Tuesday, February 09, 2010

On The Other Hand. . . (No, Not Sarah Palin's)

Town To Propose A Smaller Lighthouse

Whether the Long Island Lighthouse Project will be reduced to little more than a 2 watt nightlight remains to be seen.

What is clear, however, is that the Town of Hempstead -- in whose hands lies all zoning decisions for the Nassau Hub -- is taking the reins, for better or worse, of the region's most ambitious attempt at redevelopment since Robert Moses built the Parkway.

Call it Wang-Lite or Mini-Murray, the Town is moving forward (with the help of paid consultants, Frederick P. Clark Associates) with what it says will be a scaled-down proposal of the otherwise grandiose Wang plan.

Actually, the Town will create a zoning scheme, setting parameters for such niceties as height, setbacks, and, no doubt, off-street parking, which, in turn, will dictate exactly what can and cannot be built.

Whether Wang was too big, too soon, or Kate & Kompany too little, too late, cannot be said at this juncture.

We can, and will say that, with the Town looking to move proactively, essentially taking the ball from Wang's hand, the rise or fall of the Nassau Hub is, for all intents and purposes, now and forever in Kate Murray's hands. [Hope there's nothing scribbled on Kate's palm. Special Districts. Patronage. Taxes. Smile.]

Meanwhile, The Community Alliance has obtained exclusive artist's renderings of the Town's proposal for a smaller, leaner Lighthouse (dubbed the Matchbox edition), which will include a mix of commercial, residential, and recreational use.

Looks vaguely familiar, doesn't it? Hmmmmm.

Anyway, kudos are due the Town of Hempstead if, indeed, their design is to move this much-needed project off center with a view toward actually getting something from paper to pavement.

And therein lies the rub.

Is this a plan to move forward, or, ultimately, a plot to scuttle what could be, should be, the cornerstone of Nassau County's renaissance?

For years it has been bigger, higher, grander, in trying to restore luster to the county's tarnished crown. Now, suddenly, it's smaller is better. Well, at least more palatable.

Kate Murray has been able to work her magic -- black though it may have been, at times -- in the past. Will she be able to pull a rabbit (or a Rechler) out of the hat this time around?

We shall see. . .
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From Newsday:

Wang may soon find out what town wants on Lighthouse

by ELIZABETH MOORE AND RANDI F. MARSHALL / elizabeth.moore@newsday.com, randi.marshall@newsday.com

In the months before he abruptly stopped work on the Lighthouse proposal last fall, Charles Wang had badgered the Town of Hempstead with one demand: Tell me what you want.

Now it seems he's about to find out.

At a morning news conference, Town Supervisor Kate Murray said Monday she'd had a "very positive" phone conversation with Wang and is hopeful he and partner Scott Rechler will still wind up developing the 77 acres of county-owned property encompassing the Coliseum area - albeit on a smaller scale to be determined by the town.

Murray's announcement that she will pay consultants to craft an alternative to the planned development district proposed by the Lighthouse Development Group drew criticism Monday from Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick), who noted the town had rebuffed early invitations to shape a vision for the county-owned parcel.

Meanwhile, others, like Association for a Better Long Island director Desmond Ryan, say Murray's move creates an opening for rival Long Island developers such as Ed Blumenfeld, Jan Burman and Vincent Polimeni to claim the plum project. "Kate Murray has opened the door to a comprehensive bidding process," Ryan said.

Wang did not return calls for comment.

County Executive Edward Mangano, who attended the news conference, said the county's existing agreements with Wang, including the designated developer agreement and memorandum of understanding, are still in force. That means unless Wang or the county chooses to nullify those agreements, the land is still Wang's to build on.

"Nassau County is not altering its contractual obligations at all," Mangano said. "Rather, we are supporting this because it moves the ball forward."

A source familiar with the process said, that while both Mangano and Murray are keeping their options open, they understand Wang still has considerable leverage as owner of the Islanders hockey team, which plays its home games at the Coliseum.

And though Hempstead Town board member Dorothy Goosby, whose district includes the land around Nassau Coliseum, portrayed the town Monday as taking the reins of the project, Murray said Wang would be involved in shaping the plans and said she expected them to include many of the elements he has already proposed.

