Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Ed Mangano's Neon Idea

"The only monster here is the gambling monster that has enslaved your mother! I call him Gamblor, and it's time to free your mother from his neon claws!"
-Homer Simpson, "$pringfield"

Ed Mangano finally revealed his most substantive thinking on the problem of the Nassau Coliseum property since he was sworn in as County Executive.

When I read it, I had to check the calendar to make sure this wasn't April Fool's Day.

You all read it correctly in Newsday (subscription required): Ed Mangano revealed negotiations with the Shinnecock Nation to build a casino, resort, and a new hockey arena on the Nassau Coliseum property, "should the Lighthouse not succeed."

I'm going to try to split this out into logical groupings: initial reaction, interpretation, whether this could ever actually fly, and moving forward.

Initial Reaction

When I first heard this, I thought the new County Executive must be kidding, because the issues with putting a casino in such a central location in Nassau County are almost too numerous to list.

Connecticut required both Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun to be built in less-populated areas that are accessible via highway.

Kate Murray and the Town of Hempstead put on a very good show complaining about the traffic that a completed Lighthouse Project would bring, trying to scare residents with a dark vision of a car-choked suburbia that in essence would no longer be suburbia.  A casino, which would operate 24/7 and attract large busloads of people from all over the region, would almost certainly create much more of a traffic nightmare than the Lighthouse Project ever could.

According to my friend B.D. Gallof, Gamblers Anonymous reports that gambling addictions among young Long Islanders have reached near-epidemic levels.  T he County Executive's proposed solution to this is to place a casino directly in the middle of two colleges (Hofstra University and Nassau Community College), and within easy driving distance of multiple other colleges and even high schools, including Uniondale High School, Hempstead High School, Sacred Heart, Hebrew Academy of Nassau County, and my alma mater, Kellenberg Memorial.

I also thought about the opposition to the currently-proposed project.  There are many people who consider the Lighthouse Project as something that would create "impossible" issues (a meme loyally parroted by a now-departed newspaper reporter).  In addition, as the months-old disputes with people who wanted to make me the issue (speaking of which, Christine Mullaney, I'm still waiting for your email, nearly 7 months later) show, there are people in the village of Garden City who consider light rail and small apartment buildings blight.  What would these individuals think about a casino?

More than anything else, I couldn't help but think of what a wasted opportunity this ridiculous casino idea would represent.  Would the County Executive seriously propose to take the most widely-supported large project in Long Island's history, a project that promised to catalyze development and social change to address Long Island's major issues, and replace it with card tables and slot machines?  Is he really prepared to push the panic button and say Long Island can't solve its problems without resorting to the oldest revenue-generating scheme in the book? Would he really transform a proposed suburban oasis into a property known to attract crime, drugs, and other vices, and place it right in the middle of the County?***

Seriously, I'd star in the print ads myself if this garbage ever actually got off the ground.  Once I moved off Long Island (and trust me, it's coming), I'd pose for a print ad holding a sign that said "ED MANGANO CARES MORE ABOUT A CASINO THAN KEEPING ME ON LONG ISLAND."

Ed Mangano's official Twitter account (@edmangano, for those who don't follow him) asked yesterday what Nassau County thought of this.  I told him that I thought it must be a joke, but nobody is laughing.

***It's worth noting I'm not against casino gaming in its entirety.  My biggest problem with gambling is that I'm bad at it.  However, there are proper locations for a casino, just like there are proper locations for anything else, and I can't see a casino working in that particular place.


This decision smacked of an administration in Mineola that pushed the panic button.  Casino gaming is seen as a cheap way to revitalize a downtrodden area, but casinos can only generate any stimulative effects if they cater to tourists, and almost all economic activity is generated at the casino complex itself.

This must be the time of year that brings out the crazy in our elected officials, because it was last March when the Town of Hempstead hallucinated that President Obama's stimulus funds could be used to pay for a new Coliseum, and they actually had the gall to chide the Lighthouse for not putting Islanders fans first.

Speaking of the Town, Kate Murray professed to be "surprised" by the County Executive's announcement.  Surprised?  Seriously?  If I were working in good faith on a vision for the Coliseum site only to see Ed Mangano ride in from nowhere with a casino fantasy, I'd be a lot more than surprised.  B.D. has promised follow-ups from the Town, and their reactions will be telling.

