NIFA MAKES NO OFFICIAL COMMENT ON PROPOSALBut Their Fact Sheet Says Otherwise

By Corey Witt

5:50 pm: At today’s NIFA Public Meeting at the Marriott Hotel, NIFA Chairman Ronald Stack said that NIFA would not offer an “opinion or position” on the August 1st referendum on the redevelopment of the Hub Area/Coliseum. The meeting focused more on how NIFA is disappointed at Nassau County for not providing a more comprehensive budget plan for 2011 and beyond. The arena project was only spoken about for less then 10 minutes with NIFA continually stating they have no position on the referendum and will wait until after the public vote.

However, Stack and NIFA gave out a fact sheet that presented NIFA’s “Summary of Financial Factors Relating to Proposed Redevelopment and Leasing of the Hub.” The sheet had nine points. Here’s a summary:

1. Total Cost: NIFA says the total redevelopment cost to the County would exceed $800 million, including interest payments over 30 years.

2. Taxpayer Burden: Project cost would be paid through a property tax increase of 3.5 to 4 percent and the tax would remain in effect for 30 years, regardless of revenues from the project.

3. Potential Future Borrowing: The new arena would cost between $350 and $375 million with only $25 to $50 million left for the rest of the project. Completing the rest of the hub may cost more.

4. Identity of “Tenant”: The Islanders are not listed as the original tenant, rather “Arenaco SPE LLC.”

5. Surrounding Acreage to Tenant: Extensive acreage surrounding the new arena would be leased to the tenant, which would give control of development of the Hub.

6. Rent Not Guaranteed: The rent from the tenant does not cover estimated annual cost to taxpayers for debt services.

7. Tax Break: The tenant would be exempt from property taxes on the new arena and surrounding acreage.

8. Other Benefits to Tenant: Tenant pays no rent until construction is complete.

9. Risk of Bankruptcy: County would be responsible for all construction costs of new arena if the tenant files bankruptcy.

NIFA ended the new arena/Hub portion of the meeting by saying that if and when the referendum is passed by voters, they then would look into the financial aspects of the project and would then take an official position. Judging by the points on the fact sheet, feel free to make your own judgment if NIFA has or hasn’t formed an “official opinion or position.”