Friday, 09 October 2009 00:00
Dude, bad vibrations.
That’s what I thought as I read headlines like, “Wang: No More Negotiating” and “Wang: It’s All or Nothing.” By the time you read this, the Oct. 3 deadline imposed by sponsors of the proposed Lighthouse Project for agreement, approval, capitulation, or whatever we decide to call it, will have passed.
The rhetoric is getting unpleasant. One county official was quoted, “Shame on those folks who would stop this project from getting done.” Shame? I keep a written list of things some local officials might feel shame about, in three different word processing formats for maximum portability. None of them involve asking questions about the water supply for this massive mall project, or how many potential buildings are involved. The same official declared, “It’s a $3-billion investment in the future of Long Island.” Yes, but it isn’t a very good investment for the people of Nassau County, some might say. I maintain an open mind, as always.
I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know why after all this time the Lighthouse people show up at hearings without answers to the kind of questions you’d expect to answer in front of your village zoning board if you wanted to put up a toolshed that was too close to your neighbor’s garage. I don’t know why their deadline is coming four weeks before Election Day, on a Saturday, unless someone wanted to use this as a political hammer, or perhaps as political cover. The Environmental Impact Statement, a book that’s supposed to answer in detail anticipated questions about potential water use, traffic, pollution, effects on surrounding communities and other important considerations, only was finished last month. What is the significance of the Oct. 3 deadline. Is it a Sukkot thing? I don’t know a lot of things.
For years, I have openly rooted for the county administration to succeed in its stated intention of transforming the remaining Mitchel Field property into a “hub” for a new, improved Nassau that can thrive in this century. Yet we have never accumulated meaningful information on what people expected, needed, wanted or might use on this 150 acres. Instead of something organic to the area, generated from the needs and desires of actual people, we have something that will be imposed upon the landscape, regardless of anything. There are residents who are already thinking about ways to drive around it without getting caught in it. And it’s tall. Really tall. But most of all, it isn’t ours. It’s theirs. All or nothing, or we will be punished.
Unlike more than two million residents of Nassau and Suffolk counties, I have actually attended Islanders games. The last time I went with friends, we went out afterward for wings and beer. If we had done something else that night, we still probably would have gone for wings and beer. Unlike some other entertainment venues, sports facilities generate relatively few new dollars, making sports projects are among the weakest economic investments local governments make. But if the Islanders are really such a vital engine to our local economy, if they are so critical or popular that their possible future loss can be used as a blackjack against us, then the county and the state can work to purchase them on the model of the publicly owned and massively successful Green Bay Packers. Profits can be funneled to a local foundation, like the Packers Foundation in Wisconsin, or to tax relief, if you like, or to financing something really good on Hempstead Turnpike.
Maybe the Drop Dead Deadline will pass. Maybe we will be punished. Just prepare yourself to hear, maybe for years, that no matter what hardships or challenges or crises we may face, the Lighthouse development would have fixed it. Your kids teeth would have been straightened, your boss would have liked you, your taxes wouldn’t be a problem, if only. If only. If it happens that way, don’t let them get away with it.
Michael Miller is a freelance writer, designer and strategic consultant who has worked in state and local government. He lives in New Hyde Park.
Michael Miller is a freelance writer, designer and strategic consultant who has worked in state and local government. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org