Showing posts with label Kate Murray. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kate Murray. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Referendum Language is Set - Including A Good Step

EDITED because I did a stupid thing and didn't notice that the original number I used was a Net Present Value calculator.

EDIT AGAIN: There is no the whole crux of this is that there should be a lockbox.  I am very sorry for mis-reading the language of the referendum and am incredibly embarrassed.

Some interesting news came out yesterday, as the clerk of the legislature has received the full text of the areener referendum.

On the whole, the referendum, is fairly standard stuff, but it does include something that I'd been hoping for: it creates a dedicated fund that will be used to collect revenue-sharing payments and pay the debt service, estimated at around $26 million a year for both the areener and the minor league baseball stadium (we also had news on that, as Long Island Ducks owner Frank Boulton was selected to bring an Atlantic League franchise to the new complex - quick, someone copyright "Expressway Series!").  

This was the amendment suggested by Legis. Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick) at the May 31 legislature hearing that approved the election date, but it was tabled for being out of order (not submitted before the deadline for that session).  It's the only thing that makes sense for the referendum, and it provides maximum protection for taxpayers.

I don't want to get too wound up here, but moving the revenues from the areener into the Nassau County general fund would have been nothing short of disastrous.  Had the money been available, it would have suffered the same fate as Social Security: the money would have been spent 10 different times every year for different programs, leaving the debt service unpaid and increasing tax burdens on citizens.  It would have created far more problems than it solved.  Actually creating a separate fund would serve as, if I may, a lockbox, to protect the money from being raided and make 2000 Al Gore very happy:

While this is a good move, I still have one big question about its application.  As of right now, it's unclear if tax revenues from the areener and any future development on the Coliseum site would also be included in this "lockbox," and that could end up being a huge issue.

As you may or may not know, the Town of Hempstead, which has not suffered for murdering the Lighthouse Project in any way shape or form, recently approved The Shire (the gutted zone) for development, all the while still pushing the ridiculous lie that the actual reduction was not that great (if you include parking structures in the "new construction" total, which the Lighthouse did not).  Let's ignore the fact that it took them a year to approve their own idea and concentrate on the fact that this opens the door for additional development on the Coliseum site, and this could end up being huge for the referendum through additional tax revenue.


I've been reading the 2006 report commissioned by the Nassau Legislature for the Lighthouse Project.  Before anything else, I highly recommend you don't read the report, because it will make you very angry with Kate Murray for doing what she did.  The Lighthouse Project at its peak was projected to bring in north of $62 million in direct tax revenues for Nassau County EVERY YEAR.  That's a long way toward closing the deficit, eh?

Let's leave that bit of misery for a minute and concentrate on the numbers.  We know the Town's zone is nowhere near the size and scale of the Lighthouse, but it will still generate tax revenue.  In fact, let's slash those projections by 80% (the rumored reduction is 61%, but it's unclear what effect this has on the tax base of the area, so I've chosen to be more conservative).  The remaining number is still $12.5 million, which, if added to the minimum payment from Charles Wang, produces....

$26.5 Million

Enough to pay the debt service, run a surplus on the property, and not have to pass any additional tax burden onto Nassau County homeowners.  For this reason, I hope future development is included in the "lockbox," because it will be the best chance Nassau residents have to not pay for it.

Blogger's Note: I got a mailer from Legis. Denenberg yesterday, and it included the claim that the new tax line would be a guaranteed $58 per year expense to all taxpayers.  We've disproved this over and over again, and I hope the legislator misspoke and intends to correct this.  $58 is the expense incurred per household per year if Charles Wang never makes any payments and the arena never makes any money, so to suggest it's a guaranteed tax is disingenuous at best.

Second Blogger's Note: Stay tuned the next few days for more news and analysis, in addition to an endorsement on the areener vote, a guide to get involved, and my plan for election day.  As always, thanks for reading.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Welcome To Plan B

Hello, everyone.  It's been a very long time, but please understand that I've been caught up with working and trying to build a business (which is finally, seemingly, on the right track after numerous fits and starts).  I'm eternally thankful for all the support I got from you when this blog was putting out posts nearly every day, and I hope we can pull together for the next 68 days.

Because end-game is truly here - and August 1 will be a big day.

I apologize for taking a few extra days on this, but Blogger was down Thursday and Friday, and I got sidetracked by something else yesterday.  It's probably for the better, because there was a lot to digest coming out of Wednesday's press conference, and I feel this was too important to shoot from the hip.

Hate To Say I Told You So

I'm currently working a consulting project that requires me to travel and live in a hotel Monday-Friday, every week.  I was relaxing Monday evening after a late day at the office, when suddenly my phone started buzzing off the hook.

I could barely believe my eyes - news. Actual news about the Coliseum site!

I think the content of that news was even more shocking than the news' very existence - the tip was that Ed Mangano, Kate Murray, and Charles Wang were going to announce, formally, a $400 million plan to build a new arena for the Islanders, and a minor league baseball stadium on Mitchell Field, and that it would be put to referendum for the voters to approve it.

My first reaction: Shock.

My second reaction: Wonder why, if it's apparently so easy to do this, the Lighthouse was never put to referendum.

