As we still argue over whether or not the Queens news first reported by Chris Botta on AOL Fanhouse is accurate or inaccurate (given the repeated connections the mainstream hockey press has been able to make between the Islanders and Mets, I believe accurate), and Ed Mangano continues to hallucinate that a casino would be a smart idea for the Nassau Coliseum site, the Town of Hempstead has finally agreed to unveil its vision for a
First of all, nice touch to announce it late on a Sunday night so there's no chance people with jobs and families can actually go. It's a pattern that emerged after the Town of Hempstead finally realized that the opposition isn't coming but the supporters are. Instead of engaging us, they've decided to manipulate the circumstances in order to prevent us from coming. You stay classy, Kate.
I'll be honest: I have no idea what to expect, but based on what I've heard from sources, I'm not optimistic. At all. Chris Botta reported on Friday that the "scale-down" is going to be 50% of the original plan, with sources I've consulted speculating that the number is actually over 60%. The Town spin machine is already in action, and that signals to me that we are looking at something drastic.
I'm intrigued to see what the Town does, because they never seemed to fully grasp why the Lighthouse Project came to existence. Remember, Mike Deery (TOH mouthpiece) claimed that Charles Wang was yoking his new arena to the development out of egotism, rather than the clear economic reality that building just an arena with private funds is tantamount to flushing money down the toilet.
The Town is working through their consultant, Westchester-based F.P. Clark, which produced the much maligned Baldwin re-zoning plan, along with similar projects, and this does not bode well. The Town spin machine claims that the new proposal will keep many of the pieces of the Lighthouse Project in a more "sustainable" way, but some reports claim that the housing will be cut by over 75%.
Here's the problem: That math doesn't work.
The retail exists largely to serve the planned residents of the site. If the residential units are gutted, there will either be excess retail, or they would have to cut the retail by the same percentage.
Simply saying the project should be smaller doesn't change the economic reality. The Nassau Coliseum can not be replaced without either hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars in a bad economy or development that allows the developer to make enough money to finance construction. Residential is the most profitable construction, so I fail to see how this becomes better.
It seems to me that the Town of Hempstead is trying to have its cake and eat it too, but they have badly overreached here. I've been concerned that the Town would offer a counter-proposal so insultingly small that Charles Wang and Scott Rechler would have to walk away, leading the Town to paint them as the villains. I genuinely hope this doesn't happen.
However, we need to keep a few facts in mind:
- Charles Wang's behavior over the past 9 months strongly suggests he does not want to move the Islanders from that spot.
- Ed Mangano, who is facing a $275 million budget shortfall and won his seat by a razor-thin margin, does not want to be the County Executive who lost the Islanders.
- There is no formal casino proposal, just some rough plans and revenue projections. It's not something that people have seriously pursued, despite noises from some people in the Mangano administration (more on this later)
- Charles Wang and Scott Rechler own all the major non-collegiate properties around the Nassau Coliseum site - it's not like they can just go away.
I've said it before - the easiest thing for all sides is to make a deal, but this news throws the chance of that happening into greater doubt.
As I've said many times, the Lighthouse is the right project at the right time for Long Island.
If not Charles Wang and Scott Rechler, then who?
If not the Lighthouse Project, then what?
This will come into deeper focus after the Town's flash press conference tomorrow morning. Buckle up.
NOTE: I was not invited to the press conference, and have to work, so I suggest you check Newsday or Islanders Point Blank for the straight news and come back here tomorrow night for reaction. As always, thanks for sticking with this. I think I'll be writing more now, since there's more news.