A presentation on May 2 represented the next step in — and a new hope for — the future development of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Four companies responded to County Executive Ed Mangano’s request for proposals to privately finance a new arena and redevelop the surrounding area. Their proposals revealed the companies’ desire not only to revamp the Coliseum, but to make the site a multi-purpose destination.
Attempts to redevelop the site in recent years have gone nowhere. In 2011, county voters rejected a referendum that would have publicly financed a new arena adjacent to the 41-year-old Uniondale complex. The year before that, the Lighthouse project, New York Islanders owner Charles Wang’s elaborate vision to develop a new arena, a hotel, a sports complex, apartments and retail shops, hit a roadblock in the form of zoning issues and community backlash, which ultimately led to its demise.
The failed projects led to the loss of the Islanders, Nassau’s lone professional sports team, which will play their home games in Brooklyn beginning in 2015. And for now the 77-acre Coliseum property lies barren, unchanged and uninspiring.
But the attempts at redevelopment were not fruitless. With them came valuable precedent on how the county should, and should not, proceed in the future. Most important, we — and, we hope, county officials and area developers — learned the need for transparency.
The public vote two years ago was rushed, secretive and arrogantly lacking public input. Not enough information was made available, and approval of the referendum would have meant a tax increase at a time when residents were voicing anger with Nassau’s already exorbitant tax bills.