My third reaction: I'm really glad I didn't decline a renewal of this domain name back in March.....

My fourth reaction: YOU SEE?! I KNEW IT!

I was never all that offended by being called a shill by people reading this site, mostly because I knew I wasn't.  Unlike our intrepid County Executive and Town Supervisor, I considered myself someone who dealt in simple fact and reality, and I screamed that reality at the top of my lungs for the whole life of this blog:  Unless there is a development on the Coliseum site, a new building cannot be built without private financing.  I ran numbers, I interviewed experts, and I consulted every source I could - but some still refused to listen.

Now that the Town of Hempstead has gutted the Lighthouse of its soul and ambition, we are left with Plan B: a new arena built from bonds floated by Nassau County and backed up by the good faith and credit of....all of us.

I saw this coming, but I take no joy in that fact, nor is this post meant to be a victory lap...But the fact bears repeating: this is the natural outgrowth of the Lighthouse Project's death.

The Details

We all know the details, I'm sure, but it's good to have a run-down for easy reference:
  • $400 million bond issue, to cover a new arena and minor league baseball stadium
  • Put to public referendum August 1
  • Debt service ($40-50 million per year) to be paid from a percentage of revenues on the site
  • Bond issue needs to be approved by county legislature, assuming voters approve it
  • The election date and the bond issue will have to be approved by NIFA, the state board that has taken control of Nassau County finances after Ed "What $186 Million Deficit?" Mangano couldn't get the budget under control
Now that we have that out of the way, let's get to some reaction...

Initial Impressions

Once the news became official, and Ed Mangano announced the vote on his new "areener" (stolen from Lighthouse Hockey, and said affectionately), I had a few immediate impressions:

First the press conference, which was notable because it had Wang, Murray, and Mangano all speaking favorably about this new plan, was just as notable for what was not mentioned.  There were no details mentioned about this plan, and only vague mentions of how exactly this bond issue would be structured.  There are significant questions, such as who would be responsible for covering cost overruns and who would pay the debt service if an outside act (such as another NHL lockout next year) depresses revenue in the new building.  I hope voters can have some of this information before going to the polls.

That having been said, I remember a meeting last July at the county seat where we pressed one of Ed Mangano's representatives for the vaunted "plan" for a Coliseum casino that Mangano insisted he had.  It turned out to be an Excel sheet with revenue numbers someone pulled out of their ass and no projections on new costs to the community.  My friend asked me for a prospectus on this bond issue, but it's clear the prospectus doesn't exist, though I think it needs to before the vote happens.

The political hypocrisy on both sides of the aisle was sad, though not unexpected.  Democrats who faded into the woodwork once Tom Suozzi was defeated suddenly came out in force to blast this new plan because, in the Lighthouse Project, a compelling and viable private proposal was on the table.  Republicans who blasted the original Lighthouse plan as "a landgrab," "a sweetheart deal," and "corporate welfare," now suddenly spun on a dime and proposed to pay for the building themselves - something that in my estimation actually IS corporate welfare! 

I was also very intrigued to see what role NIFA would play - and we saw them fire the first shot in a scathing press release that called this referendum a "colossal waste of money."  Let's keep an eye on that...

I was also intrigued that we haven't heard a peep out of the people who opposed the Lighthouse so forcefully, led by the coalition in Garden City.  In fact, sources speculate that Garden City seems to be in favor of this because it would be built (theoretically) in conjunction with the Town of Hempstead's scaled-down zone. 

So, to recap.....Apartments = Blight.  Public Debt = Just Fine.  Good to know.

Finally, Belmont Racetrack is a much better place for a casino, because the land is state-owned, already zoned for a casino, has mass transit access, and is supported by the local community.  I'm glad to see the casino push moved to that property, but I wonder why Mangano didn't go here to begin with.  Belmont is clearly the best option, but Ed may have been relying on bad advice or doing his benefactors a favor....

Overall View

When I think about what could have been, and the hope the Lighthouse Project represented for so many people on Long Island, I am saddened to near tears.  What's more, I feel like a raging hypocrite for even considering voting in favor of this proposal, because I have repeatedly said I'm not in favor of spending public money in any form on a private sports facility.

I am tempted to oppose this on principle, but on the other hand I don't know if I can.  Let's not mince words: the Lighthouse Project is dead and buried, and we will not get a visionary beacon built on the Coliseum site.  I wonder if those who would oppose this out of continued support for the Lighthouse are shooting themselves in the foot....I'm reminded of one of my favorite scenes from Mad Men, when Rachel Menken tells Don Draper about the concept of Utopia, and how it has 2 meanings in the classical Greek: "the good place," or "the place that cannot be" (or simply "no place").  

Right now, the Lighthouse Project has morphed from our "good place" into our "place that cannot be," and we may now be facing a choice between a new arena and the scaled-down development plan, or nothing at all.  This referendum may truly be the last, best hope for the Coliseum site.  The scaled-down zone will likely become less profitable for any developer, Charles Wang or otherwise, if there is not a thriving "areener" on the property that brings in people (who spend money) for a guaranteed X number of dates per year.

There are key questions that need to be answered (Lighthouse Hockey had a great list of them) before this goes to a vote, but this could now become the pivotal moment.