More than anything, this smacks of a Nassau County looking for the easy way out and never acknowledging the County's role in getting us to this point.  Ed Mangano wasn't in office when the Coliseum was built through a compromise (remember, original plans called for something more like Joe Louis Arena in Detroit with an underground station for the Long Island Rail Road), nor was he in office when arena management was bungled repeatedly.  It was reported during the "pigs at the trough" crisis over 11 years ago that Nassau County only spent $50,000 per year on Coliseum maintenance, when similar government bodies were spending upwards of $2 million per year.  Nassau County has never acknowledged its role in this mess, and it once again is trying to get something for nothing - but this time they are seemingly ignoring ancillary costs to the community.

I also began to wonder if this was the culmination of what we had long feared: that the Republican Party might not want people to live at the Coliseum site.  Remember, last year sources said the Town of Hempstead was asking about the political affiliations of people who are predisposed to living in that type of housing.  In the same vein, other connected Republican sources spoke about a desire to block housing at the Coliseum property to prevent "a bunch of New York City Democrats" from moving in.  It's worth questioning, then, if the current administrations genuinely want to address the problems the Lighthouse Project promised to catalyze.  It says something if they genuinely believe a casino is a better outcome than a few thousand people who may or may not belong to the other political party.

It could also be an attempted retribution at a Lighthouse Development Group that fully hitched its wagon to Tom Suozzi's fading star and allowed the doomed Kristen McElroy to shake hands inside Nassau Coliseum on game days.

By the way, it's not surprising the NHL is ambivalent about the proposal; I'm only surprised that people would be surprised.  The NHL wants healthy franchises and new buildings, and they don't care if a building is financed by a casino as long as the arena itself isn't a casino.

Could This Fly?

When the story first broke yesterday, many readers and observers, wondering if this was simply a ploy, asked the right questions, wondering if this was even a feasible plan to begin with.  I want, desperately, to believe that this ridiculous stunt is a red herring, and while there is evidence that it could be, there is also a mountain of evidence that it isn't.

First of all, at least in my theory of negotiating, you present an alternative that makes sense in order to motivate the other side into negotiating.  Something so patently ridiculous, and which has drawn swift condemnation from almost everyone, doesn't motivate Charles Wang to come to the table with the intent of making a deal.  If that had been Mangano's plan, he could have just as easily made a big show of meeting with Mack-Cali, a commercial real estate developer with vast resources whose founder was found to be a large donor to the Mangano campaign post-election by....this web site.

Some wonder if this is a ploy, but by the Shinnecock Nation rather than Mangano himself.  After all, the Shinnecocks, whose reservation is in Southampton, have been trying unsuccessfully for years to build a casino in Suffolk County.  However, this doesn't make sense either.  If the Shinnecocks were using this for pure PR, they would have been ready with a statement, but we haven't heard anything from them.  They seemed to be caught unaware, just like Messrs. Wang and Rechler (one source close to Rechler said that Rechler wasn't informed of this in advance).  Looks, on the surface, like it's all Mangano.

I was pinged by another reliable source shortly after this broke who helped to put this in deeper perspective.  This source told me the Shinnecock Nation is deeply connected to Al D'Amato, and this could be an issue of cronyism.  Expect more on this as we fire up the ol' investigative arm.

Building on this, we can't forget the meeting that the Assembly Republicans sponsored last April 4 at Nassau Coliseum.  I couldn't go, but B.D. pinch-hit for me, and he mentioned at the time that casino gaming was one of the priorities for those hoping to increase Long Island tourism.

Let's see....

Too crazy to be a ploy?  Check.

Shinnecocks and Lighthouse not prepared in advance?  Check.

Shinnecocks connected to Republicans?  Check.

Casino gaming a Republican priority?  Check.

I think that's enough to take this very seriously.

Moving Forward

I expect to see a resolution on the Lighthouse once and for all this year, but in an ironic twist of fate, Ed Mangano may have just done the Lighthouse a monumental favor.  As we said, the opposition, which never topped 25% in any opinion poll, is largely centered around a few Property Owners' Associations in Garden City who are deeply concerned about blight.  I'd have to imagine the Lighthouse Project looks pretty good when the most viable proposed alternative is a casino, and it may lead to a unified push for Nassau County and the Town of Hempstead to reach an agreement with Charles Wang.

In the same vein, this patent nonsense could be the last push for Charles Wang and the New York Islanders to seek other options.  Many frustrated hockey fans push Queens, but, to borrow an old phrase, the arena currently under construction in Brooklyn is a bird in the hand.  In addition, sources say Charles Wang and Bruce Ratner do have a cordial relationship, and while Mr. Wang may not want to play second fiddle he could be persuaded by his ultimate prize: a piece of the soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets.  Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov purchased 80% of the Nets, leaving 20% to Bruce Ratner.  One wonders if a stake in the Nets and the Atlantic Yards development could push Wang to the Atlantic Terminal and away from the Hempstead Plain.  With the rhetoric still flying from the Town and a County suddenly interested in looking elsewhere, it could also represent the final nail in the coffin.

