Saturday, April 24, 2010

Lighthouse Takes Down Web Site, Replaces With Placeholder


For the last few weeks, we have heard very little about the Lighthouse process that was not rumor and innuendo.  Anxious bloggers and supporters (myself included) still hoped against hope that we would hear something from the Lighthouse to break their silence, especially in the face of rumors from well-connected sources that the Lighthouse Principals could be dissolving their partnership, thus  effectively ending the project.

In fact, the most vocal person in the past several months has been NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who has never missed an opportunity to speak to the media and accuse the Town of Hempstead of "stalling" the project and "dragging it out" for years.  As the Town took control of the process and sent even more misleading and anti-project letters to area citizens (more on that later), we still have not heard anything from the Lighthouse.

Yesterday, in a way, the Lighthouse Project spoke, though it is likely not the way any of us would have hoped they would (hat tip to Islanderbill for first alerting me to this, by the way).  Now, visitors to the Lighthouse Project web site are not greeted with the grand, $3.7 billion vision for suburban renewal; rather, they see this:

(Click Here to see full-size)

Many, including myself, were taken aback by this, because it is the clearest broadside against the Town of Hempstead in months.  Since the Lighthouse Project refuses to speak on the record, even though some sources are still insisting behind the scenes that it's not dead, we are forced to come up with our own suggestions and questions.  As I've seen before, there is an optimistic view to this, a pessimistic view, and questions that need to be answered:

Optimistic View

Until there is official word from someone directly involved in the process, we can't assume the Lighthouse Project is dead.  In addition, the Town of Hempstead and the Lighthouse are still operating under the Designated Developer Agreement between Nassau County and the Lighthouse that was approved during the administration of the current County Executive, Tom Suozzi (current County Executive Ed Mangano voted in favor of the measure as a County Legislator). Some people believe that this is simply a gesture by Charles Wang and the Lighthouse that they are willing to work with the Town of Hempstead in an attempt to make a deal.

If the original plan is no longer available online, then it has become clear that Mr. Wang and his group recognize that they will not be able to build the project as originally proposed.  They are now signaling a willingness to work, as long as it achieves the goal of a good project that will be profitable, benefit the community, and allow the New York Islanders to remain in their rightful home.

This point of view reflects what I have previously called the "dirty little secret" in the Lighthouse process: it is easiest for both sides to come to a deal, since the alternatives are difficult for both sides:

Lighthouse Project: The options for moving the Islanders within the area, or of another project with similar commercial benefit, are slim at this point.  The Brooklyn arena continues to be built, with the last hold-out having finally sold his property last week, but it would still require a retrofit, and some, especially those against the Atlantic Yards proposal to begin with, have called Brooklyn a "fantasy" of desperate hockey fans and political hacks like the Brooklyn Borough President.  In addition, as mentioned before, Queens would require a similar process, which the Lighthouse acknowledges has already gone on for 7 years here.  The city would be on board, but the local community would not be in any way close to what we see with the Lighthouse.  I don't know whether the Lighthouse Project would want to either start over or become a tenant somewhere else, regardless of how badly many hockey fans hope it happens (count me in that group, in the event the Lighthouse can't happen).

Town of Hempstead: The Town has botched the Lighthouse process since Day 1, refusing to meet with the developers and relying on tricks like that phony stimulus drive which merely assume the stupidity of Town of Hempstead voters.  Even though Kate Murray and the Town Board were overwhelmingly returned to office, you wonder if the Town could handle the debacle of losing a project the vast majority of citizens want (remember, in the latest News 12/Hofstra poll, supporters outnumber opponents 2:1, and if you scaled the project down that number nears 3:1).  The Town loves to harp on financing, but any other developer would encounter the same financing issues as the Lighthouse Project.

