Tom Suozzi yelled at me once, which I thought was pretty cool. I was with Charles Wang and some Islanders executives far more senior than me for a meeting with the Nassau County Executive on the Lighthouse Project. Suozzi wanted our marketing materials to focus on renovating the Coliseum and keeping the Islanders, but “All I see is the tower, the tower, the tower”!!! (As if the tower – or anything else – was my idea).
Well, that tower is gone and Wang and his development partner Scott Rechler made concessions on just about everything else the community leaders asked of them. Nassau County approved the project in a landslide and now zoning approvals are in the hands of the Town of Hempstead and Supervisor Kate Murray.
While we wait for the Town to make an announcement or for Supervisor Murray to take a position, I spoke with Suozzi last night for his take on the Lighthouse Project – I mean the project to transform the Coliseum and keep the Islanders in Nassau County. As you will see, he makes it crystal clear the next move is Murray’s…CB
From your perspective, what is the latest in the development of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum property?
The Lighthouse Group is working to gain the necessary Town of Hempstead environment and zoning approvals.
Is it all in the hands of the Town of Hempstead now?
Yes, they have control over this process.
Could you predict when there will be a ground-breaking ceremony on the project?
It can’t come soon enough for all of us. It’s the Lighthouse Group’s project and Charles Wang and Scott Rechler have estimated next summer.
When I was with the team, you made it clear how important it was to make the arena state-of-the-art and keep the Islanders here. Could you speak to that more in-depth for my readers?
The Islanders are a source of pride for all Nassau County residents. They and we deserve a first-class, state-of-the-art arena, for sports fans coming from near and far, as well as people coming for other attractions at the Coliseum. The economic future of this county has been a top priority of my administration and the Islanders and the entire Lighthouse Project are a major part of development in the Hub, the central core of the county.
But do you also understand Charles Wang and Scott Rechler’s vision to complete their entire vision for the Lighthouse Project – not just the arena but the surrounding 70-plus acres?
Yes, of course, good question. When we did the public procurement process for redevelopment of the Coliseum site, we intentionally required that proposers tell us how they would maximize the use of the Coliseum and 70-plus acres of public land to create a major destination and enhance the Hub as the economic heart of the county. The Lighthouse Group proposes 24/7 use with expanded sports and recreational facilities, offices, residences, shops and dining. They are also including their other real estate holdings in the development to create a 150-acre project.
Is there any chance the project can include access for public transportation?
I am glad you brought this up. It’s been proven that public transportation not only provides the convenience of getting to your destination without the use of a car, reduces congestion and improves air quality, but it also increases the value of any development. We have been working on a two-track approach for public transportation: for the long term, establishing a transit system that will connect with local LIRR stations to provide east, west, north and south access to the Hub for sports attendees, people going to school, jobs, visiting the museums, Eisenhower Park, and so on.
We have been working very hard to do the necessary studies and secure federal funding, so we can complete this complex task as soon as possible. In the short term, we are working with the Lighthouse Group on developing an express transit bus service from the Lighthouse Project to the Mineola LIRR station. Imagine not having to take your car to an Islander game.
Is it fair to say this project is taking longer to get off the ground than you’d like?
Of course, it is taking longer than I and everyone would like. However, it is a large, complex project and the review and approval phase does take time.
What do you say to Islanders fans that haven’t heard any public announcements of progress on the Coliseum project for a long time and are concerned they could one day lose their hockey team?
The Lighthouse Group has assured me they are committed to making this work. I know that they are working as fast as possible to get that shovel (or hockey stick) in the ground, and on the ice. Go Islanders!
Your reaction to Tom Suozzi’s remarks? Comments.