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Town Supervisor Plans to Seek Development of Coliseum Property

Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray, joined by Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, has announced that she will propose a measure at the February 9 Town of Hempstead Board meeting that would “jump start” the development plan for 77 acres of land surrounding the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Murray’s vision for the site doesn’t quite call for a plan as extravagant as the “Lighthouse Project,” proposed by New York Islanders’ owner Charles Wang, but the supervisor feels it’s important to develop the site.

Murray’s initiative calls for the town to retain engineering and planning consultants, Frederick P. Clark Associates, to develop a scaled back zoning “blueprint,” establishing guidelines for the type and scope of construction to be permitted at the site.

“Reasonable development is coming to the hub of Nassau County,” said Murray. “The importance of a project at this site is evident. The creation of jobs, support for our tax base, stimulation to the region’s economy and a strong desire to retain the Islanders hockey team all are factors that have prompted me to ‘think outside the box’ and come up with a plan to get the development process for the Lighthouse site moving again.”

According to the Town of Hempstead, Hempstead officials observed that the Lighthouse Project has been flagging since the development group has withdrawn from participating in the environment review and zoning process. Failure by the Lighthouse group to provide payments required for state-mandated engineering/environmental reviews and the fact that the town has not received responses to questions raised since its September 22 zoning hearing (i.e., traffic mitigation) have made it logistically impossible for the Town Board to render a decision on zoning for the proposal, according to a press release from the town’s communication department.

“We will not take a ‘wait and see’ approach to development at the area surrounding the Coliseum,” stated Goosby. “Supervisor Murray and I are going to be proactive in seeking meaningful and progressive development at the hub.”

Under the “jump start” effort, engineering and planning consultants Frederick P. Clark Associates would develop a Planned Development District (PDD). The supervisor and the councilwoman indicated their desire for a district that accommodates a mix of development that would complement a refurbished Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and accommodate many of the priorities that have been included in the Lighthouse proposal. Murray and Goosby observed it would be premature to provide further details on what a new PDD might include before meeting with consultants and giving planners an opportunity to consider issues such as environmental concerns, local infrastructure impacts, other logistical matters as well as the conformity of a new district with the area’s suburban character.

Murray has previously indicated that she believed the Lighthouse Project needed to be scaled back. In fact, Murray met with Islanders’ owner and developer Charles Wang in the fall of 2009 to discuss the Lighthouse Group’s willingness to collaborate with town officials on an amended development plan. Subsequent meetings have occurred; however, the development process has not progressed significantly.

“We are focused on reasonable development around the Coliseum,” stated Murray. “A new development district will provide the framework for a project that we hope will earn the confidence and approval of all town board members.”

The supervisor and Councilwoman indicated that they want to “jump start” the process and move forward at an expedited pace so that zoning can be put in place, a plan approved and construction started as quickly as possible. The officials said that they believed the PDD could be developed and presented to the town board by this summer. Murray and Goosby also noted that the environmental work that has already been undertaken for the current proposal would dramatically reduce the time frame that would be required in developing a new zone.

Murray also mentioned that she has consulted with Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano to coordinate efforts to develop the property, most of which is county-owned and will be subject to a lease and/or purchase agreement(s).

“We are all Islanders, and that’s one of the reasons that Dorothy Goosby and I are moving to ‘jump start’ the project at the Lighthouse site,” concluded Murray. “Our goal is to provide for reasonable growth and development around the Coliseum, create a great destination in our hometown, provide for construction and long-term employment, support the local tax base, stimulate the economy and keep our Islanders here where they belong.”