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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Let county voters decide on the Coliseum's future

One could argue that the last time Long Island experienced basic economic development was during the 1920s, when the great Robert Moses’s vision resulted in the construction of our magnificent ocean state parks and parkways and the infrastructure necessary for Long Islanders to access these facilities.

These developments led to tremendous growth in the recreation and tourism industries on Long Island.

Over the past two decades, there have been numerous proposals regarding the redevelopment of the Nassau Coliseum, home to the New York Islanders, the Mitchel Field athletic complex and its surrounding property.

Several years ago, Islanders owner Charles Wang unveiled the Lighthouse Project, a $3.8 billion multi-phase development that included construction of the world’s tallest “lighthouse,” surrounded by athletic complexes, a five-star hotel, restaurants, shops and condominiums.

Due to the scale of the project, lack of financing and environmental, traffic and zoning concerns, the Town of Hempstead was forced to shelve it. To be candid, it was overdevelopment, to say the least, but the Islanders are still itching for a new stadium, and their contract with Nassau County expires in 2015.

Last week, County Executive Ed Mangano, along with Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray and Wang, unveiled a dramatically scaled-down proposal that included a new Coliseum and a minor league baseball stadium near Mitchel Field. Unlike the privately funded Lighthouse, a $400 million voter-approved bond would finance this plan.

It was also announced that the county had called off plans to have a Shinnecock Nation-owned hotel and casino anchor the redevelopment of the Coliseum. Instead, the county will put its support behind a casino at Belmont Park in Elmont.

We’re moving in the right direction. Belmont is a perfect fit for this project, mostly due to its accessibility by car and the Long Island Rail Road. The proposal awaits state approval.

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