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ESD approves Belmont project

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The Empire State Development board today approved the state’s Environmental Quality Review Act and Urban Development Corporation Act findings, bringing the Belmont arena project one step closer to fruition.

The project would include a 19,000-seat arena for the New York Islander’s National Hockey League Team, a 250-room hotel, a community center, commercial office space and 350,000 square feet of retail space. It still needs to be approved by the state Franchise Oversight Board, which currently owns the land.

The majority of the speakers at the meeting this morning expressed their support for the project, including a number of Elmont residents. Some read letters from their neighbors who could not attend the Thursday afternoon meeting, and 21-year-old Joshua Johnson even showed the board a video he compiled of residents’ explaining why they support the project. It showcased Elmont’s crumbling infrastructure and a flooded soccer field at one of the parks in the town, which ESD officials vowed to fix.

Others said they were excited by the new job opportunities and revenue the project would bring to Elmont. According to ESD officials, the Belmont project would “produce 10,000 construction jobs, generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax dollars and create billions of dollars in economic activity.”

“Many of us consider this as a sign of hope that we are on our way to economic development,” said Oneil Gordon, an Elmont resident.

Not everyone was in favor of the project, however. Floral Park Deputy Mayor Kevin Fitzerald called the project “detrimental to the neighborhood” and asked the board to issue a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement as the final one released last month included new information about an Elmont Long Island Rail Road station that would abut an elementary school in Floral Park.

But at the beginning of the meeting, Rachel Shatz, the vice president of planning and environmental review for ESD, explained that the Draft Environmental Impact Statement included language that traffic concerns would be addressed in the final statement. And in response to Fitzgerald’s claims, Elmont resident Jon Johnson exclaimed, “No one can speak for Elmont. Elmont wants this project.”

One of the last speakers was Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky, who expressed his excitement for the project after two years of planning. “We will be a good neighbor,” he told the Elmont residents in attendance. “We love the community [and] we want to be a part of the community.”

The final approval is expected to come in another few weeks.