Thursday, August 6, 2009

Welcome: We'll Leave the Light(house) On!

After all the posturing over the past two years, the anti-climatic nature of the Public Hearing on August 4th overshadowed the huge crossroads the Project has arrived at. Many a powerful voice came out in support of the Lighthouse including principal developer Charles Wang, former Islander greats Bobby Nystrom and Mike Bossy, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and local politicians and community leaders. However, I'm more concerned about those who have spoken out AGAINST the Project. What are the issues that they want examined?

After the jump, I have a special treat for you guys: A slide show of the pictures I took at the Rally and the Public Hearing. Be sure to check it out...


This was a comment I posted over at James Mirtle's From the Rink in response to a post about concerns that were being raised by those in opposition of the Lighthouse Project. You can read his whole article and the myriad of other comments here.

1) Environmental Concerns

Here’s the issue. The State mandated process for Environmental Impact Survey is to DETERMINE ANY ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUE THAT WILL EFFECT THE OVERALL FOOTPRINT OF THE PROJECT. The reason that this process is so drawn out is due to the fact that many agencies, most importantly the Town of Hempstead, must review each and every area of concern before moving into the Final Environmental Impact Study. Water, sewage and conservation of the Hempstead Plains area are all included in the DGEIS that was submitted in February. Remember, THINGS ARE NOT FINALIZED! Nor will they be until the Town of Hempstead, Nassau County and the State of NY have done their due dilligence as far as reviewing each and every inch of the proposed site.

Another thing to note is that the proposed construction site, what amounts to an abandoned parking lot (at least during the summer), the surrounding buildings (RexCorp Plaza on the South side of Hempstead Tpke., the Omni Building to the North and the Marriott Hotel which sits on the extreme East of the site are ALL OWNED BY THE LIGHTHOUSE DEVELOPMENT GROUP! The only piece of land that is not owned by them is the 77 acres where the Coliseum sits.

2) Development in a County that doesn’t develop

No offense to anyone else who has commented so far on this topic, but you simply don’t have the same perspective that I do. I live here. I’m in the thick of it everyday. Nassau County has no available land to develop. It’s a simple fact that really hampers the status quo. Neighborhood after neighborhood of Suburbia has created more TRAFFIC, SEWAGE CONCERNS and ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT than the Lighthouse will in 25 years. The idea is to build to conform to environmental GREEN standards. The Lighthouse is needed to create a new status quo, a “New Suburbia”.

I’m 25 years old. Don’t I deserve a place to live? Finding an apartment on Long Island below $1000 is a challenge at best. What’s wrong with placing a series of “below-market housing”, not “welfare-housing” as someone stated before, next to luxury condos? These units will be utilized by people my age, between 25-34, to stay in a County that is only comprised of 8% of people in that age group. There are no jobs, no place to live and no where to go but off Long Island.

3) Who pays?

This is an issue that can’t even be a concern at this point. For the Lighthouse Development Group, yes. But not for the general public. Funding isn’t even going to be discussed until the Re-Zoning Hearing which is far off in the distance as far as the process goes. Whether the money comes from China or bank loans as I’ve heard directly from some inside in the LDG, it doesn’t matter. This is the ultimate Republican wet dream: A developer (big business) who’s willing to pay for 99% of a development project. You tell me where else you’ve heard that before? Please remember, this is not going to be built in a day. This is an 8-10 year build out process. The money will not be needed all at once. From what I know the $400 million for the Coliseum is the only guaranteed number right now.

Many of you ask: “What’s is Charles Wang’s motive for building this development project?” Allow me to answer that for you.

Charles is has been losing $20 million+ a year on a team since 2000. The lease that Nassau County has for the site is overseen by a third party company that maintains the building called SMG (the same people who take care of Nationwide Arena in Columbus). The lease is so restraining, that the only pure profit the Islanders receive is from their merchandise and their TV deal. Major percentages (in some cases up to 90%) of tickets, parking and concessions all go to SMG and the current lease extends until 2015. If the LDG builds the Project then the lease is re-negotiated to better favor keeping the team on Long Island.

Also of note, Nassau County which loses $1.5 million on the site a year, stands to gain $60-$70 million in fresh tax revenue annually. The Uniondale School District, which will end up enrolling a significant amount of new students just struck a deal with LDG that will pay them huge sums of money (somewhere in the range of $26 million) to fund revitalization of the District.

If you still think that Charles Wang is only the owner of the Islanders to build the Lighthouse then you are seriously mistaken. If you read any newspaper articles from when Wang bought the team in 2000, you’ll find that Nassau County was promising the new owner a new building in 5-7 years. Nassau Coliseum is in disrepair and is no longer viable to contain a major sports franchise.

Not only will this Project be a reason to keep the Islanders where they belong, but it will be a catalyst to the region. New tax revenues, jobs and the opportunity to keep the younger generation around long enough to utilize the tax dollars that are spent on them to educate them on Long Island will be a significant boon the the local economy. After the Lighthouse is constructed, these younger people (myself included) will be re-insert back into the work force and be a part of the “New Suburbia” the Lighthouse will create.

Things That Make You Go...Hmmm

"I believe community outreach was really the key to the success of the hearing and rally today. But I realize, you can't reach everyone. I was very sad to hear from a woman who was 'horrified' by the project and how things were not on the up-and-up informing the community on its impacts. When I attempted to offer her an outreach meeting, or to even bring her in to discuss the project, she declined and refused to tell me who she was."

It's amazing to me how those opposed to the Lighthouse Project try to justify their claims of opposition with little to no information and then simply turn away from any attempt to help them understand the finer points involved in the Project.

Final Takeaway

This was a huge event in the process of getting the Lighthouse Project approved. If I'm not mistaken, about 90% of those who came to the Public Hearing were in favor of the Project. It's about time that people who are out of work and watch other towns around North America re-develop and start with a fresh slate, get their chance at a new beginning.

The fight is not over. Our resolve must stay as focused as ever. The Public Comment period ends on August 17th. Keep the pressure on. We need to see this through...

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