3 Days until the Public Hearing
71 Days and still no apology from Joe Mondello
UPDATE 8/2: Dee has a great piece over on the 7th Woman blog about the same Garden City issue.
We have had some fits and starts over the last few days, with people wondering about the opposition and a brief distraction with the apparent and unfortunate demise of our beloved Islanders Point Blank. However, regardless, I encountered something you must all see that proves exactly why Tuesday is a defining moment in Long Island history, and our presence is requested....no, required.
First - Deal Reached With Uniondale School District
I alluded to this last week when it appeared a deal was imminent, and we can finally say there is a deal. Newsday reports that the Lighthouse has agreed to pay the Uniondale School District $4 million (in addition to the projected $25 million in yearly tax revenue the project is expected to generate for the district) in order to defray the costs of additional children within Uniondale schools. This money will be immediately due when the Lighthouse receives a building permit for the first housing units.
The sticking point came in the estimation of children, and it is my understanding that until recently the two sides were far apart. I believe the impact will end up being minimal because a) many of the housing options are not geared toward families, and b) with so many private schools in the area, I doubt all the children at the site will be enrolled in public school.
Second - A Plea From Chris Botta
We need Islanders Point Blank in our lives, and I am as prepared as anyone to do my part to save it. However, Tuesday cannot be about Chris or his wonderful site; it must be about the Lighthouse and the future of our Island. Chris himself explains this in a video he recorded last night:
The Opposition Reveals its New/Old Tactics
I took a little heat in a post from 2 months ago about a meeting I attended in Garden City. I do not like to stereotype people, and I wanted to get the full picture of a village that has been dismissed by many as a group of selfish NIMBY's who think they live on the Gold Coast (despite the absence of gold and a coast). I left more convinced than ever that this is exactly how they behaved - when the Lighthouse came up at this meeting, all they could do was talk about how it affected them. Not a single person discussed the benefit to the community, and anybody I asked for an interview declined because they "did not want their name on the Internet" (irony: They then spoke to Newsday, which published its story online). I left very concerned about the role Garden City would play in this process.
I became more confused as the time passed, since we did not hear anything more from Garden City. We began to wonder if they had stood down, or if they had realized the error of their ways. No such luck - this piece ran in Garden City Life yesterday, and its intent cannot be mistaken. It is full of the kind of selfish, disgusting Can't-Do defeatism that has infected our Island for far too long. Let me run through a brief rebuttal and then explain what this means for us:
The stretch of Franklin Avenue that runs through Garden City into the County buildings in Mineola was once called the "Fifth Avenue of Long Island," a fact still trumpeted on some street signs there. All the major, glitzy retailers - Saks, Lord & Taylor, Bloomingdale's, et al - had a presence on Franklin Avenue, and times were good.
Now? They have a Sears, and little else. To compound this, leaders in Garden City are now decrying the Lighthouse as something that will destroy retail options in their village due to the sheer size of it - including their mayor, Robert Rothschild (who was selected by one of the Property Owners' Associations, not the voters).
It is political gamesmanship of the highest order that these people would now seek to blame the Lighthouse for a decline that has been going on for decades. I'm in business, and I'd like to think you are too. If you want to attract commerce to your village, that's great - offer something. Why not try to bring more luxury boutiques into the area to bring back the Fifth Avenue moniker? Why not position yourselves as a unique alternative to the Lighthouse instead of whining about the unfair competition? You never recovered after the expansion of Roosevelt Field - which is in your village - so how about trying something new to create a larger pie instead of trying to hold onto your small piece of the existing pie?
Also - I suggest you stop trying to throw up smokescreens about "how long it will take that much retail to be filled" and "where Charles Wang will get the financing." Mr. Wang himself seems confident he will get financing, and, in addition, if he can't, that's on him and nobody else. Simply doubting something without knowing all the facts is not the way to advance discussion. Maybe that kind of defeatist thinking is what wrecked your shopping districts to begin with.
This quote from a Garden City resident blew me away:
“Kate Murray, she works for us. [Congresswoman] Carolyn McCarthy, she works for us … I don’t care what political party people are from I just feel very unrepresented in this town. I feel like we just keep paying, paying and paying and getting very little in return. Our village takes care of us but beyond that, we’re really not getting any bang for our buck.” - A Garden City ResidentI'm first struck by how cultlike that sounds - like this resident believes the only trustworthy people lie within Garden City. However, it's deeper than that. This resident fails to understand that the will of the people is what mattered here, not the will of GARDEN CITY.
