Saturday, May 21, 2011

Protecting Growth or Standing In the Way?

Another bump in the road to a new Coliseum surfaced last week and was discussed in the next morning’s issue of Newsday. A group called The Association for a Better Long Island, a group of prominent and wealthy developers, met with County Executive Ed Mangano regarding his bond proposal and plans for the Uniondale Hub. Based on reports, the hour long meeting did not go well.

The group, whose website mission statement is “Protecting Orderly Growth On Long Island,” can be looked at as yet another “special interest group.” Their interest? Having one of their own members getting their hands on the surrounding county land that needs to be developed adjacent to the hub.

Yep. They weren’t happy that Mangano mentioned Charles Wang was already in negotiation with the County to develop the almost 40 acres that make up the balance of the empty space that surrounds the decaying Coliseum.

They’re not looking at the fact that he already won an RFP for the land YEARS ago or that he spent an estimated $14 million planning, studying and paying the Town of Hempstead for their environmental study that helped Kate Murray kill the project. No. They’re all looking around the room and saying “Hey! It’s not one of US.”

Scott Rechler IS a member of this Association. But he is no longer associated with Charles Wang since the Lighthouse Project died it’s slow and painful death. Maybe he has something to do with the dissent. Maybe. Maybe not.

According to all sources, all the details of the proposed contract with the County will be made available by mid June. That will give everyone enough time to digest the information prior to an August 1st vote.

“Before the August 1st date, by mid-June, we will have put out the economics and everyone will have plenty of time to understand what the arrangements are that we are making with the county.” Michael Picker, Isles Senior Vice President, told me over the phone Thursday night from his office. (A time when most executives would have been long gone.)

It has been said that just an NHL arena is not enough to be profitable. Even Gary Bettman, when discussing the Atlanta Thrashers, said few are willing to “fund the loss” that is an NHL team. (And that’s why they’re moving.) So I asked Mr. Picker if he would be able to show in June that the Islanders in a new arena could be profitable in order to pay their portion of the proposed revenue sharing.

“There will be additional development around the arena and that will be included in the agreement that we end up reaching with the county.” And there it is, THAT is what the association of developers want to talk about.

“You’re confusing issues though.” Mr. Picker admonished me. “The borrowing and the referendum is for the building of the arena and the ball park. Nothing else. What people will have to decide,” (should they have the opportunity to!) “when they understand the economics, when you take everything into account, is it something that the people want to support and the legislative oversight boards want to also support. Which we are hopeful. We believe that when they see all the numbers, they will look at this and say that it is a positive situation to go forward with for Nassau County.”

However, the politics in Nassau County has always been “Well, what am I getting out of this?” You can see it start already between the Nassau Democrats and their Republican counterparts. It’s the push-me-pull-you that has gone on for years. Then there are the special interest groups that have forever yapped “What about US?”

Okay, this is where my personal rant comes in. I’m tired of this crap. I’m tired of going to these hearings and watching small groups ask where their piece of the pie is. At the last Town of Hempstead hearing I went to, I was appalled at how many groups were lined up to tell the developers what THEY wanted included in the Lighthouse project in order for their vote. WHAT?

What happened to the common good? What happened to “Well, you can’t please everyone”?

Face it Long Island, this is your last shot at developing that 77 acres of asphalt. The Democrat minority speaker said in her interview with SNY that Charles Wang was Long Island’s “Rainmaker.” He is the last hope to develop that property and actually turn it into something worthwhile.

When I asked Mr. Picker if the revenue sharing would start during the building phase, he told me “I don’t want to address anything in particular. All I have to say is the economics will be released mid-June and then I believe that will answer all the questions.”

Mr. Picker has more faith in our political system than I do. When I asked him if he felt this was once again a political football, he said “At this point, I’m not worried about it. You saw the Democrats abstain in their vote last week in order to take it forward. I think it was their way of saying ‘We need to learn more about this before we can evaluate it.’ Even in Dianne Yatuoro’s comments, it was very clear of her passion to make sure we have an arena for not only the Islanders but for concerts and entertainment. This is much more than an issue regarding the Islanders. This is an issue about people come to family shows and concerts and exhibits in the exhibition hall. So it’s way more than just the Islanders and that’s what people have to realize.”

Having listened to Desmond Ryan’s interview, I was interested to hear what he had to say about something Mr. Ryan threw out. “The question is, Mr. Ryan said that you offered the same proposal to Suffolk County and it was turned down.” and pause….

“That’s not true.” he said. “So you’re saying that it’s not true and he is mistaken?” I pressed. “Correct.” and that was all he said about it.

I scanned my notes for another question. “Do you believe that $350 million is enough to build an arena considering how much other arenas have cost.”

“Well you’re not comparing arena to arena. Everybody wants to make statements. We believe we can build the arena for the $350 million number.“ Mr. Picker wouldn’t commit to what existing NHL arena it would be comparable to.

Regarding the August 1st vote, “We believe right now the legislature will support the August 1st date and it will move forward.”

Mr. Wang has offered to reimburse the County for the expense of the August 1st vote, but the County has not taken him up on the offer yet and has not voted on whether or not it can take place.

That brings us to Monday when there will be another “Major Press Conference Regarding the Nassau Coliseum’s Future.” And you’re invited.

Brian Rosenberg, President of the Long Island Restaurant Association, will join with businesses, labor unions, merchants, hotels and hospitality groups, restaurants, New York Islanders fans and corporate partners, and representatives from the newly formed coalition, Build a New Coliseum, in holding a press conference regarding the future of the Coliseum site.
Be there on Monday at 11:30 am out front of the Coliseum.

This is going to be an interesting few weeks as each side tries to gain support for their position. But as stated in the press release in my email in-box,

Should the Coliseum not be built, thousands of jobs will be affected, and the revenue of local restaurants, bars and businesses will significantly decrease. The region will essentially turn into a ghost town. Local merchants will reveal the ways in which they will be adversely impacted by the loss of the Coliseum. Islanders fans and concert buffs will discuss the need to travel outside the region in order to attend professional sporting events, concerts, family shows and exhibitions.
So forget about everything else for now, and let’s just focus on the task at hand -- August 1st.


Anonymous said...

Long Island really needs to get some positive mojo going. Do you believe in the future or not? That's what this vote is about, not the Isles.

--JP in Exile

Anonymous said...

Great Post Dee. The whole thing is gonna just be a mini-lighthouse type deal. the difference is is that Charles Wang won't ultimately have as much power over thyere as he would have. This essentially ios what killed the original idea. The Politics see too much potential over there and there was no way that they were all goiung to let Charles get all of the power.

We need to just get to August 1st as quickly as possible and campaign like heck to get the YES vote out there.


New York Islander Fan Central said...

You needed to ask Picker what Msg has to do with any of this and if Newsday can be trusted given overt negative articles vs positive ones being released via a steady diet of poor economic forecast in Dolan's paper. It's like Wang being asked if Msg should keep their 1981 tax exemption which is why Msg would prefer a renovation.

The point needs to be brought out does Dolan/Cablevision/Msg/Newsday want the Islanders out to save money on television deal and expand their brand back into Nassau County and can they be trusted in coverage?

Nothing to date indicates they can be.

Anonymous said...

Great Post.

New York Islander Fan Central said...

In reply to your email below, Minority Leader Yatauro made a mistake and should of said “SMG” not MSG.

Kathy Visconti,
Legislative Assistant to
Minority Leader
Diane Yatauro, 18th LD
Phone: (516) 571-6218
Fax: (516) 571-6158