Here is Newsday’s article on the meeting.
7:17 pm - The developers got the crowd they wanted. The Grand Ballroom at the Long Island Marriott is crowded. I’d estimate the attendance at this point at 800 – 1,000. Charles Wang is at the microphone. On the dais are Scott Rechler, Tom Suozzi and LDC President Michael Picker.
7:20 pm - Wang tells the crowd that as many people will get to speak as possible. If they don’t get a chance, he encourages them to reach out to everyone on the dais, even call his office if necessary. “As some of you know, I talk to everyone – not just season ticketholders.”
7:22 pm - Wang: “I’m not one to give up on Long Island. Don’t bet against us on Long Island. We can make it happen.” Later on, he urges everyone to work together “with a single purpose,” quoting a recent speech by Barack Obama.
7:25 pm - Rechler: “The Lighthouse Project is the future of Long Island. It is a defining moment for our future.” He also points out everything he and Wang own in the area. “We are not developers,” he said. “We are neighbors.”
7:26 pm - Picker: “We’ve listened to the community. We’ve modified our plans. We’re not looking to bypass approvals. Government needs to work faster.”
7:28 pm - In a speech many of us have heard before – albeit an effective speech – Suozzi lists Nassau’s four major problems:
- Property taxes
- “Our children are moving away.”
- “Pockets of poverty that people have been ignoring for a long time.”
The Nassau County Executive also outlines how Suffolk County is growing while Nassau is not. “We have to expand our tax base in a creative way. That’s what this project is all about.”
Suozzi on Wang and Rechler’s proposal: “This is the best sports deal in America.”
7:34 pm - Wang introduces all his consultants. “It’s expensive to have consultants.” He also intros many guests, including Betsy Gulotta of the Hempstead Plains Association, Bobby Nystrom, Mike Bossy, leaders of Veterans and Labor groups, and several community leaders such as Joseph Scannell, David Denenberg and Dave Mejias.
One of the most notable guests is Hempstead Town attorney Joe Ra.
7:40 pm - A new version of the Lighthouse Project video that I haven’t seen before – focusing on some of the history of the property - is shown. Charles says the video last 6 minutes 22 seconds. “The site has been waiting 40 years for a new vision, new growth,” goes the narration.
Mercifully, it is not the “Meet Me at the Lighthouse” video. This one deals in real life.
7:47 pm - Wang introduces a 92-year gentleman named George Kleinman, who has been on Long Island his entire life. “I can’t believe, with a project like this, that we have to campain for. I watched the development of Kennedy Airport. We did it, and we did it right. Ladies and gentlemen, this is a great thing, believe me.” Later on, he asks, “What is the answer? What is holding this up”? He also says Labor needs to get involved. “They can do the job.”
Matthew Pemberton, a young student at the Connolly School in Glen Cove, presents Wang with signatures in support of the Lighthouse he lined up from all the kids in school.
7:52 pm - A season ticketholder – saying he is defending four seats as his “real estate” – asks what happens if the Project is not approved. Suozzi: “It will be very hard for the Islanders to stay here if the deal does not go through.” Rechler takes it even further: “I think we lose the future of Long Island.”
7:58 pm - To a question about traffic, Picker announces that the developers have put up $55 million dollars for traffic mitigation. “Unprecedented,” he calls it. Suozzi says he has a plan that will take people from the Mineola train station to the Coliseum in 18 minutes without using their cars.
8:02 pm - John Durso from the United Federation of Labor says he does not want to hear talk of “what if” the project doesn’t happen. “This project has to be done. It has to be done union to be done right. This project makes Nassau happen. This project makes the economy happen. We will go to D.C., we will go to Albany, we will go to the ends of the earth to make this happen. And we will hold everyone accountable who tries to not make it happen.”
8:03 pm - One gentleman reads from the Declaration of Independence and demands the resignation of Kate Murray. Both Wang and Suozzi stand up for Murray and say it’s not personal and they don’t want to “demonize” anyone. Wang: “Let’s keep the politics out of it and make sure we are working together.”