I'm also not sure how the dynamics will play out between now and the planned vote.  Democrats seem to be lining up to blast this project, but the trade unions, a main Democratic constituency, are solidly in favor of it.  Does this dampen their opposition?  In the same vein, do Mangano and Murray's unquestioned support lead to a superior ground game led by the Nassau and TOH Republican machine?  Do Charles Wang and the Islanders finally treat this like a political campaign, which they should have done with the Lighthouse Project to begin with?

Most important of all: What role will NIFA play in this?  They seemed very upset about the announcement, and they have to approve both the election date (since elections cost money, after all) and the bond issue.  Charles Wang has promised to reimburse the county's costs for holding the referendum (assuming he wins, naturally), but questions still remain. Some say NIFA will hold the line, especially because they were appointed by a Democratic governor, but others see a more nuanced view.  If Wang promises to cover Nassau's costs, and the measure approves, some believe there is no chance NIFA would stand in the way of the thousands of jobs this project would create.

It's also worth remembering that this may not necessarily be a cost to the county, at a time when public workers and services are being cut.  The money would come from bond-holders, and that money could not be used to save those jobs, as much as I wish we could.  In the same vein, we have to look at the impact doing nothing and having the site become barren would have on our tax burden - I'd have to imagine the numbers are at least comparable, if not worse.  These questions should be investigated.

At the end of the day, just like with the Lighthouse saga, nothing is guaranteed.

Bottom Line

This referendum should not be considered a mortal lock to pass, and it is a tragedy that we've come to this when we know what could have been done with the Coliseum site.  However, we must also caution against reflexively voting against this in support of an ideal that now, very clearly, can never be.  Ed Mangano and Nassau County owe us details so we can make an informed decision, and we owe it to Nassau County to look at this with an open mind.

We've been pleading for answers and clarity for many years; I've followed this since I wrote a paper on the initial unveiling for a law class in 2004.

On August 1, we will have that answer.

I hope it's the right one.

Blogger's Note: Let There Be Light(house) is re-opened for business, and will stay in operation until the "areener" vote on August 1.  I hope to run shorter posts from myself, keeping my time constraints in mind, and I invite anyone - for it, against it, or just wanting to make a statement - to email me and get your name out there.  Who knows, we could even finally get a response from old "friend" of the blog Christine Mullaney.....Though I wouldn't call the Shinnecocks and place a bet on that. 

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support.  Let's pull together and see this cause through to a final answer.





Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Kate Murray Slits Long Island's Throat

(Blogger's Note: I'd like to publish a quick correction, because I feel silly.  The quote I paraphrased and attributed to Mark Twain in a comment yesterday is actually from muckraker Upton Sinclair, famous for his expose "The Jungle" on the Chicago meat-packing industry.  The full quote: "It is difficult to make a man understand something when his job depends on his not understanding it."  How sadly fitting for this situation...) 

The Lighthouse Project was introduced at a seminal moment in Long Island's history, a point when we found ourselves at a crossroads.  We gave birth to the modern suburban concept after a long-forgotten Hempstead Town Board approved what was, at the time, a radical idea: Levittown, a collection of pre-fabricated homes, parks, and shops that provided an individual piece of the American dream to thousands of returning World War II GI's and other people wearied by the cities, which, after decades of ascension, were beginning a slow, painful decline.  Levittown led to a movement that carried Long Island and the suburbs to previously unheard-of heights.

In recent decades, the classic suburban way of life began to show cracks, and the world began to change again.  Young people began fleeing high taxes and a higher overall cost of living, the cities began to rise, and main employers such as Grumman began re-locating or shuttering entirely.  It was clear that, at this defining moment, we needed to decide how Long Island was going to be suburbia in the 21st Century.  Advocates for a new way forward suddenly discovered their rallying point: the Lighthouse Project, borne out of New York Islanders owner Charles Wang's vision once then-Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi told him there was no public money to replace aging Nassau Coliseum and the owner would need to come up with something creative to raise the money to replace or renovate the arena.  Residents rallied to the project in record numbers, outnumbering opponents 2:1 in every poll and up to 9:1 at all the public hearings.  While we knew negotiations would be necessary, residents were genuinely attracted to this vision, this new Island dream we could call our own.

Yesterday, Kate Murray threw on the brakes and spit in all of our faces.

Let's get one thing out of the way: The Lighthouse Project did not die yesterday.  Reports of the Lighthouse Project's recent death have been greatly exaggerated (see, THAT was Mark Twain), because in all honesty the vision as first proposed has been dead since last October.  It was clear that the Town of Hempstead, which controls zoning over the Nassau County-owned land and for the Lighthouse Project, which was approved by a 16-2 vote of the Nassau legislature in 2006, had serious reservations about the size and scope, as evidenced by repeated comments about "preserving the suburban way of life".  

Before going dark, even Charles Wang acknowledged the likelihood of a scale-down, repeatedly begging the Town of Hempstead to "just tell me what I can build."

We all expected the Town to reduce the project.

None of us expected this.

Welcome to The Shire

Newsday had a rather innocuous headline introducing the issue: "More Modest Future For Coliseum Site."  I prefer my headline, because it's the truth.  Kate Murray has slit our throats.