John Stuart Mill explained it well in the concept of Utilitarianism - the greatest good for the greatest number. Politicians are supporting the Lighthouse (and want to be seen supporting it) because the broad base of support is clear. Kate Murray changed her tune and showed a commitment to moving the process forward (even though her ultimate position is still unclear) because of the large volume of phone calls and letters from supporters. You can't flick a switch and have all that mean nothing just because Garden City or any other community says so.
The will of the people rules, whether or not you like that. We have all voted for a candidate or issue that did not win, and that doesn't mean we need to stomp our feet and insist that our position is the one that should be followed anyway.
One of the officials quoted in this piece claims the traffic study is six years old and does not include two roads in Garden City, even though they concede in the piece that Garden City is "somewhat removed from the actual location [of the Lighthouse]."
Apparently, though, the firm Garden City hired to study the DGEIS focused on traffic, and these were the most legitimate concerns. I am looking to the State on this one - and Gov. Paterson said himself on Monday that state agencies have not raised any significant issues on the DGEIS. Simply screaming "TRAFFIC! TRAFFIC!" doesn't work anymore.
Here's the most unbelievable part to this: one of the Garden City trustees actually suggested that they not make the case for traffic congestion because it would be seen as an endorsement of public transportation! You recall that Garden City is deathly afraid of a whisper-quiet light rail line running on already existing track in their village that is a few hundred yards from any housing (much farther than I lived from the T Green Line when I was in college up in Boston - and it never once woke me up or disturbed me. The LIRR, which is 1.5 miles from my home in Bellmore, makes more noise). Now, they have twisted this around, and they are going to try to kill mass transit - which will mitigate much of the traffic issues - by saying traffic won't be affected. I tell you, you just can't make this stuff up.
By the way, memo to Garden City: there was nothing in the new 5-year transportation bill about a light rail system in Nassau County. It is completely off the table until 2015 at the earliest. Thanks for that.
I said it before, and I'll say it again: I am struck that whenever I hear people from Garden City complaining about the Lighthouse, they can only discuss how it will affect them. There is no regard for the needs of the community or the greater benefit; I got the impression that many of these people honestly think the project should be killed because they themselved don't want it.
The will of the people, not a vocal minority, needs to be in play here. It is clear that a majority of residents favor this project, and a deal all sides can accept must be reached.
Brief thought - What does it say about the quality of the Lighthouse proposal when these are the best arguments opponents can come up with?
The paper says that "hundreds" are expected to attend the hearing, which is this Tuesday (3 days away!) at the John Cranford Adams Playhouse in Hofstra. Let's show them the "hundreds" and the level of support this really has within the community.
I have long been saying that the Lighthouse is a pivotal project for Long Island, and the day would come when we needed to prove our numbers. Ladies and gentlemen, that day is Tuesday.
I realize times are tough, but we need to show as many numbers as humanly possible here, because the power truly lies in our hands. These people in Garden City honestly believe their will should trump the will of the people, and we need to show them that we are willing to fight for our Island's future as hard as they're fighting to keep their heads buried in the sand and deny the real and true need for this project.
Take the day off. Get transportation any way you can - and email me if you'd like me to broadcast a need on Twitter. Show up at the "Just Build It" rally before the event. Get your t-shirt. March to the Adams Playhouse and share our message:
Not this time.
Not this year.
No longer will we let the backward-looking among us dominate the discourse.
No longer can we sit idly by while our Island falls behind the region and the country.
This is our time, as Long Islanders, as Islanders fans, as people with a vested interest in the process, to stand up and see the fruits of our labors.
Even one of the Garden City residents admits that the Lighthouse has an air of inevitability...This means they are desperate and will resort to desperate actions in an attempt to stop this from happening. We can't allow that.
I hope to see thousands of you on Tuesday - because you know some of the people quoted in that article wouldn't miss the hearing for the world.
Please share your thoughts in comments. Petition. Email Me. Follow me on Twitter.
Stay tuned over the weekend for more discussions on the macro issues facing the Lighthouse, and hopefully a chat with the Town of Hempstead to discuss the nuts and bolts of Tuesday's hearing.