8:10 pm - Nassau resident (and Point Blank reader) John K. talks about how bad the population loss is, saying Nassau has dropped four years in a row. Only Oakland County, Michigan matches Nassau’s lack of growth. “It is a horrendous, horrendous problem,” he says. Suozzi adds that the demo Nassau is losing the most is between the ages of 25-34. John is in the middle of a run of residents speaking in support of the Lighthouse Project.
8:15 pm - I guess I should mention that I’m at a press table with Eden Laikin and Katie Strang of Newsday. The Daily News also has a reporter here. There are also cameras here from News 12 Long Island, TV-55 and MSG Network. There may be others.
8:21 pm - In response to a question about bringing the Nets to Nassau, Wang asks a question back: “Can you imagine, if we had done this project when we first planned, what our chances would be now to get the Nets”?
8:23 pm - Bob Nystrom speaks, saying “I’m one of the oldest Islanders.” He talks about getting drafted by the Islanders and falling in love with the Island and making it his home. He expresses concern about Nassau’s future: “If you don’t grow, you die.” He ends by telling Wang that he doesn’t understand how he’s been able to have so much patience waiting for the project to be finalized.
8:30 pm - Wang announces that there will be “breakout” meetings all over the Marriott conference level if visitors want more detailed answers from the consultants and project leaders about traffic, the school system, environmental and other aspects.
Rechler adds to Wang’s Nets comment by saying the same holds true for big business. If Nassau had the infrastructure, it wouldn’t lose businesses at the rate it is.
8:40 pm - President of Building and Construction Trades Jim Castellane gets the crowd worked up. He asks for everyone who is behind the project to stand. Just about everyone does. He asks if there is anyone against the project. One couple stands up, the woman saying “I don’t want this in my backyard.” Ten seconds of mild tension. Okay, back to the speakers – several of them from unions.
8:45 pm - The veterans of war in attendance receive a rousing standing ovation.
8:48 pm - 90 minutes in, the most powerful comment is still Suozzi’s from 7:52 pm: “It will be very hard for the Islanders to stay here if the deal does not go through.” Other than that, lots of information, lots of support, little drama, no threats, no news.
8:53 pm - More speakers, including PB reader/commenter Adam Cohen, who discusses transportation issues. Suozzi, who’s been lovin’ him some HUB for a decade now, goes on a rant about the need for transportation.
9:00 pm - Nassau legislator Kevan Abrahams, who represents Uniondale, says the Lighthouse Project can be the Town of Hempstead’s “stimulous package.” Talking about the Coliseum, he says, “Think about that property if it goes away.” To his Uniondale residents, Abrahams says, “Think about your property values if this project goes away.”
9:05 pm - Joseph Scannell continues the run of politicians publicly supporting the project. He says he was impressed by Wang because “You took over this thing when it was sinking. You saved the Islanders.” Dave Denenberg speaks next: “Save the Island…Save the Islanders.”
9:10 pm - Bishop Harris from Uniondale says God supports the Lighthouse Project. Niiiiiiiiiice.
A representative from the NAACP speaks glowingly of the 18,000 construction jobs that come with the project. He asks for guarantees that there will be labor for minorities. Labor leaders stand up and give public assurances. They agree to meet off-line after the meeting.
9:20 pm - It looks like the main event is almost over. Mike Bossy is the final speaker. No one from the Town of Hempstead speaks. Press row is told that Wang, Rechler and Suozzi will be available in a scrum shortly. If anything comes of it, I’ll add it to this post. Thanks for following along.
I look forward to your reaction of my play-by-play, plus the Comments of the many PB readers in attendance. My plan is to do a follow-up column tomorrow with my take on the event.
9:40 pm - A trio of reporters huddle with Tom Suozzi. The subject comes up of Kate Murray saying she didn’t attend because of a conflict of interest, yet several Town of Hempstead leaders did show. Suozzi, as smooth on his feet as any politician, is lost to explain Murray’s absence.
I spoke to Suozzi one-on-one for a few minutes afterwards and will include that talk in a followup post.