In the same vein, the Town seems prepared to gut the Lighthouse Project beyond all recognition, if you trust the rhetoric.  However, as another blogger has pointed out, what message would that send?  If the Town starts using a machete on the project, the headlines write themselves:

TOWN OF HEMPSTEAD IS AGAINST A RENOVATED NASSAU COLISEUM

TOWN OF HEMPSTEAD IS AGAINST AFFORDABLE HOUSING

TOWN OF HEMPSTEAD IS AGAINST ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

TOWN OF HEMPSTEAD ADVOCATES MORE OF THE SAME

It's much harder to spin that, and we are not as gullible as the Town would like to believe.

Pessimistic View

Many others believe this is a charade that is delaying the inevitable.  To these people, the Town is going to gut the Lighthouse Project beyond all recognition in an attempt to win the post-game spin.  You could just hear the Supervisor parroting the half-truth that "The Town offered Charles Wang a reasonable proposal, and he decided to walk away."

The Lighthouse, in the same vein, could be making vague signals about cooperation, but they still stopped paying environmental consultants F.P. Clark over half a year ago.  Some, including astute reader Derek, believe this is because the Lighthouse wants to place the onus on the Town of Hempstead to tell them what can and can't be built, but still others believe that it's yet another case of actions speaking louder than words.

I do not know which side is right, but you could definitely see how many can interpret the statement on the Lighthouse web site as an opening salvo in the spin wars that will almost certainly ensue in the event the project ceases to be.  

Questions

As we move forward now, we need to ask certain questions of both sides to increase our understanding:
  • Are the 2 sides meeting and negotiating?
  • Are the 2 sides both demonstrating a desire to get a project done?
  • What kind of reduction will either side accept?
  • How hardened are those positions
  • When will someone say something in public?
We may not know the sound of 1 hand clapping, but with the Lighthouse gone silent and the Town spinning and exaggerating with seeming impunity, we do know the sound of 1 side debating.  It's enough.

Bottom Line

I've said (in more of a hopeful tone than anything else) that we will likely have closure on the Lighthouse Project issue in a matter of months.  We are all hoping for a solid resolution to this that will improve our community and provide a stable home for the New York Islanders, but, more than that, we want to know the truth.  We need to know if the sides are negotiating in good faith, or whether this is just the start of what promises to be a bitter and ugly blame game.

No more slogans.  No more finger-pointing.  We want answers.


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16 comments:

  1. Steve (formerly Jae)April 24, 2010 at 3:29 PM

    Hi Nick, I am not so sure about the chances of the Islanders moving within the area are "slim". Gary Bettman did NOT refute a rumor that the Islanders have been talking with NYC officials about possible move to Queens. The source who brought that rumor up told this to either Boomer and Carlin (who interviewed Bettman about this rumour earlier this month). Also, in his interview with Howie Rose on January 2010, Wang said "We would like to remain in Nassau County, Long Island, but we are actively looking at other options." Other recent developments: 1. Islanders signed a sub-lease that allows the Islanders to leave NVMC before 2015 on Dec 2009 2. Ratner saying the Islanders are "certainly an option" on March 2010 perhaps Wang is planning a move into NYC unless he gets something from Fat Murray that will blow him out of water (a highly unlikely scenario). You once said that Mangano tried to reach Wang twice but Wang ignored it. If that rumor is true combined with other developments and NYC rumors that Wang did not refute, I think it's more unlikely that the Islanders will stay in Nassau County.

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  2. interesting development. i'm done analyzing, surmizing, hypothesizing and guessing. no outcome will be a shock.
    one thing though. for me the most important thing is "a stable home" for the team. i already know that "the truth" as to how it happens (or doesn't) we will never know.
    not really.

