Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Is The Lighthouse Going Dark?

Wang Awaits Murray's Decision On Moving Forward

Our friends at Let There Be Light(house) have posted on the dimming of the lights for the exalted and exhausted Lighthouse Project, at least insofar as the project's website goes.

Check out what's left of the Lighthouse website at

Could the lights be going out on the project as a whole, the end of the hubub for the hub?

To paraphrase the old adage, "a project delayed is progress denied."

Throughout the Town of Hempstead, for well over a decade, projects grand (as in the revival of Grand Avenue in Baldwin) and small (as in tearing down a brownfield to build a supermarket in Elmont) have risen to glory on the drafting table, only to fall by the wayside before either Zoning Board or Town Board.

Delay is the great enemy of community's prosperity and resurgence, and the precursor of suburbia's demise.

Along the most optomistic vein, even a scaled-down Lighthouse is more than ten years, and who knows how many losing seasons, away from fruition, the bleak landscape of the hub serving only to drag the county and our Island further toward the abyss.

In the worst case scenario, should Wang, the Town of Hempstead, or whatever power-that-be would ultimately decide the fate of the Nassau hub, pull the plug, sooner, or, as precedence has shown us, later, well, cue the tumbleweed.

The time to move forward on the Lighthouse Project was a thousand yesterdays ago. Now it remains for us to pick up the pieces (once again the taxpayer is left with crumbs) and, somehow, to move forward.
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Did someone say CASINO?  Er, ah. We don't think so...
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From LetThereBeLight(house):
Lighthouse Takes Down Web Site, Replaces With Placeholder

Posted by Nick

For the last few weeks, we have heard very little about the Lighthouse process that was not rumor and innuendo. Anxious bloggers and supporters (myself included) still hoped against hope that we would hear something from the Lighthouse to break their silence, especially in the face of rumors from well-connected sources that the Lighthouse Principals could be dissolving their partnership, thus effectively ending the project.

In fact, the most vocal person in the past several months has been NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who has never missed an opportunity to speak to the media and accuse the Town of Hempstead of "stalling" the project and "dragging it out" for years. As the Town took control of the process and sent even more misleading and anti-project letters to area citizens (more on that later), we still have not heard anything from the Lighthouse.

Yesterday, in a way, the Lighthouse Project spoke, though it is likely not the way any of us would have hoped they would (hat tip to Islanderbill for first alerting me to this, by the way). Now, visitors to the Lighthouse Project web site are not greeted with the grand, $3.7 billion vision for suburban renewal; rather, they see this:

Many, including myself, were taken aback by this, because it is the clearest broadside against the Town of Hempstead in months. Since the Lighthouse Project refuses to speak on the record, even though some sources are still insisting behind the scenes that it's not dead, we are forced to come up with our own suggestions and questions. As I've seen before, there is an optimistic view to this, a pessimistic view, and questions that need to be answered:

Optimistic View

Until there is official word from someone directly involved in the process, we can't assume the Lighthouse Project is dead. In addition, the Town of Hempstead and the Lighthouse are still operating under the Designated Developer Agreement between Nassau County and the Lighthouse that was approved during the administration of the current County Executive, Tom Suozzi (current County Executive Ed Mangano voted in favor of the measure as a County Legislator). Some people believe that this is simply a gesture by Charles Wang and the Lighthouse that they are willing to work with the Town of Hempstead in an attempt to make a deal.

If the original plan is no longer available online, then it has become clear that Mr. Wang and his group recognize that they will not be able to build the project as originally proposed. They are now signaling a willingness to work, as long as it achieves the goal of a good project that will be profitable, benefit the community, and allow the New York Islanders to remain in their rightful home.

This point of view reflects what I have previously called the "dirty little secret" in the Lighthouse process: it is easiest for both sides to come to a deal, since the alternatives are difficult for both sides:

Lighthouse Project: The options for moving the Islanders within the area, or of another project with similar commercial benefit, are slim at this point. The Brooklyn arena continues to be built, with the last hold-out having finally sold his property last week, but it would still require a retrofit, and some, especially those against the Atlantic Yards proposal to begin with, have called Brooklyn a "fantasy" of desperate hockey fans and political hacks like the Brooklyn Borough President. In addition, as mentioned before, Queens would require a similar process, which the Lighthouse acknowledges has already gone on for 7 years here. The city would be on board, but the local community would not be in any way close to what we see with the Lighthouse. I don't know whether the Lighthouse Project would want to either start over or become a tenant somewhere else, regardless of how badly many hockey fans hope it happens (count me in that group, in the event the Lighthouse can't happen).

