This is a collaboration with B.D. Gallof. The same piece will also appear on Hockey Independent.
(This is not an April Fools)
April 1st, 2010
What began with a song and greeting: "Meet Me at the Lighthouse!", which even blared from a holiday card they sent us at the end of 2008, has turned into a whimper. As the lights have gone dark from some shake-up, more is coming clear...
The Lighthouse Project’s status is in question.
Rumors are swirling over financials, an issue the Town of Hempstead has been pushing for the better part of a year, even though any developer in the same position would likely have the same issues they were trying to pin on Charles Wang. Some sources have begun to whisper behind the scenes that, given the state of the economy and reportedly high vacancy rates in many properties, Scott Rechler may be having financial problems. Others have wondered aloud about Charles Wang's financial viability since back in November. Another rumor being bounced around is that Charles Wang will be indicted for something.
Lots of rumors, yet nothing of substance. The rumors are allowed and take shape simply due to the fact the Lighthouse Project have had their mouths clamped shut since mid-October.
Other sources are going even further, suggesting something far grimmer. Per these sources, Charles Wang and Scott Rechler may be taking steps to dissolve their partnership in the Lighthouse Development Group. This is an especially interesting situation, because Messrs. Wang and Rechler pooled their assets in and around Nassau Coliseum to form collateral for the Lighthouse group, making Mr. Rechler the de facto co-owner of the New York Islanders. If they are disengaging themselves, and while we have not heard either confirmation or denial from the Islanders or the Lighthouse despite attempts to reach out, the rumored "divorce" would explain many of the strange behavior over the past nearly six months.
This new rumor sadly coincides with what we've heard but not been able to get anything further on...where the project might be dead. Or Charles Wang will stare in the mirror and finally blink.
To make a very long story short: If Charles Wang and Scott Rechler are ending their business partnership, there might not be a Lighthouse Project. Losing Rechler's millions in collateral around the proposed Lighthouse site would cripple the ability to land financing. Even the Designated Developer Agreement (DDA) signed with Nassau County could be invalid, since it would be signed with a company that no longer existed.
However, per a Town of Hempstead source that has also heard many of the rumors we cited: "If they divorce, it does not kill the deal unless they say the deal is dead."
This might be due to the concept if Rechler steps out, the Lighthouse Project name and status could be saved or retained by one of them.
We agonized over whether to publish this report, given the lack of response from other sources to our inquiries. We’ve had this for days now. We've received not one denial. Instead...silence. We feel strongly that fans should have a right to know the true state of the Islanders ownership. Moreover, after being rallied about, asked to show up and more to validate Mr. Wang and Mr. Rechler's vision, shouldn't we fans been given more than just the silent treatment?
Has the Lighthouse going dark just been public relations tact to let things peter out quietly instead of facing some well-earned questions?
Now word is starting to reach some people of a separation between Charles Wang and Scott Rechler. If true, is it the end of the Lighthouse Project, which fades into the murk without serious questions and attentions? While we have not heard an official response from the Islanders or the Lighthouse Project at this hour, we believe the following questions need to be immediately addressed:
Question #1: What exactly happened when the Lighthouse first went dark after denying meetings between the ToH and themselves in their press release (which was not true)?
Question #2: What was that train wreck of an interview between Howie Rose and Charles Wang where Rose was clearly looking for an announcement of some sort? Once again, denial became a bald-faced lie about meetings between them and the ToH.
Question #3: Coinciding with "going dark" seemed to also stop the Lighthouse Project's paying of FP Clark. What kind of group that has, by its own admission, spent tens of millions in studies and proposals, just stops paying the consultant needed to go forward unless it is truly over?
Question #4: The reassignment of almost all LHP staff, most of whom now have visible roles within the Islanders organization. I mean, has the LHP development group done much of anything since November except now do team duties and events?
Question #5: Brooklyn, Queens and ToH Plans. Since the car crash of a re-zoning hearing back in September, and especially since the October 3 deadline came and went, we have heard more and more Brooklyn and Queens supposition. Meanwhile, since the LHP stopped paying FP Clark, the Town of Hempstead has picked up on it to put forward their own plans that doesn't infringe on the donor and influence patrons in Garden City, the republican leadership and others, despite that they were the minority opinion.
This ToH effort to develop that land might be their attempt to save face since the ToH has been questioning Wang's intent, inability to adjust size and scope, and questioning his fianaces since summer. It is an interesting change from the Town, which steadfastly refused to meet with Mr. Wang or former County Executive Tom Suozzi to share their vision for the site since 2003, citing phony "conflict of interest" concerns. Kate Murray has made many missteps, but she appears to realize full well that she will be blamed if the Nassau Coliseum site is not developed in a way that benefits the community.
Meanwhile, the only words from Queens and Brooklyn are from inconsequential mouthpieces in each district, such as Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and the Queens Chamber of Commerce President. Not one word has come from the horse's mouths except when Bruce Ratner said that it was "unlikely" when citing the Isles to Brooklyn scenario. That could be a clear indication that Wang and company have no interest there and might have shutdown shop until Queens begins in earnest down the road. However, even though Brooklyn has many natural disadvantages, it has one major advantage: the arena is financed and currently under construction. After the painful Lighthouse process, with a better-funded opposition beginning to sharpen its knives in Queens, would Mr. Wang really want to go back to that well?
Question #6: Charles Wang citing he hasn't heard from anyone, when he never called back inquiries from Mangano's group. Sources with Mangano have cited that Wang "has really backed off this thing". Meanwhile, after the interview with Howie Rose with the fibbery, sources cited that Mangano people had tried to contact Wang twice...both leading to no response.
Per a source, Charles Wang and Ed Mangano current status might be one of friction. Evidently things have soured more between the two sides, even alluding to that there has been a falling out.
Question #7: What happens to the land around the Coliseum, much of which is owned by Rechler?
Question #8: Some have cited over a month or two ago that there would be a sit down telling "their side" of the story by Wang and Rechler. Since then there has been nothing of the sort. When will we hear something of substance, which Howie Rose clearly expected to hear on the Islanders broadcast last month?
We are at a critical juncture in the Lighthouse Project, and those who have asked so much of us over the years now owe us that most basic courtesy: honesty.
We deserve to know the true state of this project as citizens who supported it in record numbers.
We deserve to know the true health of our team ownership group as Islanders fans.
We deserve to be spoken to.
The ball is now in your court, Messrs. Wang and Rechler. Please return the shot.
B.D. Gallof and Nick Giglia