There is no discernible progress over the last several months to report on the Lighthouse Project, Charles Wang and Scott Rechler's transformation of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and surrounding property.
Conversations over the last week with sources on all sides of the Islanders arena project - Nassau County, the Town of Hempstead and the Lighthouse - revealed scant optimism that a groundbreaking ceremony is possible for the summer of 2009. For the last few years, that was a goal of the project's leaders.
Sources said the following:
- There has been little meaningful communication over the last six months between the Town of Hempstead and Nassau County about the development of the project.
- Despite being urged by some leaders to fast-track the project as a boon for business and jobs in the spiraling economy, the Town of Hempstead has been slow to take necessary steps to get a shovel in the ground. The project, estimated to cost between $3-4 billion, is expected to create 50,000 jobs during the construction phase and generate $70 million of annual tax revenues. Asked one source: "Why doesn't the Town seem motivated to get this done"?
- An unwillingness to "reach across the aisle" by Republicans and Democrats has the project at a standstill. One source even theorized that Kate Murray, a Republican who is the Town of Hempstead Supervisor, may run against Tom Suozzi, a Democrat, when the Nassau County Supervisor seat is up for re-election in November.
Blogger and PB contributor B.D. Gallof reported on Dec. 22 a source saying Lighthouse construction should begin in summer of 2010. When Gallof contacted a project spokesperson, they said, "Lighthouse stands by the 2009 start date."
With our latest information, here's our take: 2009 is an extreme longshot and, right now, without evidence of any significant progress it is difficult to make any guarantees of 2010.
Point Blank readers have forwarded to us the following response letter from Town of Hempstead attorney Joseph Ra that they have received recently when inquiring about the status of the Lighthouse Project. Consider it the Town's current official position.
Re: Lighthouse Project
Thank you for contacting the Town of Hempstead concerning the Lighthouse Project. As you may know, this proposed project concerns not only the upgrading of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum but substantial development of the 150 acres surrounding the arena, including RexCorp Plaza on the south side of Hempstead Turnpike. The proposed development consists of the following:
1. Nassau Coliseum Upgrade and Renovation – 928,000 sq. ft. (435,000 sq. ft. existing);
2. 300 hotel rooms added to the 612 units at the Marriott site;
3. An increase of 200,000 square feet of convention space added to the 113,000 square feet that currently exists;
4. The creation of an additional 1,000,000 square feet of office space;
5. Development of 500,000 square feet of retail space; and
6. The construction of 2,306 residential units.
As I’m sure you can appreciate, a project of this magnitude has significant environmental consequences. Pursuant to the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act, the Town Board of the Town of Hempstead has passed a resolution that allows the environmental review process to move forward.
As suggested by the Act, two public meetings were held in May 2008. At these meetings the Town sought input from other levels of government, various community groups and citizens on areas of concern. Among the items considered were the impact of the project on air quality, water availability, the number of parking spaces provided, storm water quality, energy capacity and traffic congestion.
In the coming months further action will be taken at which point the developers will prepare and submit a Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement which will be tailored to address the environmental concerns identified through the scoping process.
While the process is time consuming, the Town is working with the developers to keep this application moving forward while ensuring that the concerns of our community are given proper consideration.
Very truly yours,
JOSEPH J. RA
As you might expect, the letter is very lawyerly, political, pretty standard fare. But it may say a lot about Kate Murray's view of the Lighthouse Project that while the letter makes a point of detailing its complex scale, the response doesn't contain a single word about the project's potential benefits to Town residents.
Nothing new from practice today. Expect Joey Mac against the Rangers on Tuesday. Feedback on Lighthouse only in this Comment. Continue the discussion on NYI hockey in next thread. Thanks...CB