Those include retail, commercial, residential and hotel space, and the sports technology complex that has been a prized centerpiece of Wang's vision for the refurbished arena site. But by creating its own plan, the town retains greater control, planners said. With Sandra Peddie

Highlights of Kate Murray's news conference

Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray announced that the town would, through its consultant, study what kind of development should be built around the Nassau Coliseum site. Here are highlights from her news conference:

Hempstead will hire Frederick P. Clark Associates, a planning firm, to establish a scaled-back plan for zoning the 77 acres of the county-owned property around the Coliseum.

Murray said she hoped that Charles Wang and his partner Scott Rechler would ultimately be the developers of whatever is built on the property.

Town board member Dorothy Goosby described the town's new plans as trying to take the reins of a "stalled" project.

The new zone, called a Planned Development District, would be likely to include a vision for the property that is far less dense and much smaller than Wang's and Rechler's Lighthouse Project.

Murray said she hoped the review process would be completed by summer.
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Keep abreast of the latest on the Lighthouse at http://www.lettherebelighthouse.com/.


  1. Much as I can run off at the mouth, even I'm having a hard time finding the words to express how insane I think this is. One thing that's clear is that town government's credibility and reputation with the business and investment community, which I can guarantee you was already in bad shape, has now been shattered. Over the weekend, when Wang was quoted as indicating he wanted a yes or no, the official word from Hempstead was that there had been regular communication between the town and Wang and that the town was still waiting for Wang to resolve a billing dispute with Kate Murray's favorite consulting firm and political donor, Frederick P. Clark Associates. No mention whatsoever about the town doing its own plan.

    Now, less than two days later the town's going to do its own plan. So I guess Wang now has his answer. Kate can come up with any damn plan she wants but it's going to take private investment to make it happen, and therin lies the rub.

    There are certainly a number of small-scale, politically-connected developers who will now belly up to the TOH trough, but you'll never get the scale or long-term capital needed to ensure the kind of meaningful economic development that would have been possible with a Lighthouse type of project.

    Given her record, it seems apparent that Kate Murray believes that there are plenty of high-paying jobs in this town, and that we don't need to be concerned about expanding the tax base, even while her constituents are being crushed by out-of-control local taxes.

  2. I must say I'm a little nervous. As a general rule, government never comes up with creative ideas or solutions, especially the Town of Hempstead. My fear is that the Town's design will be filled with mediocrity and fail to address the systemic growth problems Nassau and the rest of LI face.
    We can only hope the Town and its planners take a few cues from our neighbors to the west who have transformed the outer boroughs by proposing and building innovative projects that make good use of mass transit. Those projects have led to an economic, social, and cultural renaissance that we on LI can only dream of.

  3. This gives the appearance that Kate is doing something while actually doing nothing except reward her connected firm, FP Clarke. I don’t expect great things to come out of $150,000 other than some really nice renderings. They already have zoning regulations on the books, why not just give an answer?

  4. A lighthouse may become a nice scenary of the town.

  5. Whatever Kate Murray and the Town have in mind with respect to the Lighthouse project, one thing is perfectly clear -- the Town's record in remediating blight, redeveloping brownfields, and zoning for growth is absolutely abysmal.

    From the Argo in Elmont to Archstone in Westbury, whatever the Town touches turns to, er, mold.

    Rezoning, via so-called "Urban Renewal" plans, have, over the years, gone no further than the drawing board, been nixed by the County Planning Commission, or failed dismally.

    The rebirth of Mitchel Field is, at best, afterbirth. I can only imagine what Kate and her partners in grime will do to the Nassau Hub.

    Guaranteed, it will not be pretty.

  6. Now, if we could only get the Hagendorn Foundation (Miracle Gro) to fund some of these studies, ala the LI Index, we'd be ahead of the game.

    When government commissions a "study," it is akin to you and I telling our children "we'll see," when we really mean "of course not."

    Millions for studies, surveys and reports, but not one single penny to actually get anything done.

    And yes, it does seems that the contracts flow not to the highest bidder or the most qualified, but to the best connected and most prodigious political contributor.

    God bless America (Kate Murray, Supervisor)!