The Town of Hempstead's alternative plan, which cuts the project by over 60% and other pieces, like residential, up to 75%, has transformed our Island dream into a hobbitt village.  Goodbye to The Lighthouse, hello to The Shire.

Make no mistake about it: What Kate Murray unveiled yesterday is a brainless, gutless, visionless insult to anybody who dared to break the cycle of defeatism and dream that we on Long Island could become more than we are.

I've wondered at times whether Kate Murray thinks we're stupid, and I think this latest option proves it.  The project claims to be mixed-use, yet it doesn't follow even the most basic economic principles.  First of all, the Town is completely misrepresenting the square footage, including the 2 million square feet of parking in their claim of 5 million square feet of new construction.

The traffic plan also intrigued me, because opponents reflexively yell "TRAFFIC!" in an attempt to kill any infant project while it's still in the cradle, and these ideas would be closely scrutinized.  Imagine my shock when I watched the video on and saw the exact same offramp renovation that was roundly panned for over half an hour at the re-zoning hearing last September!  Councilman Darcy was especially interested in planned multi-way traffic lights, claiming they were not workable because "someone could run the lights" (I kid you not).  It's amazing that they could just slide this in and have nobody question it...

Kate Murray, in her introductory press conference, made a statement so shocking and so galling that I have to question her fitness to hold elected office.  Murray admitted that she never considered whether the plan would be economically viable for any developer to actually do it, and developers questioned by Newsday have already panned the zone and claimed they would not bid on the project again should another RFP be released with the current terms.  I understand that Kate Murray has to think about what she believes is the best project for the Town, but to avoid basic fact is both stupid and dangerously naive.  If the project is not economically viable to build, no developer will bid, and the project will never exist.  If the project doesn't exist, it will by definition do absolutely nothing to benefit the community.  For Kate Murray to stand there and say she wasted $200,000 of my and your tax dollars on a plan when she has absolutely no clue whether or not its viable is naive at best and negligent at worst.  As I've said, behavior like this has to make me seriously question her fitness for office.

I can't believe this needs to be said again.  People are in business to make money.  Since it's been proven an arena cannot be profitable if built as a stand-alone, and the government will not provide any funds (usual amount is about 65%, according to Andrew Zimbalist), developing the land to raise money for a new arena is the only solution.  In addition, as mentioned, the Lighthouse was designed as an integrated whole, so changing pieces in non-uniform ways could throw the whole thing off kilter.  As I've said, the shopping was meant to support the 2300 residential units planned.  That's not a mall; that's supporting people who live there.  Gutting the residential units down to only 500 without corresponding cuts to the retail will do MORE to exacerbate the problem of vacancies in commercial space.  The Lighthouse intended to grow the market, and this action will do nothing but shrink it.

Instant reaction from Long Island residents has been highly negative, with only people who opposed the original development (remember, they were outnumbered 2:1 by supporters) hailing this move.  Lighthouse supporters are now beginning to fracture, breaking down into recriminations from activists and sects of Islanders fans who are fed up and simply want a hockey solution.  What a mess.

Kate Murray is not the marauder going after wholly innocent Charles Wang, don't get me wrong.  Mr. Wang needed to more clearly explain the economic reasoning behind the project and try to do more than simply ask Islanders fans to join the community activists in support.  The fracturing of supporters shows the base of support could have been very fragile, and that some people, after all these years, still don't understand why this came to be.  That's a terrible tragedy and a missed opportunity.

Thanks, Kate Murray!

You read the headline right.  In the vein of her self-serving commercials, I have to reach out and thank Kate Murray, because she has taught me so much.

Thank you Kate Murray, for making it clear that new ideas and new investment are not welcome in the Town of Hempstead, and that anyone who wants to quit the ostrich impression and take their head out of the sand needs to shut up and fall in line.

Thank you Kate Murray, for making it clear that young professionals have no place on Long Island.

Thank you Kate Murray, for continuing to tell half-truths and misrepresent your heroic attempts to "jump-start" a project you've been hiding from since 2003.

Thank you Kate Murray, for doing your best to ensure Long Island continues to be on the wrong side of history, and for continuing to believe that denying a problem exists means there is no problem.

Thank you Kate Murray, for proving that all those things people said about you having no vision were accurate.

Thank you Kate Murray, for treating a group that wanted to invest billions of dollars in the Town of Hempstead as an inconvenience. (Blogger's Note: I'm not saying Charles Wang should get whatever he wants, but I'm definitely saying that the Town should've been more amenable to proposals that could kick-start the local economy).

Most of all, thank you Kate Murray, for proposing an alternative so clearly ridiculous that Long Island may be faced with a much worse alternative.

Moving Forward

Developers and economists, save Martin Cantor of Dowling College, who famously stated last year that buildings should not be built in 2020 due to the bad economy of 2009, have roundly panned Hempstead's new proposal, even though Kate Murray continues to defend it and insist there will be no negotiation.  

This ridiculous "plan" has also fractured the Republican party, pitting County Executive Ed Mangano against Murray and the Town of Hempstead.  Mangano released a joint statement with the Lighthouse Development Group panning the project as not viable, either for the owner of the site (Nassau County) or the group still bound by a Designated Developer Agreement (The Lighthouse).  Kate Murray has made it clear that she believes there should be no negotiation from here, so the County Executive is ostensibly going in a different direction...

