Sunday, February 7, 2010

No Communication? Not Quite

For about 2 weeks, sources have been whispering that "big news" about the Lighthouse Project was "imminent."  We finally got a bit more clarity on what that will be yesterday, and that's why it seemed so interesting that Charles Wang was suddenly dropping in on the Islanders broadcast, and Howie Rose suggestively mentioned a potential update on the Lighthouse Project.  

I thought this was a great plan, a way to proactively counter what I heard was coming from the Town of Hempstead.  However, the interview was fairly tame, with Mr. Wang dodging any question directly related to the Lighthouse and claiming there had been "no communication" with the Town since his October 3 "certainty" deadline passed.  

Mr. Wang repeated what has now become his mantra: Just tell me Yes or No.

You know I have little love for the Town of Hempstead's policies, especially since their asinine policy of not meeting with developers during a review has largely created the impasse.  Active communication at the beginning would have likely led to the new Coliseum being finished right now, and I think it's utterly inexcusable that, over 5 years after the project was first publicly unveiled, we still have no indication of the Town of Hempstead's thinking.  Sources have told me Kate Murray, citing that "she will eventually have to vote on it," begged off meetings with the Lighthouse principals as early as 2003.

However, when you talk about the recent issues, the blame for many of them can be laid solely at the feet of Charles Wang and the Lighthouse Project.

First, according to multiple sources, the report of no communication since October 3 is simply not true.  Charles Wang and Kate Murray apparently met over breakfast in the middle of October, with each side agreeing to keep negotiations out of the media and work together for a common purpose.  Once the election began to change, beyond anyone's expectations, each side went dark.  This was only exacerbated by that Long Island Press report that the Lighthouse Project is dead.

I've repeatedly criticized the media blackout by the Lighthouse, saying it did not serve their purposes and allowed the Town of Hempstead to seize control of the debate through ridiculous statements claiming the proposed project is as dense as the Upper West Side of Manhattan (if it were 8 times larger and had 3 times the population density).

With the economy being what it is, a favorite Town of Hempstead talking point has centered around financing, an especially salient issue given the conditions of the U.S. economy.  I've thought for a long time that financing would not be an issue because a) the project would be built over 10 years, b) the Lighthouse could sell development rights to certain parts of the project as part of the financing, and c) Messrs. Wang and Rechler have equity in the site, through the team, the Marriott, and the Rexcorp property surrounding the Coliseum site.  Others have doubted me, and it came up repeatedly in the Re-Zoning hearing.

This is where it is coming to a head.  I reported previously that the billing dispute with environmental consultants Frederick P. Clark Associates (of Westchester), which briefly flared up in September, is now back, with the consultants not working for months.

The Town of Hempstead is using this and the recent total quiet from the Lighthouse to suggest that the Lighthouse doesn't have the financing to see the project through and is now trying to run out the clock.  Given all the recent moves from the Lighthouse, it's not even an unreasonable thing to wonder anymore. 

Meanwhile, Charles Wang continues to blame the Town and insist he just needs to hear yes or no - even though they can't by law consider re-zoning for the Lighthouse until the environmental review is complete.  The environmental review can't be complete until all issues are addressed. All issues can't be addressed if the Town's environmental consultant is not working.

Both sides are about to go at each other again.  B.D. Gallof (who wrote a wonderful piece on this....drop into Hockey Independent to see what condition our condition is in) have heard whispers from other sources that we will not be sure of the true nature of this until the Town's next move.  Apparently, the Town of Hempstead will be calling a press conference to up the ante and increase pressure on Charles Wang to fulfill his part of the bargain.

It's very hard to see the end-game here.  Nassau County, which Mr. Wang re-iterated is his top preference, has its own set of problems, including an intransigent government that has not seen itself as a partner throughout this process.  Queens could be an option, but 29 developers submitted bids, so the Lighthouse would have to do significant lobbying and dealing to give themselves an edge.  Traffic detours are going up in Brooklyn - I saw them for myself last week - but the Nets are moving to the Prudential Center in Newark as a "temporary" waystation.  With the rabid Brooklyn opposition planning more lawsuits, that move could end up being permanent.

One thing is clear: after sacrificing so much for a dream we made our own, the Lighthouse Project's silence feels like a slap in the face.  It doesn't matter whether we are for it in the exact way some people wish; we want this to happen and we have come whenever asked.

In the same vein, we elected the Town of Hempstead representatives to defend our best interests.  While I do not believe Charles Wang should get everything he wants - and it is very clear there would need to be at least a 20% reduction for this to get done - I have never seen a group of people willing to invest billions of private dollars into an area treated so badly.  Economic development is not and should not be treated by our government as an inconvenience.

At this point, we deserve the truth.

We deserve honest negotiations.

Stop pointing the finger at each other.

Start working together, and, if that is no longer possible, drop this charade. 

One thing's for sure: things will get worse before they have a chance of getting better.

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  1. This whole project has become a joke. I'm at the point where I wish he would see this team to someone who can just build them a dam arena in Brooklyn or Queens and leave this crap behind.