I think we should examine where this goes, and whether the casino proposal has legs from the County perspective.

Bottom Line

This came as a shock to the system, as many saw our shared Island dream potentially dissolve into dice thrown across a craps table.  I'm still hoping this is a ploy, despite the evidence to the contrary, but that doesn't mean we can't share our opinion.  The County Executive must understand this kind of ridiculous proposal can't fly in that location, and if he continues to believe it is a good solution, it might raise fair questions about his handling of the situation and his knowledge of the issue.

Please share your thoughts in comments. Petition. Email. Twitter. Facebook.


  1. Unbelievable...

    This kinda sums up my thoughts..

  2. WOW!!!!

    I thought Murray and the ToH looked bad enough in the way they have handled this situation but then Mangano comes along and totally out did them.


  3. my post from Islandermania :)

    "It's funny. With all of the issues that the TOH had with the Lighthouse project (traffic, water drainage, Garbage, overcrowding and the GC's complaint of an "undesirable element" in the affordable housing part of the project) that the problems will probably be magnified ten fold with a casino.

    This casino plan, if actually proposed, will either split Mangano with the TOH or paint the whole lot of them as the biggest hypocrites on record."

    According to your research it seemed that the TOH was as taken aback as we were so I guess the former choice of a split between Mangano and the TOH seems more likely at this time.....

    However this seems like a desperate ploy to make it seem that Mangano is riding in on a white horse.

    However this is the most ridiculous proposal I have ever seen for the site, considering the TOH's and more specifically Garden City's sticking points for the LHP.


  4. I told you Mangano was a fraud. It pains me to think that this is where the county is going. To think that Nassau is being run by some moron who thinks a Casino in the middle of Suburbia is a good idea. While the Lighthouse was big, there was a sense of family with the canal or at celebration plaza (very Disney), it was a place I had dreamt of bringing my kids. I highly doubt there'd be room for my kids in my Casino dreams.

  5. Derek,

    I did not even touch on that ( I believe I made a similar comment on Twitter) but I could not agree with you more.


  6. Serious decisions are made by serious people. Foolish and corrupt decisions are made by fools and crooks....the Republicanachine of Nassau County would seem by history to be the party of the later ( and I include Murray, Mangano, DaMato, and all the ignorant ideologues who blindly vote for these ummm, the exact term eludes me).

  7. Great post as usual Nick.
    I can't even fathom how ridiculous this prospect would be and how there never seems to be an ending saga. A casino over apartment style housing, ice rinks, parks, needed office space? How do these people get elected?

    As soon story broke I knew that The Lighthouse would either have:
    1. No comment.
    2. Say they are waiting for Kate Murray to say YES or NO.

    At this point, I'd be surprised if we have a resolution one way or another this year. However, when we do, it will come fast, swift and unexpected. I can envision waking up one day to read that Wang has entered into agreement with Ratner without any forewarning.

  8. THIS JUST IN: Ringling Brothers to build permanent 3-ring circus at the Coliseum. One ring for Ed Mangano. One for Charles Wang. And center-stage for the one and only Kate Murray.

    Step right up ladies, gentlemen, and taxpayers of all ages, and see the greatest sideshow on earth!

    Read The Community Alliance blog at

  9. BD's piece with his TOH contact is up on hockey independent. Lost among the tidbits that his contact tells him about the casino plan is this gem: Even if the Town and Wang agree to the scope of a new plan proposed by the Town, the new Republican controlled County Legislature intends to kill the lease deal agreed upon between Wang and Suozzi because they view it as a sweetheart deal for Wang. The hits just keep a comin'.

  10. mrlbem - the Town has been complaining about that "sweetheart" deal almost from the second Suozzi signed it on October 1. Expect them to cause much more trouble, for no apparent reason, should it ever get to that point with Charles Wang.

    Otherwise, I agree with the rest of you. This is a shocking step that I sincerely hope goes nowhere. Especially in light of all the (weak) arguments against the Lighthouse, nobody who doesn't want to be exposed as a massive hypocrite could in good conscience now support a casino.

    Here's 2 other interesting things:

    1. Wouldn't they have to declare the Coliseum property a Shinnecock reservation for the casino to even be built? At that point, wouldn't the state have to be involved? After Gov. Paterson's adventures with the Belmont Racetrack, will this work? Paterson already spoke of declaring the Coliseum site an Empire Zone to facilitate the Lighthouse Project. Also, if it's a reservation, would we still receive any tax revenue?

