This is, quite possibly, our final and most important call to arms within the Lighthouse process, and a strong turnout can permanently tip the scales in favor of the Lighthouse Project.
I have said many times throughout this process that the re-zoning hearing is the ultimate milestone. This is why, as you have all noticed, the petition linked from this site says "Approve the Lighthouse Re-Zoning Application" - everything else is largely in place, and approval of re-zoning will lead to the project becoming reality.
Now, finally, this date is upon us, and save for a brief article in Newsday, we have heard nary a peep from most of the usual suspects. Even the Lighthouse Project itself, whose "Just Build It" rally before the public hearing in August has probably done as much - if not more - than any other action to convince the Town of Hempstead that the support for this project exists across a broad spectrum of citizens. We realize that insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results, and we want the Lighthouse Project to become a reality so our Island can ensure its economic survival for generations to come. Many people have begun to accept the Lighthouse as simply a done deal, an approval waiting to happen.
Not so fast.
There are still negotiations going on behind the scenes, and there have been whispers from Town of Hempstead sources that both sides are not currently communicating in a give-and-take fashion. In a sign of the times, Chris Botta, who has done so much to advance the cause, is now claiming that "NHL Sources" say the Borough of Brooklyn has emerged as a suitor for the Islanders should the October 3 deadline pass without an approved re-zoning application (this space has said for months that this deadline will almost certainly come and go without this certainty, and I have already shared my thoughts on it). Botta's readers, some of whom seem more loyal to him than the process, have started discussing potential relocation options for the Islanders because they assume that the Lighthouse is simply a dead deal, a disapproval waiting to happen.
This is also wrong. The Lighthouse proposal is very much alive, and we cannot afford either complacency or a crack in our solidarity.
The re-zoning hearing will not be like the other hearings we have seen at the Town level. We have previously been hampered by simple discussion of the Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS) - a document that lays out, according to the New York SEQR process, the type of environmental effects expected from a project such as the Lighthouse, and what will be done to mitigate adverse impacts to the ecosystem. Tomorrow, the format will be much more free-form. Citizens are not asked to comment on any document; they are simply asked to share whether they believe the Lighthouse Project is good for the community or not.
It is worth noting that re-zoning could be the place where the final scope is changed. I am in favor of the Lighthouse as it is currently proposed, and I sincerely hope the project is approved as it currently stands. However, I also realize that this is a negotiation, and things may change. Think about it: if I am offered a job, and they ask my salary requirements, I should not ask for the bare minimum I would accept. I should go higher, because, if the company says yes, I'm getting more than I would have been comfortable receiving, and, if they say no, I have somewhere to go in the negotiation. This could happen now, or the Town could negotiate size and scope by placing restrictions on certain buildings within the re-zoning. I am interested to see how this turns out.
Meanwhile, the opponents, who are clearly upset the public did not rally to their cause the previous time, are sharpening their knives. As I said previously, our old friend Christine Mullaney from Garden City is raising the specter of litigation to stop the Lighthouse Project in its tracks. Dennis Donnelly, a Trustee of the Village of Garden City, is claiming unfair retail competition (a rich argument for a village in the shadow of the 8th-largest mall in the United States) and who is, stunningly, complaining about the design of the project when final plans are not yet received.
Image via WikipediaMr. Donnelly (who, it should be noted, draws his paycheck by defending Garden City businesses at all costs) also disputes the notion that Nassau County, as a mature suburb, needs to grow. This is a dangerous and short-sighted argument that willfully ignores the facts. I have previously discussed how Long Island is falling further and further behind the region and now has a reputation as a place with no business identity and a Can't-Do Spirit that infects all bold proposals. There are many good parts about Long Island that should be conserved, but we also must re-imagine some old ways of thinking to bring Long Island into the 21st Century. As I've said, suburbia is an artificial concept, and that presents a wonderful opportunity to communities who now have the power to decide how they will be suburbia in the face of a changing world.
Ms. Mullaney, Mr. Donnelly, and others like them will be there, fighting for the right to tell their grandchildren how they stood in the way of progress and advocated killing our community through neglect and a willfull ignorance of fact. We cannot allow them to do this. We have to attend the Lighthouse re-zoning hearing so we can tell our grandchildren how Long Island made a bold declaration of how it will be suburbia in the 21st Century thanks in part to our efforts.
Tomorrow's hearing will, in many ways, pull back the curtain on negotiations and discussions that have been going on behind the scenes for months, if not years. After trying to read the tea leaves for so long, we may finally know where Kate Murray and the rest of her board stand on this momentous project that will shape the future of Long Island for generations to come.
The opposition is in high dudgeon, angry and bewildered that the cavalry (in the form of organized opposition) did not emerge August 4. They have sharpened their rhetoric, and they will be ready to do what it is those sorts of people do best: obstruct. If turnout is not significant on the supporter side, these backward-thinking people can potentially gain traction and threaten everything we have fought for over the previous years.
We must not let this happen.
I know I have said this before, but it is extremely important that you attend the hearing if it is at all possible. If you cannot, please send a comment indicating your support to the Town's email address - firstname.lastname@example.org. Our future is too important to risk everyone's work being squandered now.
Stand up, make your voice heard, and let's be on the right side of history.
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