8:30 pm: Editor’s Note – Charles Wang purchased a full-page ad in the newspaper today to re-assert his commitment to keeping the Islanders on Long Island. Ed Mangano, Jay Jacobs, Peter Schmitt, Kate Murray and a host of other “community leaders” continue to play politics.
Meanwhile, in Queens, they are ready to pounce on Long Island’s team. In Queens, there is room for a first-class NHL arena on the Citi Field property, and the kind of development opportunities Wang craves in the Willets Point project. For the Islanders, public transportation, increased media exposure and so much more potentially awaits.
No, Jack Friedman is not the Queens Borough President (on vacation for the next two weeks, I’m told), but he is a legitimate and sincere mover-and-shaker as the Executive Director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce. Friedman was my first call on Tuesday after the public referendum for a new arena in Nassau came back NO in a big way. After a five-minute conversation, I asked Friedman if he would send me an email answering the question, What Can Queens Do for Charles Wang and the Islanders? His response follows.
From Jack Friedman
Executive Director, Queens Chamber of Commerce
For the past couple of years, I have been following with great interest what was happening with the Lighthouse Project, Nassau Coliseum and the Islanders. While I had no intentions of getting involved while negotiations continued between Charles Wang and Nassau County, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between elements of the Lighthouse Project and the Master Plan for the Willets Point area in Queens. Now that the voters have spoken and before Wang considers other locations and possibilities, I hope he looks no further than Queens as the perfect place for his development.
The master plan for Willets Point has always called for commercial and retail space, housing and a convention/exhibition center. The Queens Chamber of Commerce has long advocated for the re-development of Willets Point with the Convention/Exhibition Center being its prime element. As you look across the country, more and more you will find multi-use arenas that can serve the dual role of trade show/meeting space and a home for the Islanders. Look at what Willets Point has to offer:
1. 61 acres of open space located across from CitiField and next to the US Tennis Center.
2. Access to the subway, Long Island railroad, highways and airports.
3. Parking at Citifield and hotels at nearby LaGuardia Airport.
4. Land that has already received appropriate zoning in an area that has already been approved by NYC government and been through the environmental review process.
5. Easy access for the Islander fanbase.
Willets Point would be a perfect fit to Wang’s original vision.
What needs to happen next is discussion. Can a plan be constructed similar to the plan that allowed for the building of Citi Field and Yankee Stadium? Can a public-private partnership be formed that would meet both parties needs?
The Queens Chamber has always supported projects that bring jobs, incremental tax revenue and opportunities for local businesses. We have been long time advocates for a first class convention exhibition hall, something I believe a multi-use arena could be and a means by which Willets Point could be converted from a blight to an economic engine.
Now is the time for talks to begin. This is a great opportunity for everyone involved.
Jack Friedman joined the Queens Chamber of Commerce and became its Executive Director in 2007. Prior to joining the Chamber, he spent five years in New York City government when he served as Chief-of-Staff to the Finance Chair of the New York City Council. He is a lifelong resident of Queens.