Nassau Coliseum Debate Continues

After receiving feedback in recent weeks from New York Islanders fans with concerns over the delay in approving plans for the $3 billion Lighthouse Project, Hempstead Town officials released a Jan. 21 letter, pointing fingers at developers.

The proposed Lighthouse Project would update the site of the aging Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., with an upgraded state-of-the-art entertainment venue along with housing, retail and office space, conference facilities, a minor league ballpark and a five-star hotel, according to Newsday.

Islanders owner Charles Wang has been looking to move the team out of the 37-year-old Nassau Coliseum since buying the Islanders in 2000. After the Islanders agreed to a preseason game in Kansas City, Mo., in September – which some took as a sign the team might relocate to the city’s new Sprint Center – about 80 fans e-mailed Hempstead Town officials about the project, according to Newsday.

In the letter from town officials, Hempstead Town Attorney Joseph Ra said the town has told developers – Wang and his partner in the Lighthouse Project, Scott Rechler – that a plan to renovate just the Nassau Coliseum, without the residential and commercial component could proceed “rapidly,” according to Newsday.

“Such a proposal would not call for the stringent state-mandated environmental reviews necessary for the Lighthouse project,” the letter said.

“The Lighthouse project is a proposed massive development proposal in Nassau County’s already congested midsection: the 150 acres around the Coliseum. As such it has triggered onerous and time consuming state-mandated studies of their proposal’s environmental impacts.”

Ra said the town must stick to “statutory timetables” and noted the county must give the final OK in the approval process.
A spokesman for the Lighthouse Project said just renovating the Coliseum doesn’t make economic sense.

“First, Nassau County owns the property and selected us as developers based on our idea of the Lighthouse Project in total,” said Paul Lancey. “And a stand-alone coliseum doesn’t work economically. It doesn’t survive on its own. … You need surrounding things to make it work.”

Lancey added it’s “not just a sports thing. Sports is just a small thing in a bigger picture.”

Chief Deputy County Executive Marilyn Gottlieb told Newsday Jan. 22 the county “would like to see the entire project move along” and that “it’s always been our goal to keep the Islanders here.”