Written by Thomas J. Tweedy Friday, 04 November 2011 00:00
When newsmakers release a report late on a Friday afternoon, chances are it’s usually not something that puts them in the best light. Stories released in the classic “Friday afternoon dump,” as the cynical strategy is called, are purposely intended to be a one-day story published over the weekend. Such may well be the case of the Long Island Economic Council’s release on late Friday Oct. 14 of its proposal it subtitles “Nassau Hub Transformative Project,” but which could be subtitled “Dump into Belmont Park All Pet Projects.”
Hofstra University President Stuart Rabinowitz, who has apparently ignored the call to step aside as co-chairman of the Long Island Economic Council, must take some “credit” for the plan his group released on a recent Friday afternoon. Hofstra University’s 220 acres of not-for-profit property on Hempstead Turnpike is adjacent to the 77-acre site of the Nassau Coliseum that is owned by the taxpayers of Nassau County. The Long Island Economic Council’s report is proposing that the Nassau Coliseum site be changed to a new research and development complex. Even more disturbing is the suggestion that the Nassau Coliseum, which since 1972 has been the heart of the entire development, could be moved from “the Hub” to Belmont Park!
The suggestion that Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, built for under $32 million in 1972, should make way for Hofstra’s grand vision for its own neighboring 77-acre site is incredible! As our Statement of Principles on Belmont Park has already referenced; when Yankee Stadium was replaced, it was rebuilt across the street and when the New York Mets home was replaced, it was replaced in its own existing parking lot.
The current Nassau Coliseum, which originally contained 409,963 square feet of floor area, can be replaced at the same place it already exists by a state-of- the-art entertainment center. Representatives of the Shinnecock Indian Nation have also expressed interest in obtaining a portion of the Nassau County “Hub” site to construct a casino. What was predicted at its opening in The New York Times to become “the Disneyland of Nassau County” could finally become a reality. There are also over 6,000 parking spaces at Nassau Coliseum. So the proposal by the group, led by Hofstra’s president, that $150 million from New York’s taxpayers should be used to build a new 6,000-space parking garage at the very same site where they already exist, sounds absurd.
Belmont Park, which opened in 1905, has been called the Taj Mahal of American Racing by Sports Illustrated and was envisioned by August Belmont, Jr., William Whitney and other horse owners to be enjoyed by future generations as much as Central Park, Prospect Park or Van Cortland Park. The “vision” of Hofstra University Rabinowitz’s group, however, is to turn Belmont Park into an all-you –can-eat buffet line full of half-baked ideas.
The less than 400 words that the Long Island Economic Council dedicates to Belmont Park in its 32-page report demonstrates the lack of consideration they have given it. Their report even rather sloppily refers to Belmont Park as “Belmont Raceway.” Any thoroughbred horse fan knows a “raceway” is for trotters or NASCAR races, while the sport of kings is run on a track. The cursory references to Belmont Park also suggest that a casino be built as well as a stadium for a semi-professional soccer team. Perhaps the planning group also does not realize that the 10,000-seat stadium at Mitchel Field was built for a professional soccer team. Once again, why recreate at Belmont Park what already exists at the Hub? If a semi-professional soccer team is interested in playing in Nassau County, perhaps Hofstra’s president could offer the use of the 13,000-seat stadium at Hofstra University, since it has disbanded its highly regarded football team. The new soccer team could even use the practice facilities where the New York Jets used to play, since they are no longer at Hofstra either.
As to the suggestion for the location of a casino in Nassau County, if Nassau County planners are eager to obtain a steady revenue windfall from a casino, then the first place it should be built is on land already owned and controlled by Nassau County. Just because Hofstra University President Stuart Rabinowitz does not want a casino at the Hub near Hofstra does not mean it cannot be done there.
Keep the Nassau Coliseum where the Nassau Coliseum is now. If Nassau County wants a casino, it should be built on its own land at the Hub and not at Belmont Park.