Written by Rich Forestano Friday, 27 May 2011 00:00
Long Island business and construction union leaders rallied Monday and Tuesday of this week for a new Nassau Coliseum in an effort to keep the New York Islanders on Long Island.
The rallies were aimed at getting support from the Nassau Legislature on whether to proceed with a referendum on up to $400 million in borrowing to build a new Coliseum and a minor league ballpark.
Monday, May 23 saw about 100 people including representatives of eight construction unions and various restaurants, as well as Islander fans, gathered in the lobby of the Coliseum to back the referendum, which would take place Aug. 1.
“The big picture is that without the Islanders, there will be no Coliseum,” said Bruce Avery, general manager of WRHU Hofstra Radio, the hockey team’s flagship station. “We need to have a world-class centerpiece instead of the parking lot we’ll have if the Islanders leave.”
The Legislature, with an 11-8 Republican majority, must approve the bond vote. Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano is pushing for the referendum. Borrowing costs would be recouped in an as-yet undefined revenue sharing arrangement with the Islanders and a minor league baseball club, according to Islanders’ officials.
“I wish we didn’t have to be here, but we’re here,” Long Island Restaurant Association Brian Rosenberg said. “I love this team, the organization and when I started working on the Island, I found out what it means to be an Islander.”
Islanders’ owner Charles Wang has said he would move the team if a new arena is not built. The lease expires in 2015. He has previously stated that he would keep the team in Uniondale until 2045 if a new facility is built.
“The growing support for my economic development and job creation plan is overwhelming,” said Mangano. “Each day, more and more residents seem to support my plan and agree that it is critical to creating jobs in our County and stimulating the local economy. I thank our residents for their support and urge the County Legislature to pass the legislation needed to ensure a public referendum take place on August 1st.”
Bill Duffy, president of Operating Engineers Local 138 and a member of the Public Works Alliance of construction unions, attended the rallies Monday and Tuesday.
“We see ourselves as a full partner in this process, and we believe that failure to lead is a failure of our future potential. We need this project to go,” he said.
Pete Zarcone Jr., an executive board member with the General Building Laborers Local 66, said approval of the referendum would be a “great shot in the arm for the local economy.”
On Tuesday, May 24 over 200 fans, union workers and business owners crowded the steps of the Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building in Mineola, chanting “Build it now, build it now.” This commenced before a legislative hearing on whether to proceed with the referendum on borrowing for the development project.
Among those showing support for a new facility were Butch Goring, a member of the Islanders Stanley Cup championship teams in the 1980s, and team general manager Garth Snow. One local union leader said Long Island is “finished” if legislators don’t approve the project and allow the Islanders to leave.
The Legislature will vote next week on whether to allow the referendum on the ballot for Aug. 1, according to county officials. A simple majority is needed to get it on the ballot, but, even if the voters approve the referendum, it will need a two-thirds majority vote by the Legislature for the project to move forward.
Former Oceanside, now Brooklyn resident Charlie Mcanulla has been an Islanders fan his entire life, and fell in love with hockey when he was 3 years old during the 1980 Olympics; the rest is history.
“I hope the vote passes,” he said. “A lot of fans are hoping it passes. It’s a shame it had to come this far to do this. For years, you hear about leaks in the locker room. This team deserves a new arena.”
Mcanulla said that if the Islanders stay on Long Island he would seriously consider moving back. “I’m dead serious. It would add the extra incentive of being on Long Island for me personally,” he said.