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  3. I wrote this piece last week and gained absolutely no traction in Islanders Country....a well connected individual who has been involved with the Islanders lease since the 1970s spoke to me but it has been totally ignored...http://www.examiner.com/x-3926-Business-of-Sports-Examiner~y2010m4d18-Is-the-left-wing-to-blame-for-Nassau-Countys-Lighthouse-Project-failure

    The political wise guy in the column that is quoted, you can figure out who it is if you follow New York media and politics. Thanks Evan

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  4. Hopefully Wang will swallow his pride and meet with that scoundrel, Murray, and negotiate something that he can work with. Its hard to ignore the pessimists view but the fact that Wanger spent, millions, upon millions, upon millions, into something he felt would revitalize LI and help make the Isles profitable and build them a new stadium, makes it hard for me to believe that he will just walk away from this without trying to make head way with Murray. Too much money is on the line. He must swallow his pride because foolish pride can be a mans wreckening...Humility is the greatest asset a man can have...I think Wanger, has to bite the bullet, sit down with that heffer, and negotiate, if its possible to do so, without her playing politics...In the end he will get less than he envisioned but he should be able to make something happen that can be feasible for the Islander Franchise and hopefully keep the creation of jobs and the affordable homes, to make it financially viable for Wang so the Isles can stay for another 100 years..


    You cant always get what you want
    You cant always get what you want
    But if you try sometimes
    You might find
    You get what you need
    Ohhh Yeah!!

    Sing it Wanger!

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  5. Please just get something(or not) done this summer so we know where we stand as fans. I heard from a reliable source high in the front office that Wang has had the team appraised. To me that sound's like he's thrown in the white flag and is going to sell. I hope I'm wrong but if I'm right pleasse let be to a local guy or group. This has gone on way to LONG.

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  6. Thanks for the hat tip Nick.

    I am actually believing the pessimist side of this thing. With it mired in political gamesmanship the LHP, the Isles franchise (not the owner, for I believe he is approaching the level of blame that the TOH has), the Islander fans (like me :) ) and ultimately Nassau County itself will lose.

    Unfortunately like you stated in your blog, we have nothing to go on and we will have nothing to go on until after Memorial Day (I believe that was the eta for TOH's zoning ruling).

    Until then we can only speculate, hope and perhaps fear.

    --Islanderbill

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  7. Thanks for the shoutout Nick.

    I am forever an optimist and see nothing bad about this. My thought is that the death of the site is just a jab at the TOH and a calculated move to get people back on the LHG's side. This news had everyone scurrying to the site to read, first hand, what the LH had to say. The site thanks us for our support, it gives us (in favor) some 'talking points', and leaves us waiting for Murray and the TOH's decision.

    I believe that this is all working out the way Wang had expected. The plans, IMO, were purposely grand with thoughts that there would have to be eventual cuts. In all honesty, while I would love to see a sports technology building, is that really going to be a money maker for Wang? How about a minor league ballpark? How about all that office space (which may canibalize some of Rechler's real estate, over 2,000,000squfeet in Uniondale alone)? Wang's made some mistakes with LI Real Estate. He may have learned his lesson. I now believe that the Plan was more than 50% fluff so that when the TOH made cuts to it, Wang comes out looking like the good guy. Imagine the impression of Wang when he accepts the project after it is cut by 50%.
    Wang: It's not what I wanted, but it will help Long Island.
    The best part now is, that if/when the TOH comes out and offers him, ~50% of his original plan, and he 'unhappily' accepts, we are no longer looking at 10 years of construction. Proportionately only half needs to be built so it shouldn't take the full 10 years now.

    Remember this, Wang is a shrewd businessman, if it were up to some people he'd be in jail. He's not, instead he's working on a multi-billion dollar real estate project.

    How many of you really believe that he's going to let some mid-level local politician get over on him?

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  8. Derek,

    What you've stated above makes a whole lot of sense. I tend to agree with your statement. Between Wang and Rechler don't we all think that they, with their experience on LI and with the TOH in particular, (remember, this is not Rechlers first go around trying to get something built in the TOH;he knows FULL well how they operate)KNEW all this was going to happen to some extent? They very well may have planned for all this to happen. They probably KNEW the TOH would cut out 50% of it and planned accordingly. I wonder if we ran the figures on some of the proposed scaledown scenarios, would Wang and Rechler come out making money? Something tells me, they would. These are men that KNOW what they are doing. This has all been calculated. We have only to wait to see what the TOH will "allow" them to build. Something tells me, it will suit Wang and Rechler just fine and they will say, (maybe begrudgingly, for show)yes.

