One ring to rule them all...
Let's not mince words: the re-zoning hearing this Tuesday is the biggest hearing of them all, and all citizens who can reasonably make one of the sessions should be there and make a stand for Long Island's future. Quickly, I want to make a quick announcement:
Hear Me on Preds on the Glass this Monday
This Monday, I will be appearing on Preds on the Glass radio from 8-9 PM with Katrina, the blogger extraordinaire from Psycho Lady Hockey who calls herself the Carmen Sandiego of the National Hockey League. I'll be talking about the Lighthouse re-zoning hearing, and whatever else strikes our fancy. Buddy Oakes and Katrina are great - this show should be unmissable.
The Re-Zoning Hearing
Image via WikipediaWe have been through so much in this process, buffeted by dismissive accusations ranging from Charles Wang is paying us to Supporters are "just" Islanders fans and don't know anything about the project or the process. The Town of Hempstead made its share of mistakes this year, and it seemed for a time that our pleas would fall on deaf ears. However, the tone has markedly shifted, and a source within the Town of Hempstead even admitted to my friend B.D. Gallof that the Town consciously shifted its tone and stance thanks to the positive pressure applied by those who favor the Lighthouse. Things look solid now, and for the first time there appears to be a clear path between where we currently find ourselves and our ultimate goal: re-zoning approval, a move that will pave the way for the Lighthouse to be built.
I think it is important to speak about what is at stake for the re-zoning hearing:
Things have looked very good for Lighthouse supporters in recent months, in stark contrast to the bleak days of March, April, and May. However, just like the Lighthouse was not dead at that point, it is not a done deal now. Our attendance, and our vocal support, are of paramount importance. We cannot afford complacency, and we cannot afford a premature celebration. We still hold the power to tilt the scales in favor of the Lighthouse, and we need to harness it.
Last Chance for Organized Opposition
The Lighthouse is unique among recent large programs on Long Island, because there are still no organized coalitions formed for the purpose of opposing it. Typical labels also do not apply; for example, while there are a few winners from Garden City who are trying to cause trouble, I have also spoken to and traded emails with many Garden City residents who strongly support the Lighthouse. Issues have been raised, and there are certainly opponents, but there is nothing that jeopardizes the project's future (more on this over the weekend...). Opponents have largely been relegated to talking about fringe issues, such as the alarmist thinking that assumes, once the Lighthouse is completed, all common sense and urban planning will be permanently thrown out the window and Nassau County will immediately become a more "urban" place (take a breath; 150 acres in the middle of a county that is almost 400 square miles should not permanently alter the landscape, and all future projects should be judged on their benefit to the community - like this one was).
Image via WikipediaThat is not to say that those same individuals will not attempt to make a stand on Tuesday. They are already firing warning shots, with Dennis Donnelly of the Garden City Board of Trustees pushing the "unfair competition" angle and writing letters asking "What's wrong with the Lighthouse?" Our old friend Christine Mullaney has also joined the party. Even though she has not had time to respond to me after making me an issue, she has had time to confirm her name and concerns to the New York Times, and she has asked her cohorts at the Eastern Property Owners' Association about the possibility of litigation to stop the Lighthouse in its tracks.
(Blogger's Note: I've been sitting on this one, but it's time to say it. I have confirmation from multiple people in the know that the same Eastern Property Owners' Association turned down multiple offers for the Lighthouse to do an outreach meeting for their group. People are entitled to have an opinion, but shouldn't they be secure enough in their beliefs to share them with the Lighthouse in person? It might do more to advance the discussion than what's currently going on)
These people, and others like them, will be prepared to make a final (possibly desperate) case on Tuesday. We must be ready for them, just as well.
We saw a veritable parade of luminaries speak in favor of the Lighthouse Project at the public hearing, and since then the project has been endorsed by Gov. David Paterson, as well as other politicians. It will be interesting to see how many politicians will speak on Tuesday, because we know how politicians love to back a winner, and how they love to be seen in public backing a winner.
B.D. Gallof's anonymous source within the Town of Hempstead assured him that, while many Hempstead Board members favored the Lighthouse, they would "ask good questions" on Tuesday.
These questions will likely center around specifics of the Lighthouse proposal, as well as the size and scope. The optimist would say this is a tactic for the Town of Hempstead to become comfortable enough with what the Lighthouse is going to do to approve the project and let the real work begin.
Personally, I think the type of questions asked will shed considerable light (no pun intended) on the Town, its motives, and, ultimately, its capacity to handle a project like this. Many of us here sat through the environmental scoping hearing in February in which, before the Lighthouse came on the docket, the Town Board interrogated two people wanting to renovate a body shop in Bellmore for nearly 45 minutes. The questions were largely minutia, and many were of questionable relevance.
I am very interested to see how granular the Town of Hempstead wants to go here. Will they ask questions about the goals and vision, will we hear about the lamppost designs and what specific plants they plan to use in the landscaping, or will the truth be somewhere in between? I for one am very interested to see the response.
It will also be interesting to see if any new environmental issues are raised at this hearing. This should have been taken care of, and future planned pieces will cover some of these issues, but we should be vigilant.
Finally, I am interested to see if there is any mention of the lease, which is controlled by Nassau County but is now subject to conditions leveled by the Town of Hempstead in the only way it can: saying the Town will deny zoning if certain provisions are not in the lease. It will also be interesting to see how this is handled at the hearing. Many of the Town's questions were not unreasonable, and I have already shared my opinion on this, but further discussion may more fully illuminate the Town's intentions.
I have played up the importance of the previous public meetings because, as the process has gone on, each one has been an important check-point. However, this re-zoning hearing is the biggest thing we will experience throughout the Lighthouse process.
This is our moment.
This is the culmination of all that so many people have stood up and fought for.
This is one of the biggest days in Long Island history, and it is the most important day in New York Islanders history since Lord Stanley made his last appearance on Hempstead Turnpike.
I will be there - all day.
We know there will not be a vote, but I'm hoping for two particular outcomes:
- Proof that a broad base of support exists for the Lighthouse across the community.
- A clear understanding of the issues the Town of Hempstead has, and what will have to be done to ensure final approval of the re-zoning application.
(Also, check out my handy guide to getting from Hofstra Parking on the north side of Hempstead Turnpike to the John Cranford Adams Playhouse on the south side)
Please share your thoughts in comments. Petition. Email Me. Follow me on Twitter.
L'shana Tova to all my Jewish friends.