Town of Hempstead: The Town has botched the Lighthouse process since Day 1, refusing to meet with the developers and relying on tricks like that phony stimulus drive which merely assume the stupidity of Town of Hempstead voters. Even though Kate Murray and the Town Board were overwhelmingly returned to office, you wonder if the Town could handle the debacle of losing a project the vast majority of citizens want (remember, in the latest News 12/Hofstra poll, supporters outnumber opponents 2:1, and if you scaled the project down that number nears 3:1). The Town loves to harp on financing, but any other developer would encounter the same financing issues as the Lighthouse Project.

In the same vein, the Town seems prepared to gut the Lighthouse Project beyond all recognition, if you trust the rhetoric. However, as another blogger has pointed out, what message would that send? If the Town starts using a machete on the project, the headlines write themselves:


It's much harder to spin that, and we are not as gullible as the Town would like to believe.

Pessimistic View

Many others believe this is a charade that is delaying the inevitable. To these people, the Town is going to gut the Lighthouse Project beyond all recognition in an attempt to win the post-game spin. You could just hear the Supervisor parroting the half-truth that "The Town offered Charles Wang a reasonable proposal, and he decided to walk away."

The Lighthouse, in the same vein, could be making vague signals about cooperation, but they still stopped paying environmental consultants F.P. Clark over half a year ago. Some, including astute reader Derek, believe this is because the Lighthouse wants to place the onus on the Town of Hempstead to tell them what can and can't be built, but still others believe that it's yet another case of actions speaking louder than words.

I do not know which side is right, but you could definitely see how many can interpret the statement on the Lighthouse web site as an opening salvo in the spin wars that will almost certainly ensue in the event the project ceases to be.


As we move forward now, we need to ask certain questions of both sides to increase our understanding:

•Are the 2 sides meeting and negotiating?
•Are the 2 sides both demonstrating a desire to get a project done?
•What kind of reduction will either side accept?
•How hardened are those positions
•When will someone say something in public?

We may not know the sound of 1 hand clapping, but with the Lighthouse gone silent and the Town spinning and exaggerating with seeming impunity, we do know the sound of 1 side debating. It's enough.

Bottom Line

I've said (in more of a hopeful tone than anything else) that we will likely have closure on the Lighthouse Project issue in a matter of months. We are all hoping for a solid resolution to this that will improve our community and provide a stable home for the New York Islanders, but, more than that, we want to know the truth. We need to know if the sides are negotiating in good faith, or whether this is just the start of what promises to be a bitter and ugly blame game.

No more slogans. No more finger-pointing. We want answers.


  1. Lighthouse is as good as dead, which is a travesty. The land around Nassau Coliseum continues to offer huge potential when it comes to attracting business and industry. If it was at all possible to drag Kate Murray and her cohorts into at least the 1970's, we might actually be able to have the kind of industrial and business development policies needed to stimulate quality, high-paying jobs, which are so desperately needed in this area.

    Now we get Mangano talking up a casino. Great idea if you want a job dealing blackjack.....

  2. So, Ed Mangano has been talking to the Shinnecock tribe about a casino at the Coliseum.

    Maybe Ed should have been talking to his constituents first.

    A casino will not rejuvenate the area around the Coliseum, create the jobs the Lighthouse portends, or re-establish this part of Long Island as the hub of suburbia.

    Think a casino will revitalize the environs of the Coliseum? Look at Monticello, Yonkers, or, for that matter, Atlantic City just blocks off the boardwalk.

    A casino is a gamble not worth taking, and a no win for Nassau County residents.

  3. Read B.D. Gallof's insightful blogpost on Hockey Independent:

  4. Is this the same Ed Mangano that as County Legislator opposed Grumman coming back to Bethpage because they wanted 5,000 units of housing prior to returning? Now Bethpage has nothing, and he's looking to do the same with Nassau Coliseum.

    I can't see Wang taking another kick in the groin. Why would Wang pay another cent out of his pocket, when the County Executive and Supervisor Murray are looking to make a deal with someone else?

    According to a recent interview with the NHL Commissioner, Wang is in talks with Bloomberg about moving the team. I can't see Bloomberg letting this opportunity slip through his fingers like Murray and Mangano are doing. The Town of Hempstead and now Nassau County have completely mishandled and bungled this tremendous opportunity to expand the tax base and actually grow for a change.

    I know this goes against the grain of many Long Islanders, but I believe we'd be far better off as the 6th boro with a guy like Bloomberg in charge, than be independent and have these 2 clowns in charge!