  2. See here's the're acting as if that's a given. Any new owner would have the same economic realities, and any new owner would have to deal with either a bidding process or another party to do tat.

  3. just as with the team's play, i've learned to expect, anticipate, and look forward to NOTHING when it comes to the LH. but - if you tried for several years to get a big project done in a community to which you professed undying committment and loyalty, then finally came to accept it was never going to happen, would you publicly back out and be the one to walk away BEFORE A PLAN B was in place, or would you pull back discreetly and work very quietly on the other scenario, which you kept completely under wraps (for good reason)until you were ready to introduce it at a time that works best for you?
    who knows what's going to happen? but one surely might see the owner's actions (moreso lack thereof) during the last few months, along with some ripples from other quarters (ie. marty), as a hint as to his intent.

  4. Sounds like things will most likely be ugly over the next month or so between the town and lighthouse, but hopefully this mud slinging will lead to real communication. The only way this get's done is if Wang and Murray can meet in the middle and accept a 20% reduction on the scope of the project.


  5. I've been a big fan of Wang, but I feel like it's at a point where he is just as evil as the TOH. He is trying to lay blame on the TOH on why the Islanders will no longer be here and he is using blogs like this one as a way to make us angry at the TOH. I can't stand Murray, D'mato, Mondello or any of those guys, but I think you should just make this site go dark as well.

  6. Wang, wtf are you up to?!?!?Isles fans are having anxiety attacks everywhere and you sit and act as if the LHP is a non story!!!!If you're backing out then say it if not fight for it!!!!The fans fought for your dream and you keep us in the dark???

  7. I'm sorry, but if this doesn't happen, I will always blame Kate Murray and the Town of Hempstead. They are nothing but a bunch of corrupt obstructionists. If this project was almost anywhere else in the country, it would already be well underway. The County needs the facility, the housing, the jobs, and the tax revenue it will create, and yet Murray stone walls the whole thing. Unbelievable!

  8. things seem to be heating up.

  9. More details are starting to trickle out. I've heard conflicting reports from sources so I'm just going to say it and hold off analysis until the news embargo is lifted.

  10. Anthony, I don't understand your point, especially considering that I've been just as hard on Charles Wang as I am on the Town of Hempstead.

    It's fair enough that you think the blog should go dark, so please indulge me and support your position. Otherwise, it's totally fine if you choose not to read anymore.

  11. I believe that the Island is going to disappear into a bunch of strip malls and over 55 homes. Whether or not the LHP is getting built, the fact that it is taking this long and so much bs getting in the way from the town (like you Nick, I thing that Charles' actions after Oct 3 leaves one scratching their head, but I digress) The already prevalent reputation of Long Island that nothing can get done has been set in concrete with the way the TOH is blocking the Lighthouse. I'm sorry to say but at this point, I don't think that the project can be the stimulus that it should have been and I cast Murray and company the blame.

  12. Perhaps Wang said he hasn't talked to TOH since last September because his negotiations with TOH in October haven't amounted to anything productive. Also, he may have been asking TOH yes or no just to get out of his commitment to Lighthouse while lining up his other options.

  13. Bottom Line:

    Yes or No

    Pick one, TOH.

    And if it's a no, folks, be sure that there is a PLAN B that is already WELL underway.

    What's going on behind the scenes is ALWAYS more substantial than what's going on out in the open.

    -Big Van Vader

  14. Jae - the second part of that seems more in line with TOH's thinking. They don't think he has the financing, and they believe this is a stall tactic, so they're attempting to pin him down.

  15. Nick, I think you are doing a great job with this blog and I will continue to follow it for Lighthouse news. You are doing a much better job than Newsday, but I am having a hard time rallying behind Wang these days... I'm a season Ticket holder and even going to the games have been tough lately. I think Wang's speech on Saturday was just a way to get us to put all blame on the TOH when all this falls through. Don't get me wrong, what the TOH are doing today should of been done 2 years ago, but Wang has to understand that he is losing support from his fans as well. Why was he dark for 3 months? Why didn't he answer phone calls from the COunty Executive? it's a big "FU" to us fans that supported him - including you with this great site.

  16. Anthony, in that sense I don't disagree with you. I believe in the project as a proposal and not necessarily Charles Wang as a person. The man did a lot of good with this proposal and in the last few months has totally destroyed whatever positive momentum that was going on.

    The Town of Hempstead will not come out of this looking like heroes, regardless of how it ends. However, you're 100% correct that most of the recent issues are Charles Wang's doing. I wish I could tell you why this is happening; the Town thinks it's a stall tactic because he can't get financing, and others wonder if he's trying to quietly pursue other options while keeping this in his back pocket.

    One thing's for certain: an organization that largely got the level of support it did through openness and engagement is not helping its cause through its recent behavior.

  17. And by that comment, I mean that I supported this because I thought it was a good project, not because I thought Charles Wang should be canonized. It doesn't mean I think he's a bad person, it means my support for this project has always been from a technical end.

  18. You mentioned that the information you are holding is due to Journalism ethics. I respect that, but is this info that we will find out today?

  19. Cat's out of the bag now....full post is being written.