Live play-by-play of the Lighthouse zoning hearing at Hofstra University, for as long as I can take it without losing my mind…
9:48 am - Hearing officially kicks off with Kate Murray’s introduction of Charles Wang. Crowd is about half the size of Aug. 4 environmental hearing. Approximately half the crowd consists of union officials and Islanders employees. Nevertheless, Wang gets a raucous standing ovation. Murray makes her point: “The crowd is not as big as last time,” the Supe says, “but you certainly have your fans, Mr. Wang.”
9:51 - Wang intros the latest version – by my estimate, the 137th over the last six years – of the Lighthouse video.
10:00 - A second vid rolls, this one with testimonials from Gary Bettman, Mike Bossy, business owners, young children and noted Rangers fan Norman Esiason.
10:08 - As I just posted on Twitter, the game tonight in Kansas City – no matter how it may be spun – is now a non-event. I’ve heard from reliable sources that KC has comp tickets flying all over the joint and yet the crowd will still be far under capacity. Yes, John Tavares may be held to play in the Islanders’ one preseason home game – Wednesday night at the Coliseum. Still, if the Kansas City game was perceived as a difference-maker, Tavares would be playing.
10:12 - Wang giving speech. My translation: “Yo, we’ve done everything you asked for, we’ve worked with everyone we were supposed to work with. This is beyond stupid. Let’s get this sucker done, people.”
10:19 - Wang going through specifics on all the big buildings in the development. As an aside he says, “Although this building was not as tall as I originally hoped…”
10:23 - Hempstead Town-distributed press release sets tone for what lies ahead. In opening sentence the Town says the Lighthouse calls for “the construction of over 30 buildings – many of which are between 10 and 20 stories high.” Kate Murray does, however, acknowledge “Development is coming to the property surrounding the Coliseum. I know it and anyone committed to the future of our region knows it too.”
But will that development be what Wang and Scott Rechler have drawn up as the Lighthouse Project?
10:30 - Wang talking parking, water, etc. Seems to be wrapping up. “Our project can be a catalyst for tax generation and job opportunities,” he says.
10:33 - Wang challenges each Town board member by name. “We are at a defining moment, one that will determine Long Island’s future.” Talks about decisions the board may make, “or not make,” determining that future.
10:35 - Jim Castellane, Labor prez and Point Blank contributor, takes the microphone. Points out this is the 213th Lighthouse meeting. “We are facing the worst economic times that Long Island has ever seen. I personally have 35% unemployment.” He makes an impassioned, effective plea to the Town board to approve the Lighthouse.
10:43 - Unlike the star-power of the Aug. 4 hearing, this one is more business-like and dazzle-free. No Gary Bettman, no Bishop Murphy. Third speaker is an attorney from Farrell Fritz (a Town resident) and fourth is the director of the Long Island Progessive Coalition. Both speak nicely in favor of the Lighthouse. Prediction: the Adams Theatre will start to clear out over the next hour.
10:46 - Nick from Let There Be Lighthouse speaks.
10:47 - Nick gets the bell.
10:47:30 - Nick gets a second bell.
10:48 - Kate Murray tells Nick to “wrap it up.”
10:48:18 - Nick finishes.
10:50 - First Lighthouse opponent is speaker No. 6. I couldn’t tell you his name because the bells for Nick are still ringing in my ears. He believes the developers have not reponded appropriately to many concerns.
He rips on Tom “The Broker” Suozzi, which I can deal with. I’ve been consistently supportive of Suozzi and the Lighthouse, but couldn’t get him to return several calls over the last month.
Opponent from Garden City is booed when he finishes. Murray asks for respect shown to all speakers.
10:54 - Another opponent says the Town should take its time and ignore threats about losing the Islanders.
10:58 - Nick Eposcopia (sp?), a Trustee from Garden City says “the Lighthouse is not the answer.” He cites a meeting Wang had six years ago in Garden City, saying the Lighthouse vision has clearly grown since. He is ramped up, bitter, passionately against the developers and the development.
He’s effective. I’m just wondering what happened to the bell.
11:05 – Half the crowd splits.
11:06 – Labor leader Jim Castellane waves for his officials to leave the theatre.
11:07 - Another Garden City Trustee firing shots, including one at Scott Rechler for having plenty of unused office space on 110. “The Lighthouse Project will lead to the deterioration of the communities surrounding it.”
11:09 - Scott Rechler asks to repond to Garden City complaint. Kate Murray says he’ll have an opportunity after two more GC speakers and a break.
11:10 - It appears most Lighthouse propnents have left the building because, after the most recent Garden City complaint, there was nothing but applause.
11:11 - This is starting to remind me of the day Charles Wang’s Old Plainview project was met with resistence and he shocked a packed POB middle school auditorium crowd by withdrawing his plans.
11:12 - Break time.
