little background for those who may not be familiar with this seemingly never-ending saga that finally ended. Twenty years ago the Islanders made their first attempt at getting a new or refurbished Coliseum, that attempt obviously failed and here it started.
Every time the Islanders attempted to get a new arena, instead of being met with what’s the best we can do for the community, it was met with egotistical politicians looking to do what’s best for their party instead of the people they are elected to represent. Focusing on the last two proposals, which were the Lighthouse Project and the referendum vote last summer.
Back in 2003, under then County Executive Tom Suozzi the Lighthouse Project was unveiled. It would’ve amassed the entire 77-acre property and cost more then $3 billion, but would’ve been entirely financed by Charles Wang and his partner Scott Rechler of RXR. After getting all approvals from Nassau County the project was sent to the Town of Hempstead because of the density of the project the land needed to be rezoned, which is handled by them.
Little did the powers at be know, sending this project to the Town of Hempstead was basically signing its death sentence. For years Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray refused to meet with Charles Wang on this project making up excuse after excuse, one I remember being that she felt it would be a conflict of interest to meet with him because she would eventually have to vote on it. After wasting over two years, Tom Suozzi was able to get the two to be in the same room which got the process moving but it met its demise when the town made Wang a counter offer, which cut the project by three-fourths. Wang and new County Executive Ed Mangano then issued a statement that the project because of the small inflexible zone by the town of Hempstead didn’t make sense economically and that they would have to go back to the drawing board.
Fast forward to last summer, they had the referendum vote which would’ve seen Nassau County borrow $400 million to build a new Nassau Coliseum, a minor league baseball stadium, and an indoor track and field facility. If passed, this proposal would’ve seen Nassau County taxes raised by roughly $15 a person.
As time went on it was clear that the Democrats would find any loophole imaginable to bash this project. That shouldn’t come as a surprise seeing as how Mangano who came up with the idea is a Republican. It wasn’t until after the vote that we found out what measures the Democrats would take to make sure this failed. The day before the vote, the Democrats set up a phone bank targeted at people 55-plus spewing to them misinformation on the project to get them to vote no. Well progress was stalled once again by politicians because it was voted down by a healthy margin.
Now here we are, a little more than a year after that and the Islanders announced that they will be leaving this area for the brighter pastures of Brooklyn, and can you blame them? The politicians here cared more for making sure the other party didn’t get credit for development rather then actually doing what’s best for the residents they are supposed to represent and now they have to deal with the consequences. Nassau made their bed, now they will have to lay in it!
Scott Clinco, Levittown