    My own feeling, but after so much invested, unless what's proposed is just a remodeled Coliseum,and it won't be,(TOH would be destroyed in the "media") I just can't see these guys just walking away.


    -Big Van Vader

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  9. I still believe that after the town presents its "plan" from upon high CW will then compare available options (Uniondale vs Queens), possibly even holding out as the Queens option becomes clearer...then and only then will he act IMHO...I do not think it will be close to being as simple as ToH speaks and he responds with a yes. Anyone who thinks there will be certainty any time soon isn't paying attention.

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  10. Thanks for keeping us up to date Nick ... I know it's hard when nobody is talking. My nephew was in Kindergarten when this whole thing started. Now he's talking about which HS in the area he'd like to go to for hockey in 2 years ... and I'm not kidding.

    The question I'd love answered ... What gets finished first ... The Lighthouse Project ... or The World Trade Center site ... so far the WTC site has a huge lead.

    We should all bring shovels to the draft party. LOL!

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  11. @anon 1:11

    After the TOH gives their plan, there is NO more negotiating. They are offering the blueprint of what CAN be put there. It's up to Wang to agree or not, there are other developers that want to build something on the site. If Wang drags his feet the County will find a way to renege on the deal to the LH and give the rights to someone else.
    Once the Town provides their plan, you can be certain that Wang and the LHG will take about a week or so to agree to continue or drop the right to build to someone else. This long and drawn out fiasco will come to an abrupt end when the new plan is unveiled.

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  12. Derek, a week or two? That's laughable. No way, no how. It will be significantly longer for CW to respond, and getting out of the development deal won't be easy. He will simply say he is reviewing the proposal and will respond after careful review with an alternative. THAT will not be done in two weeks.

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  13. Anon,

    Why would Wang want to prolong this any further?? If he doesn't like the plan or feel that he doesn't make enough money out of it, he has no reason to drag this out. If you are insinuating that Wang will be spitefull, then maybe you're right, but I just don't see it. He's asked what he can build. If he gets what he wants, I don't see him taking too long in putting a shovel in the ground. He also doesn't have the luxury of a negotiation. He asked for the TOH to tell him what he can build. They will give him his answer in the form of the new plan.
    A difference between a week or two maybe even a month is negligible. How long do you think it's going to take for Wang to respond, 6 months to a year?? The County would surely find a way out of the right to build if he started pulling shenanigans like that. In addition, the people that have supported him through this all would quickly turn on him. Not the way to go for someone that wants to provide a legacy on Long Island.
    Like I said before, once the Town provides the plan, look for an almost immediate, is that better, response from the LH. Wang will begrudgingly accept, stating that the LH is needed now and will be the catalyst to "Saving Long Island."

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  14. Derek, based on Bettman's non-refusal on rumors of Wang pursuing Queens, I think it is unlikely Wang will "begrudgingly accept" Fat Murray's proposal. If Queens could give him more development (and likely will), why should Wang just accept a raped version of his original plan from TOH?

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  15. Steve,

    I can't see Wang going through this entire process again. IMO the raped version of his original plan was what he was expecting from the beginning so it won't be a big deal. Also, Queens would basically be only 50% of the Original Lighthouse Plan as well. Plus he won't have to spend anymore money on reviews and plans.

    This whole conversation may be a mute point anyway after this whole Mangano/Shinnecock garbage.

    Hey GC, how's the Lighthouse looking now?

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  16. Let Mangano know what you think! Follow his fan page on facebook

    www.facebook.com/edwardmangano

    ReplyDelete

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