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TH Waiting on Wang

Islanders Owner’s Deadline Passes

New York Islanders owner Charles Wang said he was waiting for an answer from the Town of Hempstead whether they will allow the Lighthouse Project, which includes a new Nassau Coliseum and further development around the Uniondale site, to go forward. However, now that the October 3 deadline imposed by the Islanders owner for the town to make a decision has passed, Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray appears willing to discuss the Lighthouse Project.

According to a town spokesperson, Murray has reached out to Wang to set up a meeting to discuss possibly amending the Lighthouse Project, but as of Tuesday afternoon, was still waiting for Wang to give a date for the two to meet.

Wang issued the following statement on October 3: “Late yesterday afternoon I received a phone call from Supervisor Murray to discuss the Lighthouse Project. In our conversation, I reiterated my consistent request for a ‘yes or no’ answer on the Lighthouse application by today. She was unable to give me an answer on the phone and requested a meeting. I promised I would call her early next week to listen.”

The New York Islanders began their season on Saturday, Oct. 3 with a 4-3 loss to the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in a shootout. The future of the Islanders franchise, 19-year-old John Tavares, scored his first NHL goal and added an assist in the game.

“When he scored, the place went nuts,” said an Islanders fan who attended the game.

The place in question, the Nassau Coliseum, is the central part of the Lighthouse Project as the future plans for the franchise, including where the team plays, hinges on a new building for the Islanders to play in. However, the Lighthouse Project includes not just a new hockey arena but office space, conference and exhibition facilities, housing, a multipurpose athletic complex, minor league ballpark and a five-star hotel.

The Lighthouse Development Group, which includes Wang as well as Scott Rechler, is attempting to develop the land around Nassau Coliseum in the multibillion dollar project, but isn’t getting the type of cooperation needed from the Town of Hempstead.

However, the town doesn’t believe in meeting a deadline proposed by a developer and believes that there needs to be more answers. A town spokesperson confirmed that the some of the questions and concerns raised by the town have not been addressed by the developers.

While Wang may be exploring other options, he cannot move the team until 2015 when the current lease runs out. There is already a new lease in place that will keep the Islanders in Nassau County through at least 2030. However, that lease, negotiated between Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi and Wang, is contingent upon the Town of Hempstead approving the zoning request from the developers for the Lighthouse Project.

Suozzi has been extremely supportive of the Lighthouse Project mainly because of the economic benefit in bringing in more tax revenue to the county and creating jobs. The new lease, which must be presented and approved by the Nassau County Legislature, calls for the Islanders to pay the county an annual rent of $1.5 million for length of the lease plus annual increases tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

In announcing the lease agreement days before Wang’s deadline, Suozzi was critical of the Town of Hempstead and Supervisor Murray for not giving an answer regarding whether the town board would change the zoning of the area in order for the project to go forward.

“It would be horrible if after all this hard work, after this time, after all this money that has been invested by the developers, the project doesn’t go forward. The idea that the Islanders would leave after 2015, that there wouldn’t be this massive investment into our county — shame on those folks who would stop this project from getting done,” Suozzi said.

Supervisor Murray has maintained that the town is committed to getting development projects done right as opposed to getting them done fast, which she stated in a letter to Suozzi dated September 11.