So what happened after Kate Murray and Charles Wang shook hands in front of a beaming Tom Suozzi and they all pledged to work together?
Nothing, of course.
Between Hands Across Mineola on June 5 and the environmental hearing on Aug. 4, optimism about the Lighthouse Project was professed by all sides. Behind the scenes, even some of the most cynical of insiders – including LDC leaders – were convinced a new spirit of cooperation had taken over. There were theories for Supervisor Kate Murray’s about-face, the most popular being the arrival (and quick disappearance) of Kristen McElroy, her opponent in the upcoming election.
In this view, the tone changed dramatically on Aug. 4. Soon after the three Bs – Bettman, Bossy and the Bishop – spoke on behalf of the Lighthouse, Hempstead leadership realized their hearing was turning into a pep rally. It dawned on them that 95% of the speakers were going to be proponents. The rest of the day became a dirge for the “community leaders.” Sitting in the press balcony at Hofstra after the lunch break, it was painful for me to watch them slumped at the dais and fiddling on their phones as citizens spoke passionately before them.
It was as if the Town of Hempstead board realized, “Uh oh…this Lighthouse thing isn’t pissin’ people off. When the heck is that parade of protesters going to show up”? It never happened.
So Murray and her staff returned to back-room politics. They leaked a story about how most of the Lighthouse support notices they received came from citizens outside Hempstead or Nassau. They took their sweet time selecting a date for a re-zoning hearing (why not just do everything on August 4?). Playing cute, Murray & Co. eventually chose Sept. 22 – the same day the Islanders are playing in Kansas City.
Most pathetic of all, the Town of Hempstead invented a billing dispute between the Lighthouse Development Corp. and their planner, F.P. Clark & Associates. Yep, Charles Wang – out a few hundred million since buying the Islanders – is going to jeopardize Lighthouse progress by stiffing someone out of a few hundred grand. Know this: when the Town’s planning company took their ball and went home, it was because Kate Murray told them to.
The entire F.P. Clark fiasco is a humiliation to everyone with their hands in it.
The Town enjoyed a few good weeks when they had everyone convinced they were fast-tracking issues related to the Lighthouse. After I spoke at the Aug. 4 hearing and complimented the ToH on their work in the weeks leading to that day, town attorney Joseph Ra made a big show of telling me in front of the large crowd, “Mr. Botta, you should know this would not have been possible without the complete support of Supervisor Murray.” Thanks for listening, Joe.
(24 hours after it was placed with his personal assistant, Mr. Ra has not returned a call looking for comment for this story).
Since Aug. 4, nothing. Nothing, that is, except shameful politics. The State Department of Transportation, the Nassau County Department of Health, the Public Works department and all other state and county agencies did their jobs and made their deadlines. The best the ToH could do was invent a lame billing dispute. Shameful.
I suspect Wang will be an engaged participant in the re-zoning hearing on Sept. 22. Perhaps around 2:00 pm, he’ll decide whether it has been a productive and promising day or if he should get on a chartered aircraft to watch his Islanders play hockey in Kansas City. If nothing else, it will make for wonderful drama for Newsday to cover.
I don’t know what Wang will do if he doesn’t have his answers on Oct. 3. My opinion is that if he doesn’t authorize his staff to immediately begin preliminary discussions with leaders in Queens, Kansas City, Hamilton, Portland or anywhere else, he’s making a mistake. Wang has his deadlines, has his convictions. Islanders fans know the stories of Zdeno Chara and Brad Isbister, of the lost season of Sean Bergenheim.
Why would Wang ever believe anything Hempstead politicans say again? On the other hand, if Wang doesn’t accept invitations for alternative hockey homes on Oct. 4, the Town of Hempstead politicians will never take any of his deadlines seriously.
Wang should go to Queens and make the best deal he can. After that, it’s up to him if he wants to give Hempstead one last chance to wake up.