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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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Lighthouse’s Hearing

The Lighthouse Development Group’s (LDG) website (www.lighthouseli.com) has a ‘countdown clock’ ticking atop its home page, listing the days, hours, minutes and seconds until Tuesday, Aug. 4 at 9:30 a.m.

The reason: that’s when the Hempstead town board is convening for an all-day public hearing on the draft generic environmental impact statement (DGEIS) filed in connection with the LDG’s Lighthouse at Long Island proposal, a project aimed at revitalizing almost 150 acres near the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale. The Aug. 4 gathering will be held in the John Cranford Adams Playhouse on Hofstra University’s south campus, Hempstead Turnpike, Hempstead.

The LDG is asking the Hempstead town board to create a Planned Development District (PDD) and rezone properties on the north and south side of Hempstead Turnpike. Given these town approvals, LDG—whose principals are New York Islanders owner Charles Wang and RXR Realty—would be in a position to upgrade and renovate the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum while also constructing a five-star, 300-room hotel and more than 2,300 residential dwelling units near the Coliseum. New convention, retail and office space are also envisioned.

Wang, the founder of Computer Associates, has invested in the site for almost a decade, having purchased the Islanders’ hockey team in 2000 and then acquiring the nearby, 617-room, 11-story Long Island Marriott Hotel in December 2005, the DGEIS notes. The DGEIS is available online, and two themes continually emerge: can these properties handle such intense development, and; what would its impact be on the region’s already congested thoroughfares? The answer to the first question appears to be yes; the second question is open to debate.

There are four pieces of property in the mix. On Hempstead Turnpike’s north side, the county-owned Coliseum and the Marriott cover more than 91 acres and the Omni Parcel, home to the 10-story Omni office building, is situated on another 22 acres. Meanwhile, on Hempstead Turnpike’s south side, there is the 28-plus acre Rex Corp. Plaza East parcel, formerly known as EAB Plaza, which is already home to two, 15-story office towers. The LDG is asking the Hempstead town board to place Rex Corp. Plaza West, eight-plus undeveloped acres on Hempstead Turnpike’s south side, into the PDD, too.

In addition, the DGEIS points out that the Mineola, Westbury, and Carle Place LIRR stations are three miles or less from Uniondale. Left unsaid: how long it takes to drive those three miles. Nonetheless, the LDG received a significant boost on June 29 when Senator Charles Schumer not only offered his support for the Lighthouse at Long Island but said he imagined federal dollars for establishing a shuttle to the Mineola LIRR station from Uniondale, and to improve the Hempstead Turnpike—Meadowbrook Parkway intersection.

In a not-so-subtle reminder of what’s at stake for hockey fans, the Islanders are playing a pre-season game on Tuesday, Sept. 22 against the Los Angeles Kings in Kansas City, Missouri. The locale: the Sprint Center, which is said to be in the market for an NHL franchise. The Islanders’ lease at the Coliseum expires in 2015 so that’s another countdown clock worth monitoring as the Lighthouse proceedings unfold.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: MFBARRY@optonline.net