In response to the contract’s unanimous committee passage, Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves, a Republican from East Meadow, said, “I am very pleased to be a part of the revitalization of the Nassau Coliseum. It is a remarkable opportunity for the people of Nassau County to have an exciting entertainment venue at no cost to the taxpayer.”
Kevan Abrahams, a Democrat from Freeport and the Legislature’s minority leader, said he had a few concerns about the language in the proposed contract, which he said would give Forest City the ability to delay the start of construction for five years. “You’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars that could help this economy,” Abrahams said. “We need to get people to work sooner than five years.”
He also said he wants to be certain that the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the New York Islanders’ American Hockey League affiliate, would be a permanent tenant of the refurbished Coliseum. Last month, Ratner announced that the Sound Tigers would make the move, but that it would require the approval of owner Charles Wang.
Abrahams added, however, that officials from Forest City Ratner were “receptive” when he raised those concerns during committee meetings on Sept. 9, and was scheduled to meet with them again on Thursday of this week. “We feel that Forest City and Bruce Ratner have a tremendous track record …,” Abrahams said. “We’re glad to see that they’re part of this process to rebuild the Coliseum.”
Forest City Ratner has agreed to accept all costs and responsibilities for operating, insuring, maintaining and providing utilities for the Coliseum beginning on Aug. 1, 2015, the expiration date of the county’s lease with the arena’s current operator, SMG.
The company is committing $229 million to renovations. Ratner said during the August press conference that construction would begin in June 2015, after the Islanders complete their 2013-14 season. Though the team is scheduled to move permanently to the Barclays Center in 2015, Ratner has committed to bringing the team back to the Coliseum for six home games per season once development is complete. Such a move would require approval by the NHL, but Ratner said last month that he was “confident” he would get it.