As sources stated to Islanders Point Blank (and as I heard in Ed Mangano's office last week), Nassau County is attempting to pivot toward a casino at the Coliseum site in partnership with Charles Wang and the recently-recognized Shinnecock Nation.  As was the case with the new Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, the Shinnecock Nation would be expected to provide the money to replace Nassau Coliseum in exchange for receiving development rights to a casino and entertainment complex on the property.  Some believe this is an attractive option because the land would be granted to the Shinnecock Nation as a federal "land-in trust."  This would be approved by the state and not subject to the zoning regulations of the Town of Hempstead, nor would it be susceptible to local lawsuits.

However, let's not get ready for the roulette tables just yet...The project has been roundly panned by the public, and the Shinnecocks have repeatedly stated they will not go where they are not wanted.  Residents who opposed the Lighthouse or expressed serious reservations due to resource usage, traffic, and other issues can't be expected to turn around and support a casino, which has all of these problems and then some.

Let's also remember that neither Mangano nor the Shinnecocks actually have a casino plan.  The Shinnecocks received federal recognition last month after over 30 years of effort, and Ed Mangano's office seems to only have some rough revenue projections based on loose requirements.  It's not like this plan could go through tomorrow, or possibly even within the year.

In addition, you have to consider both the additional revenue a casino would bring in and the additional costs to the community through crime, public safety, etc (expect much much more on this later in the week).  Let's also not forget the other potential casinos planned for the area.  The NY State Assembly is controlled by Democrat Sheldon Silver of Manhattan, and two potential "racinos" are proposed at the Aqueduct site and the Belmont site.  Would Silver and the assembly approve a project at the Coliseum that prevented either of those from happening?  Would Sheldon Silver voluntarily pick the pocket of the New York City Democratic apparatus that is his base of power?  I highly doubt it.

We also have to consider that this could be a ploy.  Kate Murray may have said that the proposed disgrace new zone is not negotiable, but she could quickly change her tune when she sees what could alternatively be done with the site.  At this point, it's a long shot, but the casino is by far the greater of two evils, and Kate may try to come back to the table as a result.

We've reached a point where we all want a resolution, but this news has seemingly put us farther away from that.  Expect this to get a lot uglier before it gets better.

One thing's for sure: the chances that we will get anything close to a visionary project are growing slimmer by the day.  In the end, we may be left with nothing more than the cheap cash grab of a casino....or a vacant parking lot and the distant memory of the New York Islanders and what could've been.

Thanks, Kate Murray.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Kate Murray's Lighthouse Scale-Down Press Release

This was too good to keep from all of you...

I'll let the fur fly tonight, but in the meantime, check out Kate Murray's press release announcing the Lighthouse scale down.  This is the unedited release.  Have fun!

Murray and Goosby Produce Alternate Development Zone For Lighthouse Site

July 12, 2010

Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray and Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, along with Council Members Anthony Santino, Angie Cullin, Gary Hudes and James Darcy, Town Clerk Mark Bonilla and Receiver of Taxes Don Clavin, released details of a new development zone for the 77 acres of property surrounding the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The new zoning district crafted by the town will be presented as an alternative to the Lighthouse Project in an environmental report (Final Environmental Impact Statement [FEIS]). The alternate zone would be considered by the town board at a public hearing. The new zone facilitates a vibrant mixed-use development that is sustainable and would complement the suburban character of surrounding communities.

"We are taking proactive steps that can bring about meaningful development, along with all of the associated benefits, to the hub of Nassau County," stated Murray. "Creating a zone that encourages reasonable development is key to supporting our tax base, offering construction and long term jobs, stimulating the region's economy and facilitating a renovated Coliseum which would help keep the Islanders hockey team here where they belong."

"Developing an alternative zone which will allow development that fits on the property surrounding the Coliseum was a priority for the town," said Goosby. "This zone meets that objective and can be supported by local upgraded roadways as well as other infrastructure components."

The proposed alternative zone provides for 5.4 million square feet of construction (includes all buildings and parking structures) comprised of many of the same types of development that were sought by the Lighthouse Group. At the same time, the zone scales back the density contemplated under the Lighthouse plan. Among the many types of development that will be permitted in the newly created zone are convention facilities, hotels, retail, restaurants, offices, residential units, entertainment uses and a refurbished Coliseum.

Additionally, the town-crafted alternative zone embraces smart growth principles such as mixed-use structures, roadways and pedestrian areas that encourage walking and bicycling, as well as "green technologies" in building construction. Mixed-use development accommodated under the new zone could include retail and/or office structures with homes above those facilities, all within the same buildings. Roadways that incorporate bicycle lanes, street furniture along pedestrian walkways, as well as street side cutouts for parallel parking, will all combine to create a walkable community and a genuine destination for people who are looking for an exciting location to live, work and enjoy recreational activities. Other smart growth elements considered in the zone include "shared parking" that helps optimize the level of development and integrated parking facilities that combine the parking structures and retail/offices.