He probably won’t, but I can see Wang packing up and going home. Trouble is, he has the 6:00 pm edition of the hearing and understands he shouldn’t miss it. For the record, I’d be having a plane at Republic gassed up for a trip to Kansas City.
11:30 - Jim Baumbach tweets that the Sprint Center in Kansas City is “magnificent” and that the Islanders should cancel their return flight home.
11:32 - Wang again asks to respond to Garden City complaints. I’d heard the ToH over the break had been reconsidering their decison to not let Rechler speak. Rechler is given the floor. “If the Lighthouse was built today, you would have companies that are going elsewhere staying on Long Island.”
11:37 - Water consultant for Lighthouse speaks. Says all matters have been addressed. He speaks more technically than that, but you can’t expect a hockey writer to keep up. About 150 left in the theatre.
11:44 - Lighthouse traffic consultant responds to Garden City concerns. ToH board member Dorothy Gossby puts on her usual big show to let everyone know she has the backs of her residents in Uniondale. She asks a few parking questions. Dot should really learn to not be so obvious about it.
11:55 - Town board, led by Anthony Santino, beating up LDC traffic consultant with lots of questions. Some testy moments, like Santino blustering, “Just tell me – yes or no”! Wang suggests they put the parking plans up on the big screen.
Noon - No question, LDC traffic consultant needs to sound more confident in his findings.
12:01 pm - LDC president Mike Picker just got slammed down by Santino, as if they were in court for a murder case. Body language at the Lighthouse table not good.
Hasn’t been a good last 90 minutes for anyone hoping to meet at the Lighthouse anytime in the next decade.
12:20 - The pushing around of the traffic consultant continues. Lots of questions to the LDC about how much things cost and who is paying for it. ToH seems to ignore that without their approval and an executed county lease, the LDC cannot get all of its answers.
12:25 - Rechler, who is good at this stuff, interjects to make the point that traffic is as important to the developers as the Town because he owns many of the buildings in the area and traffic coordination must work for those businesses. Rechler says they have presented a 2,000-page document breaking down the traffic mitigation and the town needs to read it.
12:26 - As if she didn’t listen to a word Rechler said, Goosby takes a “Meet Me at the Lighthouse” shot and again asks about the traffic on Long Beach Rd.
12:30 - Word was that the Town of Hempstead board was not going to allow Charles Wang to make a second presentation at the evening portion of the hearing. This, of course, would be silly because several new visitors are coming to Hofstra tonight after work or school. I suggested to a ToH official that the board might want to re-think their stance.
12:42 - Baumbach of Newsday reports that Kansas City will have 10,000 tonight in 18,000-seat arena so “the Islanders should feel at home.”
12:47 – Town says traffic answers are “a 19th century response to 21st century problems.”
Nick from Let There Be Lighthouse believes the Town of Hempstead is acting fairly and asking the right tough questions today. Cool. Never mind my critical view if you wish.
Just seems odd this show is taking place on September 22.
1:10 - Lunch break. Again, the Lighthouse Project is far from doomed. Maybe there will be some positive momentum at the night session.
But here’s the equation right now:
Today’s hearing + 50% capacity (with freebies) tonight in Kansas City + maybe 5,000 for Coliseum debut of John Tavares tomorrow = not a good 48 hours for the Islanders and the Lighthouse.
Your move, Charles Wang.
3:20 - Post-lunch, the focus is now on the physical structure of the Lighthouse. I’m at home, but from a constant stream of texts and by following on Twitter, I can see that Town board member Anthony Santino asked what are the heights of the buildings. Not for nothing, Mr. Santino, but it’s Sept. 22, 2009. You really need to ask what the heights are?
3:30 - Baumbach tweets that the man pushing for the NHL in Kansas City blames tonight’s crappy attendance for Islanders-Kings on no John Tavares, KC citizens not wanting to be used and – wait for it – Greinke pitching for the Royals tonight.
On a day when I’ve heard a lot of funny stuff, that dude gets First Star.
3:50 - It appears the Town of Hempstead board took a crash course from Miss Manners during the lunch break. They are prefacing most of their comments with “I have the utmost respect for Mr. Wang and Mr. Rechler…”
4:10 - This says a lot about the ToH board’s attention span. One member actually asks about a deal between the Lighthouse and the Uniondale Fire Department. The deal was struck the day before the Aug. 4 environmental hearing. Like all of you, I learned about it from a large story in Newsday.
5:15 - Hello. I’m back at Hofstra. Funny thing when I walked in. The LDC traffic guy was back at the podium, taking another round of whacks from the ToH board. They were supposed to break for dinner by now. The few people here at this time seem to be LH advocates. Big rounds of applause every time traffic consultant tries to set the board straight.
Curious to see if a bigger crowd gets here by 6:30.
5:25 - After watching this for several hours, super Islanders fan and Lighthouse psycho Joe Conte stops by the Point Blank laptop and says, “A Town with this leadership does not deserve the benefits of this project.”