Tonight, we can officially project that the new arena referendum has failed, raising serious questions about the future of the New York Islanders hockey team and, more importantly, Nassau County as a whole. Overwhelming support from hockey fans and trade unions ran into a buzzsaw of misinformation and anti-tax fervor that was simply too much to overcome.
In hindsight, this was quite possibly doomed from the start given the bungling by Ed Mangano's office, assisted by a rocky roll-out and the lack of high-level support on the Islanders side. The passion on the fan and activist side has helped, but it just wasn't enough, despite pathetic turnout figures.
The sad fact is that Ed Mangano may just not be an effective enough leader for Nassau County, as he bungled this from the beginning. It still amazes me that Mangano thought he could get this referendum through without providing any studies and details to the electorate beforehand. The numbers and studies helped back up the Yes side with facts, but their timing never let Ed shake the perception that he rushed this referendum, was unprepared, and the numbers were similarly rushed. A united front from the beginning would have done wonders to clamp down on the misinformation, and a shocking unwillingness to throw the opposition a bone on a reasonable proposal such as a lockbox for revenue from the Coliseum site assisted in the negative perception.
In addition, the Islanders utilized an army of committed and valiant employees who deserve every credit in the world....but Charles Wang needed to make his last stand with the best troops available, such as a first-class PR firm and someone experienced in working the street-fight of a political campaign, especially a single-issue referendum election. Pushing the non-Islanders angle and tugging the heartstrings from the beginning could have helped.
The fact is very simple: getting this referendum date on August 1 was a boon for the Yes side, and those in charge of seeing the vision through have blown what could and perhaps should have been a landslide.
One thing is for sure, before anything else: the failure of this referendum is not our failure, it is that of the powers that be, who simply allowed themselves to get out-maneuvered by anti-tax/anti-spending zealots, a disgustingly opportunistic Democratic Party chairman, and a morally bankrupt developer lobbyist who somehow managed to get himself presented as a dispassionate and concerned citizen. In hindsight, for the reasons Joe Conte outlined on Saturday, we might have never had a chance.
What does this mean for the Islanders and their future in Nassau County? The picture is clouded.
What does this mean for Nassau Coliseum? It will continue to be a shameful reminder of the complete and utter failure of anyone on Long Island to get anything done.
What does this mean for Nassau County? The NIMBYs win again, and Long Island sinks a little further into the ocean, but they're all on their decks preening about what a beautiful place it is.
What will become of me? Well....that's an interesting question. This has been a fight lasting 7 years, since I first wrote a paper analyzing the Lighthouse Project for a class while a student at Boston University, and we now find ourselves back at square one. The fight continues, but my business and personal obligations will force me to be more of a background player than a man in the center.
Ultimately, the realities of being an urban entrepreneur in a suburban home have finally caught up to me, and I need to move. I will begin my apartment hunt next week, and I will be a full-time resident of Manhattan before the puck drops on a new season of Islanders hockey, which at this point may just be a countdown to execution. I will contribute what I can, but my time as a dedicated hockey/politics/land use blogger is no more.
I am grateful for everyone I have met on this journey, many of whom I am proud to call my friends, and it is because of you that I have never for a second regretted starting this blog.
I hope this experience has taught you many valuable lessons, but I hope that this has not caused you to believe that political activism and deep participation in the democratic process are fool's errands. Maybe, like Icarus, we flew too high to the sun and plunged into the sea....but we were brought here by a common purpose: the sincere desire to make our home a better place.
As Teddy Roosevelt, the only Long Islander to serve as President of the United States, so eloquently stated:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.