With unexpected unanimity, the Nassau County Legislature gave Bruce Ratner’s Nassau Events Center LLC a green light on Monday to redevelop the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum site.
All 19 legislators — 10 Republicans and nine Democrats — voted in favor of the project, an act of bipartisanship that County Executive Ed Mangano described as “a rarity in Nassau County” at a press conference following the vote.
Mangano selected Ratner’s $229 million master plan last month, following a months-long proposal-evaluation process. The company will renovate the existing arena and reduce its seating capacity to 13,000, while adding an outdoor amphitheater, a movie theater, a bowling alley, a Fillmore Theater, a veterans monument and retail space. The project will begin in August 2015, Ratner said on Monday, and take an estimated 15 months to complete, while the surrounding retail outlets will take 18 months.
During Monday’s legislative session, Ratner and his associates endured nearly two hours of questioning by Democratic legislators, who delved into the minutia of the proposed lease, including financing, construction, public transportation, parking, the number of events a repurposed Coliseum would host and even the healthy food options it would offer.
Finally, at around 4:45 p.m., a simultaneous yell of “Aye” from the 19 legislators reverberated through the Peter J. Schmitt Memorial Legislative Chamber, followed by loud applause from Forest City Ratner associates and other supporters of the plan.
The proposed lease must still be approved by the Nassau County Planning Commission, the county comptroller’s office and the Town of Hempstead. A county spokesman said on Tuesday that the contract was currently being reviewed by the Nassau County Interim Finance Authority, a seven-member, non-partisan board created in 2000 that oversees the county’s finances.
If approved, Nassau Events Center, an affiliate of Forest City Ratner, will be bound in a 34-year lease with the county, according to which it will pay Nassau 8 percent of its gross revenue and 12.75 percent of the complex’s parking fees, according to Mangano.