James Mirtle on the fight to save the Islanders.
Mark Herrmann on yesterday’s First Stars: you.
3:15 pm – Stunningly, the public hearing for the Lighthouse Project ends not only two hours before its allotted time, but without any hint of formal, significant, organized opposition. That’s all, folks. Now we wait to hear from Supervisor Kate Murray and the Town of Hempstead board.
Quick recap. The Adams Playhouse was at 90% capacity from the 9:30 am start of today’s hearing. About 9 out of every 10 speakers were in favor of the Lighthouse Project, consistent with the crowd which was filled primarily with Islanders fans and union workers.
The Lighthouse Development Corporation did well, showing two effective videos and lining up the big guns from Bettman to Bossy to Bishop Murphy. They had a good day. While some members of the Town Board were on their Blackberrys or looking the other way while supporters and opponents spoke passionately, Lighthouse leaders Charles Wang, Scott Rechler and Michael Picker listened, took notes and were emotionally engaged.
After a one-hour break for lunch at 1:00 pm, the audience dwindled down to about 75.
Still, emotions ran deep. One senior citizen who spoke a few minutes ago got choked up talking about how the Islanders put Long Island on the map. One of the final speakers of the day asked for the dismissal of incompetent poilticans. Ouch. What a way to end.
The Lighthouse Live Blog and Lighthouse on Twitter covered it all day. Newsday had three writers here, the Islanders bloggers were out in full force and there were several local news crews around this morning.
I requested the opportunity to speak and my name was called at noon. I was grateful to get to the podium before lunch, and especially appreciative of the people who gave me such kind encouragement as the nerves started to kick in.
The purpose of my speech was to encourage the board to listen to the proponents and opponents, but find a way to continue to work out a deal with Charles Wang and Scott Rechler. My feeling is, if this transformation of the Coliseum and surrounding property doesn’t work with Wang and Rechler, then who?
“Supervisor Murray, members of the board, your staff, Mr. Ra, Mr. Deery…you have kept your word. You are here. We are here. For that, I salute your tireless stewardship of this project.”
(I then offered for me and my buddy to go out and get lunch for them).
“Today, you will hear from some opponents of the Lighthouse Project…many will make some very fair points, no doubt. We all must show them respect. My goal is simply to urge you to do whatever is in your power to make the Lighthouse Project work with Charles Wang and Scott Rechler. If this development doesn’t happen with a pair of dedicated, successful and generous Nassau County neighbors like these men, it’s not going to work with anyone else.
“I spent most of this decade inside the Islanders family and the last year outside it. My feelings have not changed: there is not an owner in the modern history of professional sports who has done more to keep a franchise afloat in his own backyard than Charles Wang.
“He returned the franchise to respectability, making the playoffs 4 of 5 years. But he knows that’s not enough. As Mike Bossy and Bob Nystrom showed us, there is only one champion at the end of the year. Everyone wishes for the team to win more – no one more than Mr. Wang. But ice hockey is a humbling sport. For 54 years, some really smart and successful people on 34th Street in Manhattan wished their hockey team had won more, too.
“Know this about Charles Wang: 1. He is the last New York Islanders owner standing. Count on it. And 2. Under his guidance, the Islanders can grow together and can be champions again.
“Not to be confused with Islanders tough guy Joel Rechlicz, Scott Rechler is not “The Wrecker,” but a builder – one of the most respected in the tri-state area. And like Mr. Wang, he gives back to the community in extraordinary ways. Just in this neighborhood alone, Mr. Rechler is co-chairman of the Long island Children’s Museum and serves on the Honors Advisory Committee right here at Hofstra.
“Supervisor Murray, listen to everything the advocates and the opponents have to say today. I know about the October 3 deadline, but take another week if you have to. Just find a way to make it work for these people and with Mr. Wang and Mr. Rechler. They may be best known as titans of industry, but above all else they are Long Island men of honor. Thank you for your time.”