The new zone alternative provides for up to 500 new homes to be developed. Those housing units will be required to include affordable and next generation/workforce homes.

The density and building heights accommodated in the town's zoning alternative are substantial and sustainable. In fact, the density proposed would be the most intense zoning in the township. The Floor Area Ratio (FAR [the ratio of total square footage of construction as it relates to the square footage of land upon which it is built]) for the proposed zone is 1.6. By contrast, the FAR for the RXR Towers is 0.89 and the Omni Building totals 0.56. The Marriott Hotel has an FAR of 0.92. Moreover, the new zone's development total of 5.4 million square feet contrasts with an estimated 10-13.5 million square feet of development under the Lighthouse proposal.

The maximum building height contemplated under the town's zone is 100 feet or nine stories and applies to hotels. Mixed use, office and most other structures would be capped at four stories. Exclusively residential buildings would be restricted to three stories.

Town officials emphasized that the alternate zone is flexible in that it does not dictate which specific types of development prescribed in the zone must be sited on the individual parcels that make up the 77 acres around the Coliseum. The zone only requires that two of the permitted uses, other than the Coliseum, be included in the developer's proposal for each parcel.

Hempstead Town's zoning alternative also provides for traffic mitigation. The mitigation includes roadways within the Coliseum area which would redistribute traffic, addressing the burdens that would otherwise be created by a development of this significance. The plan also contemplates "smart" traffic signals and a reconfigured interchange at the intersection of Meadowbrook Parkway and Hempstead Turnpike.

"The Town of Hempstead has been working hard to facilitate reasonable development at the site surrounding the Nassau Coliseum," concluded Murray. "We committed to 'jump starting' a stalled development process, promised to provide for reasonable development that is progressive, and we have been clear that we would only permit a zone that can be sustained by the environment and local infrastructure. We've produced a zone that is true to those goals. What's more, making sure that the zone would be consistent with the suburban character of our area, support our tax base, stimulate the economy, facilitate the renovation of the Coliseum and help keep the Islanders hockey team here have also been key determinants in producing this alternative."

The Unveiling Is Tomorrow

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 gutted scaled-back Light Project (pun intended) tomorrow morning at 11.

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.

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Still Waiting on the Town of Hempstead's Response

It's been a long while since the last post here, and I apologize for that.  I need to be better, and the fact that I've been very busy should not be an excuse.  I hope you will forgive me, and while I can't promise that the frequency will be quite what it was in the beginning, I will do everything in my power to chat with you guys more often.  That likely means some shorter posts and quick ideas instead of saving them for a big blog post that I end up pushing off repeatedly.

At this point, there has been precious little news on the Lighthouse Project, save Ed Mangano's ridiculous casino idea (more on this over the weekend), for many months.  The Lighthouse web site is gone, replaced with a placeholder that still manages to get a dig in at the Town of Hempstead, and the Town, which promised action on an alternate plan by Memorial Day, is now 2 weeks late.

It's become par for the course in this theater of the absurd.


The Town of Hempstead has constantly received credit (to be fair, from itself) for "jump-starting" the Lighthouse process, after Charles Wang stopped paying F.P. Clark, the Town's environmental consultant, and seemingly shut down all operations.  It's true that, on the surface, the Town has done something substantive, but reality is a little different.  As I've said repeatedly, sources allege that the Town had refused to meet with the Lighthouse or anyone involved (including then-County Executive Suozzi) since 2003, citing ridiculous claims of "conflict of interest" that have never made sense.  Every time I think of this, I pine for what could have been, because I can't imagine that a Town that gave a damn from the beginning could have produced a plan that worked.  We could have at least a new Coliseum by now, but instead the Town chose to hide behind a moronic policy and empty proclamations of sitting like "judges," which conveniently ignores the fact that judges and umpires can be biased and, yes, even fallible.  The tragic case of MLB umpire Jim Joyce is a constant reminder of that, even if his actions after the blown call were nothing less than noble and admirable.

Now, after 7 years of hiding behind this policy, the Town has done an about-face, a move which begs a simple question: Why?  What was the impetus for the Town's sudden movement after years of intransigence?  As I mentioned, what could have been accomplished had this been the idea from the beginning?  Was this a cynical ploy hoping that the unthinkable would happen and Tom Suozzi would lose, in order for the Town to put its own stamp on things?  We may never know....

Do They "Get It"?

I think there's an even more basic question to ask here: Does the Town of Hempstead really "get it"?

I keep coming back to an article written in April in Newsday (subscription required) that sent a shiver up my spine.  Town spokesman Mike Deery shot back at yet another claim from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman that the Town was stalling the Lighthouse Project and needed to get its act together.  His response included this gem:

"Unlike the five other metropolitan-area professional franchises that opened magnificent new facilities in the past year, Mr. Wang has tied the Coliseum's future to the construction of a mini-city along Hempstead Turnpike.'' - Mike Deery

Where do we even begin with the things wrong with this?

Newsflash Number 1: The Lighthouse Project can't be compared to the other buildings opened in the past year because it's apples to oranges.  Yankee Stadium and Citi Field both received direct (infrastructure) and indirect (tax-free bonds) support from the government.  The Prudential Center in Newark was constructed with funds from the city and a naming-rights deal.  The Jets and Giants pooled their assets, sold those hideous Personal Seat Licenses (PSL's) and received a sizable sum of money from the NFL's stadium fund. 

