Written by Christy Hinko Friday, 15 July 2011 00:00
In the first of a series of information sessions planned to cover most of Nassau County, county officials held a public forum at the East Meadow Library on Wednesday, June 29 for residents in the Town of Hempstead regarding what is called the “Hub” area.
On hand to discuss the economic development and jobs creation plan for the Coliseum and the surrounding area were Chief Deputy County Executive Robert Walker, County Spokesperson Brian Nevin, and County Director of Governmental Research Eden Laikin.
Approximately 12 residents were in attendance with myriad questions and concerns about the overall proposed planning and about what some called a “rushed vote on August 1.”
With the Aug. 1 public referendum just weeks away, Nassau County residents will be tasked with deciding the fate of the regional development which, officials say, would include whether to put thousands of Long Islanders back to work while absorbing the financial burden of such development. Residents will decide whether to bond up to $400 million for the Hub plan. Of the bonded amount, $350 million would be spent on rebuilding the Coliseum, creating a new sports-entertainment venue; $26 million would be used to build a minor league ballpark, and $24 million would be marked to improve the area surrounding the current Coliseum, including Museum Row.
In an independent study by Camoin Associates, funded by the County, it was determined that the Hub project will bring unprecedented economic benefits with $1.2 billion in revenue, of which $403 million would offset property taxes. The plan would create 3,040 permanent jobs and 1,515 construction jobs, according to the study.
Camoin Associates regularly assists government, municipalities, businesses, developers and organizations with projects from planning to implementation to evaluation. They provide data analysis and research expertise, for projects like the Hub.
It was conveyed at the meeting that the Islanders would pay all costs related to the architecture, planning, and design of the new Coliseum before any of County’s cap of $350 million is borrowed and that the Islanders would also pay for any construction fees over $350 million cost.
Officials attending the meeting said that aside from retaining the New York Islanders through 2045, the development would attract a minor league baseball team, similar to the Long Island Ducks, or the Brooklyn Cyclones and that additional job creation and revenue would be generated as a result.
According to Walker, the Ducks and the New York Mets, have expressed interest, separately, in bringing a team to the Hub. The 6,000-seat ballpark would be ready for use in 2013, he said.
Along the lines of the same concerns some County Legislators had when voting whether to hold the public referendum on Aug. 1, several residents asked why there was such a rush to hold the referendum, and why the public vote couldn’t be held on Primary Day in September or even in November during the General Election.
An East Meadow resident said the public meetings were poorly publicized and asked why the County did not post signs or do more to announce the pubic forums.
Laikin explained the timeline of planning and development in relation to the NHL season and the looming expiration of their lease agreement at the current Coliseum. She said the meeting dates were sent to all media outlets, including being well publicized through County literature and on websites.
“The majority of the Coliseum use and where the revenue is really derived from, where the residents will benefit by, is with the concerts, the different programs, the circus, the Globetrotters, it’s all those other events; first we’d be able to compete for much more with a brand new Coliseum,” said Walker. “Residents of Nassau County will share in every dollar that is raised in terms of coming into the facility; right now we receive zero.” He said if the Coliseum closes, it would take with it more from the commercial tax base than just itself with the domino effect of other surrounding businesses closing as a result. Residents would then absorb the lowered commercial tax base, he said.
“I think the 3,500 jobs that will put people to work immediately are jobs for people who live here in Nassau County who are struggling to decide how they are going to afford to live in their house, … people are foreclosing,” said Walker. He said social services are up 30 percent in Nassau County. “We need to put people to work now, we cannot afford to wait, if we wait foreclosures will be up again, you’re going to be paying in terms of social services expenses, you’re going to be paying in terms of people leaving, your property values will potentially go down, your property taxes will go up and you are paying.”
On Wednesday, July 6, the Long Island Association, Inc. (LIA) made an announcement that it’s their top priority for the remainder of the year to keep the New York Islanders on Long Island and that it supports the construction of a destination center.
LIA is the largest business organization in New York, leading the Long Island region. Members of the LIA include thousands of businesses, labor unions, colleges, universities, not-for-profits, government agencies, and civic groups, which employ two-thirds of Long Island’s workforce.
“Consistent with our mission of strengthening the Long Island economy by supporting economic development projects that will create jobs and enhance our region, the Long Island Association is supporting Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano’s plan to build a first class destination center at the Nassau Coliseum site that will keep the New York Islanders here,” said Kevin S. Law, President and CEO of the Long Island Association. “The LIA also supports further competitive redevelopment of the Nassau Hub area and looks forward to working with County Executive Mangano on those plans in the future,” said Law.
Without a suitable place for an NHL team to play, the Islanders may be moved to another city at the conclusion of their existing contract.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said, “This team [Islanders] desperately needs a new building. The lease will expire at some point and the team will not stay in this building.”
Walker stated that without the redevelopment of the Coliseum and the surrounding area, the structure and property would be shut down, taking with it millions in sales tax and ticket revenue, job opportunities and top billing entertainment. He also said that this would directly impact surrounding businesses that count on patrons of the Coliseum to generate income for their own businesses like the adjacent Marriott hotel and restaurants along Hempstead Turnpike.
Mangano has said that with the new Coliseum, 11.5 percent of dollars spent at the new arena will be revenue for the residents of Nassau County.
If the public referendum passes, bonding and construction would only begin after approvals from the Office of Management and Budget, the Independent Office of Budget Review, a two-thirds County Legislative vote, the County Comptroller, and the Nassau Interim Finance Authority (NIFA). After all approvals, construction would begin in 2012, with a target date for the sports arena to reopen in 2015.
Throughout the month of July, meetings were scheduled to take place in Westbury, Bayville, Long Beach, Glen Cove, and again in East Meadow.
Two upcoming meetings were available at press time:
• Monday, July 18, at Syosset Woodbury Community Center, 7900 Jericho Turnpike in Woodbury from 4 to 8 p.m.
• Tuesday, July 19, at Carle Place High School, 168 Cherry Lane in Carle Place from noon to 2 p.m. and again from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said, “In order for residents to make an informed decision, I am committed to making sure all information is available to answer any questions the community may have. I have made certain that the voices of our residents will be heard at a public referendum to be held on August 1st.”
The public referendum will be held on Monday, Aug. 1 at voters’ regularly assigned polling place, allowing residents to decide whether to bond up to $400 million for the development plan. Absentee ballots are available.