Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Running Down the Meeting

As promised, here is a full run-down of the events this morning. Big thanks to everyone who came, and even bigger shout-out to my cousin David, who sacrificed his day off from college to come with me to Town Hall.

First of all, I need to issue two call-outs. The first is to our Supervisor in absentia, Kate Murray. Supervisor, you promised to fast-track the Lighthouse Project, and you kept that promise, getting to this stage more quickly than the Town of Hempstead ever has before. I thank you for that, but I believe you have not done enough to allay the very real fear that exists among certain segments of the population. You did not attend the scoping hearings this past spring, you were not there tonight, and you did not bother to come to Nassau Coliseum on Town of Hempstead Night, either this year or last year. I do not believe you are actively working against the Lighthouse, but your behavior has raised very serious questions. It has led to the perception that you are holding up the process. I know you are not, but anyone in public life can tell you perception is reality. Many of your Lighthouse-related problems are of your own making, and simple gestures like showing up to meetings have meaning to many people.

I also have to mention Newsday's behavior. Eden Laikin, Newsday's Town of Hempstead reporter, was interviewing supporters in the lobby, and I was asked to go out and participate (I gladly obliged). When I got out there, I discovered that Ms. Laikin had picked seemingly the only 3 people in Islanders gear out of a crowd of hundreds (your blogger, dressed in a suit, felt a bit out of place). Those fans did a great job explaining their support, but she was asking questions like "What about traffic?" and "Do you even know what the proposal entails?" It seemed like a conscious decision to push the ridiculous and false story that only Islanders fans support the Lighthouse.

Now, to the actual discussion. The Hempstead Town Board discussed the main issues that will be included within the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. These are the usual things we've heard before - water, sewage, trafic, etc. The Town of Hempstead took time to trumpet the speed at which we came to this point, and while they are correct it is beginning to sound defensive. However, I do not see this as a long-term threat, just a matter of educating the public and making it clear that the Town of Hempstead has actually kept its promises in this process.

The Town of Hempstead gave us a run-down of the upcoming steps in the process. They are:
  • Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Submitted (Lighthouse/Town of Hempstead) - DONE as of this afternoon
  • Review period and public comments (Town of Hempstead)
  • Final Environmental Impact Statement and Scope (Town of Hempstead)
  • Approval of Property Divisions (Nassau County Planning Commission)
  • Re-zoning Hearing (Town of Hempstead)
  • Lease Negotiations (Nassau County)
  • Building Permits Hearing (Town of Hempstead)
  • Shovels in the Ground
As you see, we aren't out of the woods yet. Depending on the speed and tone of negotiations, we could still see groundbreaking this year. I have always been planning for groundbreaking next year, but at the media avail this past Thursday the Lighthouse characterized the chances of beginning this year at "below 50%, but in the ballpark." We'll see.

After running through the process, it was time for public comments. 20 people spoke, including Rosalie Norton from the West Hempstead Civic Association, Lisa Tyson from the Long Island Progressive Coalition, and some guy named Nick who claimed he was a blogger. 19 of the speakers were in favor of the Lighthouse, and the one opponent was demanding the project be changed to allow for 50% affordable housing. That does not seem to be a likely outcome.

When I spoke, I was sure to thank the Town of Hempstead for keeping its promise to fast-track the project. I also spoke about how, as a 20-something on Long Island, I am an endangered species. I'm tired of watching my friends move away and of being told I can't be part of the solution here. I'm working on a business plan for a high-technology firm, and I reject the belief that I automatically have to throw my clothes in the back of my car, hop on I-80, and keep driving until I hit Silicon Valley. I would love to be part of the solution, but as I've said I feel the decision to leave was made for me long ago.

In addition, I mentioned the need to grow with the times and make Long Island a beacon of hope again. Times are changing, and they will not wait for us to catch up. Just like Charles Lindbergh lifted our hearts into the air, and Levittown launched a million suburban dreams, I hope people can look back on today and say that we stood up for a new way forward for the Island we all love so much (I believe Islanders TV recorded my speech, so I hope to get that and post it here).

This was an important first step, but many hurdles remain. I hope we can remain vigilant and keep the process moving forward in a judicious but speedy manner.

Bottom Line: The Lighthouse process has gone very smoothly so far. The Town of Hempstead has kept its part of the bargain, and I hope this will continue. There is still no organized opposition to the project, and the momentum in the room was palpable. However, we should not allow this to make us overconfident. We got to listen in on other discussions before the Lighthouse came up on the docket, and we watched a group of developers from my backyard in North Bellmore get grilled for nearly half an hour on the use of parking spaces while they re-landscaped their business. You can expect them to be just as thorough with the biggest building project since Levittown.

I left the meeting incredibly optimistic, but mindful of the task ahead of us. We cannot afford to let our guard down.

Here are some pictures from the event (thanks to Katrina from the Lighthouse for sending these):

Charles Wang speaks on the Project

Your humble blogger addressing the Town Council

Turnout was great for a weekday morning
Note the lack of Islanders jerseys

Charles Wang and Scott Rechler watch the proceedings

I welcome your thoughts in the comments section. As always, don't forget to sign the petition and pass it on. I welcome your feedback at lettherebelighthouse@gmail.com.


  1. Nick ... Great Job!!! Things have come a long way since last Spring.

    I was wondering ... if there was a way to post a progress thermometer on your site in the shape of a lighthouse ... each graticle would measure a mile stone that you mentioned above illustrating the progress made till "shovels in the ground" at the top of the lighthouse.

  2. 19 Isles - that's a fantastic idea, and I will look into it.

    As for your comment from Point Blank, I agree that Kate Murray doesn't HAVE to be there. However, she usually IS at these meetings, since I've gone when the Lighthouse isn't on the docket. Also, the perception really stinks from her perspective. Why wouldn't the elected leader of the Town of Hempstead want to attend hearings about the biggest building project since Levittown?

  3. Any sense of when the public comments/hearings are to be scheduled? Also, assuming the submitted environmental report needs to be reviewed, couldn't this take months? Is this document what needs to be approved voted on again, or is it part of something? I guess my question is does the board need to vote again on the environmental impact, in order to give the nod for the project to go forward, just trying to understand the landmarks in the process?

    Thanks for the great blog...

  4. Thanks for the great rundown, Nick! :)

  5. Thanks for the great work Nick. This site is a must read. Any idea when we can see some renderings and pics of what they're planning for the interior of the renovated coliseum?

  6. Great take here Nick. Sorry I couldn't have been there too. Interesting take on the newsday reporter who now has a two page spread this morning.

  7. Very thorough rundown Nick. I look forward to the day all of us can sit at the outdoor cafes during the summer and skate outside the newly renovated (and sponsored?) Coliseum in the winter. Awesome work, keep it up!

  8. So KM usually goes to these board meetings huh? Well then sure ... it seems odd that she wouldn't be at this specific one. I know that town executives (mayors, managers) around here don't usually get in the boards' business while conducting reviews and approvals... they have their own time to review proposals ... but if Kate normally attends these gatherings then unless she couldn't get out of her vacations she should of been there.

  9. YO Nick..
    What's goin on with the hair?
    And who's the guy on the left with the berette in his hair taking a nap?
    And I'd keep on eye on the guy with the red power tie at the next meeting. I see a lascivious look about him.

  10. BTW....
    Love the "uphill handicap" sign on the wall.
    Never seen one like that before.
    Gotta wonder how many people see that and decide to take their chances with the steps.
    How does THAT slip past NADA?