The Lighthouse Project is not getting ANY of these things.

We've been over this so many times on this blog: arenas are usually heavily subsidized by the public, and when they are not the team involved must come up with other ways to raise the money, such as developing the surrounding land.  

Newsflash Number 2: This is about more than a hockey arena for a hockey team.  The Lighthouse Project represents things Long Island badly needs to avoid stemming the tide of brains and businesses (including, in the weeks and months ahead, sadly, my own) off the island in search of better opportunity.  Is the Town of Hempstead so narrow-minded that they genuinely believe this is just a sports issue?  Are they willing to spit in the faces of the thousands of people that could benefit from the new wave of thinking the Lighthouse could signal because they think it's nothing more than a ploy to get a new arena?  What a joke....

I may not post as often, but this still riles me up the way it always did.

So, Now What?

Everything is in a holding pattern until the Town of Hempstead returns with its alternative plan.  I am very apprehensive about what we will see because, quite honestly, F.P. Clark does not have a reputation for developing over-arching visions for mixed-use.  There are many outstanding questions:

What Will We See?

Nobody is truly sure what kind of a plan the Town will propose.  It could be a 10-20% reduction, which would likely be acceptable to the Lighthouse group (assuming they still want to do it).  It could be a 30-40% reduction, which may be open for negotiation, or it could be something far more drastic.  A more drastic cutback would almost certainly lead to the Lighthouse walking away.

When Will We See It?

The Town is still silent....I have no idea when they'll stop being silent.

How Closely Is the Town Working With the County?

It seems a bit strange that Ed Mangano would announce this casino nonsense without consulting the Town, but the Town seemed just as surprised as the rest of us. 

What Will the Lighthouse Do?

Right now, the Lighthouse in general, and Charles Wang in particular, might be the biggest wild card in this process.  Scott Rechler has a reputation in the development community, and Ed Mangano, as the new County Executive, does not want to own this problem, especially since his narrow margin of victory immediately calls his chances of being re-elected into question.  I'm sure that, in a vacuum, these 2 would want to make a deal.

Charles Wang could be another story.  He and Kate Murray have sniped at each other throughout most of the process, and he may already be negotiating for other options.  It will be interesting to see, and it's difficult to read the tea leaves because nobody is talking.

Bottom Line

We continue to be in a holding pattern with the Lighthouse Project, waiting for some sort of clarity.  Until the Town comes back with its alternative plan, things will still be stalled.  Hopefully, an acceptable alternative comes along, or the Town proposes a plan that maintains the spirit of the Lighthouse Project.  Only time will tell....

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Friday, May 7, 2010

"It All Starts With Al D'Amato"

(Blogger's Note: I didn't doctor this picture at all.  Google "Al D'Amato - this is apparently a real picture of former Sen. D'Amato)

I remember back to the bad old days of 1996-1998, when I was a young Islanders fan who just wanted to see his team get a new arena.  I may not have been as business-oriented as I am now, but I knew that other teams were getting new buildings and the Islanders would probably need one too.

I remembered reading some kind of a political puff piece that spoke about how the will was there to get the Islanders a new building, and that it would happen in short order.  I don't remember who said it - could have been former owner John O. Pickett, could've been a commentator, could've been former County Executive Tom Gulotta - but there is one sentence I remember loud and clear, that summed up the Islanders' favorable position: "It all starts with Al D'Amato in the Senate."

Many have whispered since this blog's inception that Mr. D'Amato was pulling the strings for some unseen political opposition to the Lighthouse Project.  I never saw it, and the former Senator was rarely mentioned save for a Newsday article that claimed a falling out with Charles Wang as a result of Mr. Wang's refusal to hire D'Amato's brother, Armand.

That's all changed as of yesterday, when Mr. D'Amato took to the pages of the LI Herald to criticize the Lighthouse Project and advocate the casino fantasy as a workable solution.

Unfortunately for Mr. D'Amato, there are some holes in his logic.  This in particular is my favorite:
In my opinion, in today’s economy, [a casino on the Coliseum site] makes a lot more sense than the previously proposed Lighthouse Project. For six years, real estate developer Charles Wang, the majority owner of the New York Islanders, has been pressuring elected officials from the Town of Hempstead and Nassau County to authorize this $3.7 billion project.
Mr. D'Amato is a savvy politician, and he is carefully framing this issue in a way that is, in my opinion, not accurate.  Nassau County voted in 2006, by a margin of 16-2 (with current County Executive Ed Mangano in the majority), to name the Lighthouse Development Group the developers of the Coliseum site, fulfilling a vision put forth by former County Executive Tom Suozzi.  Politicians at all levels, from Gov. Paterson to both U.S. Senators to every member of the Long Island congressional delegation (except for my representative, Peter King), have come out in favor of this project.  It is also supported by a record number of citizens.