    2. Another reader (and a few media outlets) reported a meeting between Shinnecock beneficiary Al D'Amato and Ed Mangano yesterday, right around the unveiling of this ridiculous stunt. Interesting, eh?

  11. I just can't imagine there not being an ulterior motive here. I simply cannot believe that Mangano views this as a serious proposal. He can't possibly be that stupid.

  12. One thing the casino will have going for it than the Lighthouse did. It will not have to go through TOH zoning. It will have Federal Zoning Status. The Feds will have to recognize them which will happen by July. The state will then have to approve the Coliseum land for the Casino and then they pretty much can stick a shovel in the ground.

  13. Hi there, I had an inkling something was coming after talking to a Republican insider 12 days ago, you can probably figure out who it was if you watch NY1's Political Wise all makes a lot of sense now ---

  14. I cant believe there has not been a statement from Garden City yet. What about your loathing of buses and transit? Your alleged loyalties to the suburban way of life and not wanting LI to be "like a city"? 24hour gambling is fine with these NIMBYs lol?

  15. It's a good thing to know that the Republican Party is extremely transparent when it comes to their corruption. They're not even hiding it anymore.

    This is a statement for Mangano:
    But in a statement Wednesday, Mangano said: "A casino will have significantly fewer traffic concerns than the current project pending. Although we are in preliminary stages, traffic mitigation must be addressed if this concept is to move forward."

    How the F*** could this idiot say that when the fact is:
    The most heavily trafficked road near the Connecticut casinos - Route 2A in Montville - sees about 41,000 vehicles daily according to the study, up from 16,800 vehicles daily in 1992 before the casinos were built.

    All this from a newsday article:

  16. I'm not against gambling but that is not the spot to put it, plain and simple. I just wish all this BS will end and something will come out by summer yay or nay. A casino is a 24/7 operation as we all know, Wang proposal is not, is his propsal to big yes I said that from the start. I think he went that big to get what he wanted about 60% of the original plan. Mr Mangano if the lighthouse plan is done the right way then it will bring to the tax revenue and job's that Nassau and Long Island need's and keep the Islanders where they belong on Long Island. In the end like I said earlier we need to get an answer this summer as this has gone on way to LONG.

  17. The reason for all the Republican adversity towards the Lighthouse is very likely just a personal vendetta courtesy of Al D'Amato. Just "Wilkpedia" D'Amato and see his history of power and corruption on Long Island. His falling out with Wang is all you need to know about why this project can't maintain traction. The D'Amato brother that Wang wouldn't do business with on the Lighthouse project has also kept some interesting company in his day. This isn't about right or left wing politics or the political leanings of who might live at Lighthouse condos. Its not about the size of the project or aesthetics. Its not about traffic conjestion or the size of a highrise or water aquifers. The bottom line, simply, is that when the Republicans speak of Wang, they say "he is not a friend of ours" and they have been trying to find reasons to not let this project happen for years. The question is, what can you do about an out of control corrupt multi-layered system?

    Paul in Canada

  18. County Executive Mango posted the video of the Casino proposal on Facebook. What a douche

  19. I don't know if anyone has seen this article in the Buffalo News but it states that the Mets are in talks with the Islanders about building a new arena near the new Mets stadium. I will double as the Indoor Soccer stadium as well. It also mentions that the owner of the Mets may want to buy the Islanders. Here it is:

  20. You know when you look in someone's eyes and you can see if the lights are really on. Do I really need to say anymore?

    I am pretty sure that this casino project will be a go, but at present Mr. (and I use the term veeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrryyyyyyyyyyy loosely) Mangano is too busy working on his former proposal to make Long Island the 51st state (if Puerto Rico doesn't get there first). That will surely be a slam dunk in Albany as LI is such a drain on the resources of NYS.

    Mr. Mangano seems like he needs to be doing a dead pan set at Governor's Comedy club, because the stuff is just so damn comical. My 3rd grader could see through the holes in both of these plans just on their surface. The fact that the media sources are actually making these issues cover stories is almost as much of an indictment of them for not having the journalistic balls to pound the hell out of him.

    Hey Ed, I was just having lunch in the Food Court at Roosevelt Field. I don't know what it is, but I just had the inkling that we should see if we can bring back the Zeppelin's, you know, like the one's that float around the Coliseum between perioud's of the Islander games. We could dock them right there at Mitchell Field. It's gold Ed, I tell you, pure gold.

    What a buffoon!!!!!