Written by Joe Rizza Friday, 31 July 2009 00:00
A proposed project that would have a major impact on all of Nassau County will be discussed at a public hearing on Tuesday, Aug. 4, beginning at 9:30 a.m. at John Cranford Adams Playhouse at Hofstra University.
The project, called the Lighthouse Project, which will cost a reported $3.7 billion, entails renovating the Uniondale area to include a renovated Nassau Coliseum, hotels, convention facilities, office space, retail space and residential units.
Residents will be able to comment on the proposed project during the public hearing, which is held by the Town of Hempstead Board since the area falls within the jurisdiction of the town. The hearing comes after the town on July 7 adopted the Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS) for the project.
“This action is significant because it marks the start of the public comment period and allows for a public hearing on the environmental issues associated with the project,” said Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray.
According to the DGEIS, the purpose of the project is to primarily transform the Nassau Coliseum so that both the New York Islanders and New York Dragons can remain and function in a state-of-the art venue that serves as a benefit to the Town of Hempstead, Nassau County and the region. The project also aims to develop a world-class sports, entertainment and cultural destination for Long Island and allow for sports, entertainment and recreation facilities to be provided along with residential, lodging, retail restaurant, office and employment opportunities.
It has been noted for some time that the New York Islanders have needed an improved venue to play. There has been some speculation that if the Islanders don’t receive a new arena or a renovation of the Nassau Coliseum, owner Charles Wang would move the team to another city, possibly Kansas City.
The Islanders are a franchise with a rich tradition. The team won four consecutive Stanley Cup Championships from 1980 to 1983 but has not enjoyed much success since. The Islanders finished with the worst record in the National Hockey League during the 2008-2009 season, but recently selected 18-year-old center John Tavares, a highly-touted prospect, first overall in the entry draft. The Islanders will try to build their team with young players and hope a renovated area that will seat 20,000 will be able to attract other quality players to the team.
However, the Lighthouse Project is a big undertaking. Wang said in an interview by Mike Francessa on the show Miked-Up, heard on WFAN 660, that the process could take eight to 10 years. Wang has set a deadline of October 3 to receive approvals from the Town of Hempstead for the project or he will explore other options. However, he said on Miked-Up that he doesn’t believe it’s economically feasible for the team to continue to play in the Nassau Coliseum in its current condition.
Mineola Mayor Jack M. Martins said the Village of Mineola would monitor the Lighthouse Project for its potential impact on Mineola. “We’re certainly concerned about transportation routes and tie-backs to the Long Island Rail Road [in Mineola] as it would impact our downtown and our retail establishments,” he said.
Mayor Martins has been concerned with the possibility of a light rail system tying the Mineola train station to the Nassau County HUB project, which could tie in with the Lighthouse Project, and how such a system might impact Mineola with respect to traffic and congestion. “There’s certainly a heightened sense of concern for us to make sure when these projects are evaluated, they don’t include things that may have a negative impact on our community,” he said.
While Wang said he wouldn’t be asking for funding from Nassau County taxpayers, some wonder if the developer will be funding the entire project or which entities other than the developer will be helping to fund the project. “That’s the proverbial $60,000 question. Who’s going to pay for the impact to the local communities? The [developers] are concerned with developing that area. They’re certainly not concerned about mitigating impacts to local communities that may come about as a result of their development. That’s why we’re taking care to evaluate their environmental statement to protect the residents and businesses in Mineola,” Mayor Martins said.
According to the Town of Hempstead, the hearing will include testimony from the developer, which is the Lighthouse Group, involved agencies, the public, community groups and others wishing to speak.
Cap: A portion of the proposed Lighthouse Project, which developers feel will make the Nassau Coliseum an attractive destination.