The Town of Hempstead, according to numerous sources who were familiar with the negotiations at the time, has refused to meet with the Lighthouse to discuss their vision for the site since 2003, citing conflicts of interest that were never there.  This position is of course made more laughable since the Town has now "jump-started" the Lighthouse process and is working on its own competing proposal.  It has long been a position of those opposed to the Lighthouse that this is Charles Wang's whim and he is desperately fighting to get elected officials to buy into his vision.  The facts, including initial conception by Tom Suozzi and prior approval by Nassau County, do not support this assertion.

D'Amato cites the colleges directly adjacent to the Coliseum property (Hofstra University and Nassau Community College) as reasons why the Lighthouse Project should not be built, using the classic bogeyman of traffic.  This would be fine, if not for the fact that a casino would likely bring in more traffic at less regular times of the day.  In addition, as my friend B.D. Gallof reported last week, Gamblers Anonymous has reported large spikes in gambling addiction among college-aged Long Islanders, an issue that would almost certainly be exacerbated by having a large casino literally a stone's throw from college campuses.

To make matters more interesting, D'Amato acknowledges the need for mass transit at the site even if a casino is built, thus provoking the same opposition from communities such as Garden City who would seemingly prefer nothing done with the site than a light rail coming within 300 feet of homes.  In addition, unlike the Lighthouse Project, which is positioned to be an economic catalyst for the region, casinos are largely self-contained and usually result in property values dropping between 10-20% in the surrounding areas.  I can't imagine a scenario in which the neighbors would stand for this.  Mr. D'Amato calls the casino "creative," but let's get real: casinos are the cheapest revenue grab in the book for a government.  Mangano's proposal betrays a stunning lack of creativity and a surprising tone-deafness for the needs of the area.

Mr. D'Amato also fails to acknowledge his own role in the current state of both Nassau Coliseum and the Islanders.  D'Amato is the person who engineered the arena deal with SMG, a deal widely regarded as the worst in sports history, that has bled the County and the Islanders of millions of dollars since its signing.  Mr. D'Amato is also the person who convinced hockey neophyte Charles Wang to purchase the Islanders, citing fan passion and the guarantee of a new arena/Coliseum land development to offset the costs.  It's disingenuous to suggest Mr. D'Amato is merely a concerned observer in this process.

The former Senator also trotted out one of the more popular Town of Hempstead talking points (which is only fitting for a former Town Supervisor): financing...namely, Charles Wang's supposed complete inability to obtain it.  This has been a major talking point since the beginning, with the issue of potential financing from China brought up with sneering derision at the 9/22 re-zoning hearing.

First off, this is a simple economics issue.  As a friend who works in finance told me, Charles Wang could not be blamed for spurning banks that would not provide financing in favor of banks that would.  In addition, why would Charles Wang continue this farce if he wasn't able to gain the financing to do the project?  Why did a source tell me Scott Rechler was incensed at the news of the casino "plan"?  Why isn't the Lighthouse more openly seeking other options?  Why are people connected to the project continuing to insist that things are still on and they are waiting for the Town's response?  It doesn't make any sense.

There's a first time for everything....I agree with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on the financing issue.  If the Town is so convinced that Charles Wang is bluffing and can't get the financing, Green-Light the Lighthouse Project.  Make the Lighthouse prove that they can come through, and place the burden of the project's ultimate success or failure squarely on the shoulders of Wang and partner Scott Rechler.

Interestingly, these aren't my biggest issues with Mr. D'Amato's self-serving piece.  I'm far more concerned with the fact that the former Senator did not disclose information that could help readers better understand his position.  First of all, Mr. D'Amato did not disclose his previous relationship and subsequent falling-out with Charles Wang, something that could absolutely influence his position on the Lighthouse. 

There are other interesting connections.  Mr. D'Amato is Chairman of a pro-poker special interest group called the Poker Players Alliance, which seeks to "protect the rights of poker players."  The former Senator is also reported to have paid Ed Mangano a visit in the County Executive's office around the time of the casino announcement, and representatives from D'Amato's lobbying firm, Park Strategies, have been actively involving themselves in this issue.  Given this information, I think it's fair to ask whether Mr. D'Amato's advocacy for a casino stems from something in addition to the reasons he laid out in his piece.

In the same vein, sources continue to whisper behind the scenes of a deep connection between Mr. D'Amato and the Shinnecock Nation.  We have not been able to confirm or deny these rumors, but they persist, and I will continue to search the back channels for information.  It's important to determine whether the former Senator is merely a concerned citizen, or whether he would stand to gain more deeply from the approval of a casino.

Bottom Line

We have truly entered the silly season now, with odd pieces of information percolating from all sides.  Charles Wang and the Lighthouse continue to be silent, ceding the floor to a suddenly-silent Town of Hempstead and a Nassau County that seems to be living in a state of suspended reality.

Once again, Long Islanders in general, and Islanders fans in particular, are becoming pawns in a tit-for-tat between political and business forces with their own interest.  Mr. D'Amato's self-serving op-ed represents his first true emergence from the shadows and adds him to the silliness that is emanating from Ed Mangano of late and the Town of Hempstead since, well....forever.

Long Island will lose if we leave these individuals in charge of our future.  We are and should be the final voice for these matters, and we must take a stand to re-assert our belief in the Lighthouse Project, our rejection of this casino fantasy, and the ultimate potential of Long Island's future.


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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.

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