Sunday, October 4, 2009

Nassau County & the Town of Hempstead Pucking around with the Lighthouse

*For anyone interested in my take on the game and 2 minutes with Matt Moulson, please check HockeyBuzz.

Aren’t you getting tired of this political game? Imagine how Charles Wang feels after have to deal with it for eight long years. Well, this time the “monkey in the middle” has just about had it.

On what should have been a day set aside simply for Hockey on Long Island, it was a day that was overshadowed by a well known deadline not being met, and the question of “what happens next?”

The Democrat candidate for ToH Supervisor, Kristen McElroy, addressed a crowd outside the Coliseum with the ominous, yet truthful statement, “Opening day should be a day of great optimism and excitement. Unfortunately, we stand here today and the future of the Islanders is unclear. And you know why? Because of Kate Murray and the Town of Hempstead.”

This is a fact that has been clear for quite a while now. McElroy continued “The reason why Kate Murray and the Town Board have dragged their feet and have continued to throw up road blocks for political reasons and are being told what to do by Joe Mondello. It’s time for that to stop and do the right thing for the Town of Hempstead and the County of Nassau residents and get the Lighthouse project done.”

Kate Murray has been playing out her political game in the media, most notably, Newsday. Kate’s most recent move of calling the developer on Friday afternoon to request a “meeting to discuss” the project showed up in the morning paper, the morning of the well known deadline for her answer. It was an eleventh hour ploy to make it look as if she is willing to work and Newsday is her soapbox.

When Charles Wang addressed the media throng, including the writer of the Newsday article, his frustration was evident but his sense of humor remains intact. The small room was packed and when he arrived, he walked right passed everyone. When the camera and news crews tried to stop him to reposition him he joked “What? I’m just trying to get to the bathroom.” Everyone in the room laughed and that broke the mood. But if he was trying to get to the bathroom, it was certainly to get sick.

“I have always said I want a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ by this date. Now we explore all options. And that’s what we are going to do. We haven’t negotiated with anyone, and we haven’t been out there, so now we see what happens.”

When he was asked if he would meet with Kate Murray, he was thoughtful in his answer, but his message was clear. “Kate called on Friday at 3 or 4 in the afternoon and it was a pleasant conversation. When the Town Supervisor calls, you give her all the respect. I will listen. I said I would meet with her. I also said clearly that I would like to have an answer. She said she wasn’t prepared to give me an answer on the phone."

Mr. Wang also told her the conversation was off the record. It seems Ms. Murray’s idea of off-the-record is contacting our only local news outlet as if she was telling her neighbor over coffee. He beseeched her, “No more games. This is too serious and important for all of Long Island. Next thing I know, I open up the paper and there it is.”

Of course, my eyes wandered to the writer of the article to see her reaction, but I could only see the back of her head.

The idea of compromise after working with the Town for the last two years is, as Scott Rechler had called it previously, ingenuous. It is painfully obvious that Kate Murray will not make any decision on this project until after the election in November. By then, it may be too late for the Town of Hempstead.

Tom Suozzi also made his feelings known to the media while wearing his Town and Islander colors to show his support of both. “I’m very excited about the fact that the county and the developers have negotiated a lease. I think it’s very important for the future of Long Island and the future of Nassau County. And we’re going to do everything we can to make it happen.”

Sadly, that puck is no longer on Suozzi’s stick. Kate Murray is playing sumo goalie at the other end of the ice and she’s frozen the puck waiting for the whistle.

“Mr. Wang has always said that he wants to do this on Long Island, he loves Long Island and the Islanders belong on Long Island. We certainly agree with that. He has indicated that he is now going to explore other options. Now I want to continue to impress upon him how important it is for him to be here on Long Island and we in the County are going to do everything we can to make him feel welcome and we want this development to happen. We need the Town of Hempstead now to do the same thing.” I wanted to mutter, ‘Good Luck with all that, Tom.’ But thought better of it.

Mr. Suozzi let out an emphatic “NO” when asked if he was hopeful after Ms. Murray’s late afternoon phone call. “Why would you call at 4 o’clock the day before the deadline and go right to the press. It’s kind of emblematic of this entire process, that it’s more about game playing.” If that is all there is, should we have any hope at all?

“The main reason for hope is that people want this, number one. Number two is that it makes sense economically for the long term future of Long Island." He stressed that what is necessary is for residents to make their desires known to the officials in the Town of Hempstead. They are there to represent the people’s needs. I’m taking that as a call to the phones and the polls on Election Day.

He called the actions of the Town “irresponsible.” I’m certain he had other adjectives in mind.
After the first period, the NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman addressed the press in this regard. The league has been a very strong supporter of owner Charles Wang and his vision of a mixed use development surrounding a new arena center piece for the NY Islanders.

Mr. Bettman recognized the sold-out crowd’s approval of the project, the County Executive and the Isles owner by the rousing applause they received when announced to drop the puck.
"Everyone knows what the developers have been going through to get this project done. Now it’s up to Kate Murray and the Town of Hempstead to step up. Charles is looking for an answer. Everyone knows that this arena cannot house the Islanders longer than they are required to be here. There going to have to be a change and the sooner they get on with things, the better. Obviously, we’d like to see the Lighthouse project approved. But Charles is now in the position of exploring other options. It’s been eight years. It’s about time somebody gives him an answer.”

When asked if "all options" could mean selling the team, Mr. Bettman responded “I think at this point he has to consider ALL his options. As I understand it, his options first and foremost are to see what he can do with the arena situation. We really haven’t explored in any meaningful way beyond that. I think his goal would be to keep the team, here, on Long Island. But if the Town of Hempstead continues its lack of decisiveness, he’s really just looking for a decision.”

Of course the league wants to see the franchise stay on Long Island. They are not in favor of moving franchise away from their fans, as well noted by the fight to keep the Coyotes housed in Glendale.

Could the Islanders be up for sale anytime soon? Could Blackberry Jim be thinking he’s got new prey here in Uniondale? I don’t think so. A more appropriate option would be to find a Township here on Long Island that would want the hefty tax revenue, employment and income stream the Islanders and the Lighthouse project would generate. Wouldn’t that be a kick in the pants to the Town of Hempstead if say, the Town of Oyster Bay or the Town of Babylon find a way to make it work for THEM?

Think of the political careers that would be dead in the water then.

Of course Mr. Wang jokingly said he was learning Russian to allude to the idea that maybe one of the suitors knocking at the Islanders door will be the newest owner of the Nets basketball team in Brooklyn.

Well, okay Kate. It’s your move. But remember, most of us are already keen to your game. Perhaps on Election Day, the voters will be too.

1 comment:

eashl said...

When exactly is the election? For the first time in my life I am actually going to vote and Urge every single person to vote against Kate Murray. Don't be suprised if Kates hometown shows her how to make decisions and not waffle on them