Islanders eye Belmont as possible new home


Cheering on the New York Islanders closer to home could be a real possibility, because the squad might - might - be moving to Belmont Park in Elmont, according to a Bloomberg report.

The Islanders have been looking for a new home because their current arena, the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, was not built for hockey and game attendance has been low there. The Islanders are also reportedly considering the newly refurbished Nassau Coliseum, in Uniondale, and a site near Citi Field, at Willets Point in Queens, as other possible sites.

A new Belmont Park home for the Islanders would involve a partnership between the owners of the New York Mets, New York Rangers and Islanders. Members of a private equity group called Oak View Group have been discussing developing a new home for the Islanders on part of the Belmont Park property, according to the Bloomberg report. Madison Square Garden owner James Dolan is an investor in the group, along with Sterling Project Development, which is controlled by the Mets' majority owners, the Wilpon family.

The Islanders currently have a lease at Barclays Center, but a clause would allow the team to terminate the agreement and leave after the 2018-2019 season.

Islanders officials could not be reached for comment at press time on Monday.

In December, the state canceled a Request for Proposal process to develop part of Belmont after reviewing four sets of plans that were developed over the past four years. Those proposals included a Costco with a shopping plaza, a stadium for the New York Cosmos soccer team, a slot terminal gaming facility and another shopping plaza with an unnamed anchor store.

The Empire State Development Corporation decided to cancel the RFP process after the largest proposal - for a $400 million, 25,000-seat soccer stadium for the Cosmos - did not appear to be on solid ground financially.

East End Civic Association President Patrick Nicolosi supported the Cosmos' plan, as well as the proposed gambling facility for Belmont's north parking lot. "This [not-in-my-backyard] mantra ... is nothing more than a scare tactic to scare people," Nicolosi said at a July 16 rally to protest the Cosmos plan last year.  

Nassau Regional Off-Track Betting announced that it wanted a slots parlor at Belmont Park in December 2015. Instead, however, Nassau OTB made a deal the following March to install 1,000 video lottery terminals at the Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens. Elmont residents living near Belmont also held rallies protesting that plan.

The Empire State Development Corporation is now seeking new proposals.

Nassau County Legislator Carrie Solages, a Democrat from Elmont, said there were no official plans yet to develop the Belmont property. If the proposal involving the Islanders were on the table, he said, it would need further review.

"We would need to address all the issues involved-- for example, infrastructure and community needs," Solages said. "I'd like a fully functional Long Island Rail Road station at Belmont, but if the Islanders are willing to invest, the community could be open to it. With Belmont as a major railroad hub, though, that would mean shorter trips into and out of the city for everyone, including Elmont residents. Property values would increase. New business ventures would come to the area."

At a town hall meeting in Valley Stream on Feb. 18, U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks, a Democrat from Far Rockaway, said that the community should be a large part of any development plans proposed in the future. "I want input from the community on that," he said. "We need to get folks from the community and their ideas out there open for discussion, and then pass them along to" Gov. Andrew Cuomo.