Thursday, May 12, 2011
Commitment to Long Island and the Islanders
When you see the Channel 7 Eyewitness News van, you know it’s big. It was. And as usual, I was late and had to park further than I wanted to knowing I’d be running in heels. I made it with about a minute to spare before the dignitaries took the stage. I’d like to thank my good friend, Brad Kurtzberg from InsideHockey.com for once again getting there early enough to save me a seat in the second row.
The floor of the Coliseum where the ice usually sits was set up again as it was for those Town Hall meetings we attended what seems like a life-time ago. But this time, the folding chairs were filled with politicians in suits on one side and the media throng on the other. In the stands were the Union workers who have attended every one of these meetings since Charles Wang presented the Lighthouse project to the public. The Union message is clear -- and loud. JOBS: NOW and their reprise of what they chanted for two years, “Build it NOW!”
Rob Walker introduced Ed Mangano with a rousing and spirited introduction and then Ed Mangano took the podium. I was a little surprised that Charles Wang received not only hardy applause but also a standing ovation from the floor. I was NOT surprised that Kate Murray received a spattering of Boos. For over a year, Kate Murray was the enemy of Islanders and their fans. Yesterday she stood on the podium saying “Hey! I’m not a Rangers fan.”
I will have to try to put my contempt in my back pocket during this process as it seems that Kate has finally found a proposal for the Coliseum property that she will endorse. (It will not be easy to do so, but I will try.)
While the press conference was live web streamed, it is also now available on their main website. Watch it so that you do not just take the excerpts from written reports. You’ll also be able to see how Murray relates to Mr. Wang and the change in her body language.
The Islanders new season campaign stressed “commitment.” Mr. Wang explained the concept. “This simple word is enormously strong in so many ways. Our organization has been intentionally quiet in our approach to obtaining our goal. But our commitment to Long Island has never wavered. Long Island is our home and the New York Islanders is our team.”
After that announcement, he shared a jovial moment with Ms. Murray who seemed very supportive. She is so supportive that Mr. Mangano actually introduced her as “our partner to make sure that this vision comes to fruition.”
Murray thanked the County Executive and Mr. Wang for “putting forth an agenda that gives Nassau County residents a voice in the future of the Nassau County Veterans Memorial Coliseum.” That name was stressed as it is a sticky point with the Veteran’s organization who had representatives present yesterday.
She continued to say how eager; “Very, very eager to work with the County Executive and Mr. Wang, the Islanders, Senators Dean Skellos and Jack Martins and all our residents to revitalize our communities, create jobs and to stimulate our local economy.”
I’m not quite sure where they were when the Lighthouse project presented all those options as well. But, no looking in the rear view mirror. This is where we are.
Murray told Randi Marshall from Newsday that through the Town’s exhaustive environmental review process they feel they have come up with a flexible zone for the property plan that is “absolutely compatible with the goals and desires of the Sterling Business Advisory council...” Remember that name. You’ll probably hear it a lot. And the fact that the Town feels their new “zone” is “flexible” for the 77 acres that surround the Coliseum and “the hub” indicates wiggle room. (Crossing my fingers.)
During the post-announcement media scrum, Mr. Mangano mentioned that now is the best time to borrow money as the interest rates are at their lowest and competition among builders is at its greatest. “So you get the best value for the taxpayer NOW." The other choice is an empty building with no tax revenue stream for the County or the Town. No brainer here!
“We’re ASKING the people of Nassau County, ‘Do you want to invest?’ Obviously there will be debt service paid until the arena is open.” he said as he was surrounded by cameras and microphones.
AH HA! And that’s probably where NIFA has their problem that caused them to announce "Not So Fast!" before any of us even left the Coliseum yesterday. But that would be short sighted of them to not see the bigger picture that the debt would be paid in the long run by the operators of the venues which would also be paying taxes and generating jobs.
What we need to do now is basically “Promote The Vote.” Can NIFA object if it seems that the bulk of the Nassau County residents are willing to approve this idea? Mr. Mangano is hoping that the media does its job by not just reporting what happened yesterday, but also educating the residents and getting the message out about this first vote on August 1st, which will give the County the ability to enter into the transaction, and then a second vote to ask residents if they want to proceed with the transaction. (Watch the video. It may make more sense.)
So this is a multi-step process, but every journey starts with a single step. Yesterday Nassau County and the Town of Hempstead put their walking shoes on.
Next Up “On the Hockey Front” and the impact yesterday will have on the Islanders as an NHL franchise.