Yesterday at Town Hall, before a "roll back the raises" protest began, the Town of Hempstead voted unanimously to authorize its environmental consultant, Frederick P. Clark Associates, to prepare an alternative zoning plan for the Nassau Coliseum property.
This represents a major reversal for the Town of Hempstead, which has since 2003 refused to meet with the Lighthouse Development Group or Nassau County to discuss their vision for the 77-acre county-owned property, even though they hold final zoning authority over whatever is built there.
The Town of Hempstead credited itself for taking this "unusual step" in an effort to "jump-start the zoning process," which has stalled in previous months as the Lighthouse Project has gone dark and apparently ceased paying its bills to F.P. Clark, as it is required by law to do.
The Town of Hempstead, which appears to be financing this alternative zoning plan itself, outlined three main goals for the plan, which they expect will be finished in the summer of this year:
- It has to be a mixed-use development.
- A renovation plan for Nassau Coliseum, to keep the New York Islanders in the Town of Hempstead, must be included.
- The plan must serve as a model for "responsible" development.
The Town of Hempstead repeatedly indicated a willingness to work with Charles Wang, who was not present, because of the still-in-effect Designated Developer Agreement (DDA) between Nassau County and the Lighthouse Development Group.
Very few speakers attended, though our old friends from the Garden City Eastern Property Owners' Association made sure to tell the Town every problem they had with the project, and to characterize the behavior of Lighthouse supporters and the hearings in general as "awful" (I know, nice touch). Many others continued to use the same tired and discredited arguments against the project, such as citing current vacancy rates for office space and retail (Long Island has an abundance of Class B office space but is in dire need of Class A - the Class A space in the Lighthouse would actually grow the market, as would the retail, rather than cannibalize what's currently there). Still others cited the terrible conditions of the economy, because apparently the current conditions will hold in perpetuity and we should not do anything, anywhere, ever.
You can look at this development, the first significant movement in the Lighthouse approval process in months, with either an optimistic or pessimistic view:
The Town of Hempstead is finally coming forward with its own counter-proposal, and it is pledging to work with the Lighthouse every step of the way in an attempt to craft a compromise. Given the changes and issues we have seen, and the issues facing all other options for Charles Wang, the political will shown from the County and Town should provide the push to get this done.
The Town of Hempstead has repeatedly stressed the need for "responsible" development at the Coliseum site. That could be interpreted as either seeking prudent compromise or seeking to gut the very boldness that made the Lighthouse Project such a seminal moment in Long Island history. The pessimistic view is that the Town will gut the project to such a degree that the Lighthouse has no choice but to abandon its pursuit and clear the way for another developer.
Yesterday was a step toward final resolution of the Lighthouse Project. Hopefully the negotiations will proceed in a positive way, but I am for now reserving judgment.
We will be discussing transportation, financing, political issues, and many many more things. I have no shortage of material, just time.