For years, plans to replace or refurbish the 40-year-old Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and develop the land around it have come and gone. Frustration finally reached its peak in October, when the New York Islanders ownership announced that it would move the team to Brooklyn in 2015.
The Islanders have been the Coliseum’s anchor tenant since the venue opened in 1972. When the team leaves town in three years, the arena won’t have much of an identity.
Islanders owner Charles Wang proposed the Lighthouse project for the property, which would have consisted of a renovated Coliseum, a sports complex, shops, restaurants, a hotel and high-density housing. The project met with a resounding “no” from the Town of Hempstead.
Last year, Nassau County proposed a new publicly financed arena, and its plan was met with the same disapproval. This time, the “no” came from voters. As ideas continue to be proposed and get shot down, the Coliseum continues to age, and hope for the Hub’s future becomes dimmer.
Now is the time for officials to finally step up and create a plan that works for everyone. We know the Islanders won’t be a factor after 2015. We know that revenue will be lost when the team departs. And we know that there is, in fact, much potential for the 77 acres of land on which the Coliseum sits. What’s the problem?
Politics continue to get in the way.
County Executive Ed Mangano recently announced the creation of a public-private partnership with developer Bruce Ratner — the same man who developed the Barclays Center, which lured the Islanders away. Mangano chose Ratner to develop a plan to redevelop the Hub, and detailed plans are expected to be released next year.
This time, politics must take a backseat. It has killed too many other plans. There are steps our elected officials can take to actually work in the interest of Nassau County residents to create smart and meaningful development in Uniondale.