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Letter: What’s Wrong With the Lighthouse?

When the Lighthouse Project is fully completed, Nassau County will be forever changed to a more urban environment. The creation of a dense-mixed use landscape will seriously alter the entire county but will have a particularly deleterious effect on the villages and unincorporated areas of both the Town of Hempstead and the Town of North Hempstead.

The addition of 1 million square feet of office space will create no new jobs. The developers have no vision of how to attract businesses from outside of Nassau County. The result of their efforts will be to move existing office tenants to the new Lighthouse at the expense of office complexes from the surrounding communities. Will they offer sweetheart deals at low rents to fill up their space with large incentive packages and one-time bonuses? Since almost 2 percent of all office space in the county is now vacant, who will fill the 1 million square feet of new space?

Then, how about 500,000 square feet of retail? With the Source Mall practically empty, with Home Expo gone and vacancies at Roosevelt Field, where will all these retail stores come from? The main shopping streets in our local communities are all ready suffering from the recession. High rents and shrinking revenues are driving many of our Mom and Pop small businesses to the brink of bankruptcy. When office tenants move to the Lighthouse will our restaurants suffer from the lack of customers? The cycle will cause serious problems for all downtowns.

The Villages of Garden City, Westbury and Hempstead will be particularly hard hit due to their proximity to the project. This is particularly vexing since none of the tax benefits of this project will follow through to local communities other than Uniondale.

When you really look at this project in its totality, it is very pedestrian. A bunch of dense square buildings, a couple of tall towers, housing similar to many New York City projects. There is a canal but when you look at the Lighthouse, it’s nothing more than Co-Op City with a commercial center.

There will, of course, be construction jobs and the Islanders will stay on Long Island but the price will be the urbanization of central Nassau and that can never be reversed. We can emulate Queens County but I don’t think most of us want to live there.

The Town of Hempstead has the ultimate say as to whether this project is approved or not. Their decision will echo for years to come and their legacy will be determined by their courage to reject this overplanned, over-developed and overly hyped mega boondoggle.

Say  “no” to urbanization, say “no” to political pressure, say “no” to the unions, say “no” to the developers, do the right thing for us and for our children.

P.S. Just for the record, Nassau County is a great place to live. I don’t think because, as Mr. Souzzi says, “we are a mature suburb” means we need to grow or develop anything. The population grew in the last census so it seems people want to live here as we are. Who decided for us that we need a big central HUB? Will our air quality be better, do we get cleaner water, does traffic ease, will our schools be better or will a small group reap millions in profits? Does the current partnership spin off pieces of the development to others? Who really wins if this project goes through?

Dennis Donnelly

Garden City Trustee and Liasion to the Garden City Business Community