Friday, July 08, 2011

Destination, Nassau County

A New Beginning, Or The Beginning Of The End

August 1 will either usher in a new era of engagement for America's first suburb, or the final bugle call for the continued exodus from Long Island.

That's when the Referendum for County Exec Ed Mangano's Nassau Hub/Coliseum Plan goes before John and Jane Public for a thumbs up or thumbs down.

The hubbub on the hub is plentiful, from the local papers to the blogs (there's a Facebook page, of course), and we post below a mere sampling (feel free to Google more) for your reading pleasure.



LI Herald

Let There Be Lighthouse (or whatever the heck may follow in its wake)

The New York Islanders (with Kevin James, no less)


You can read the official report, partake in the polls, and wade knee deep in the written word, most of which, thankfully, remains online, saving countless forests. Push comes to shove -- or wink comes to nod -- not much will matter but the actual vote on Monday, August 1. [Yes, aside from the fact that the vote will be held other than on Election Day, it will be put before voters on a Monday, rather than a Tuesday. Only on Long Island!]

So, where exactly do we, at The Community Alliance, stand on the present plan, which, in essence, gives Nassau a new Coliseum (the old one to be returned to Rome) and a minor league ballpark?

Well, the heartstrings are certainly pulled toward a YES vote.

As Islanders fans, coming off some pretty lousy seasons of what only the likes of a B. D. Galoff may call "play", we certainly take note of the fact that the Coliseum, by far the oldest arena in the NHL, has become little more than a brownfield set within a larger brownfield, whose backdrop is just a sinkhole shy of a, um, er brownfield. An asphalt wasteland attracting little more than tumbleweeds, smack dab in the center of Nassau County.

We need a new Coliseum. [And can we call it something other than the Coliseum?] We could use a few new Islanders, too, but that's a story best left for our Isles/NHL blogging friends.

A minor league ballpark would also be a welcome addition, obviating the need to venture out to Islip to take in a Ducks game, or battle the traffic on the Belt to see the Cyclones in Brooklyn.

And let's face it. Development -- or in this instance, redevelopment, albeit partial in nature and muddled in detail (or the lack thereof) -- tends to spur growth, re-energize the economy, and, yes, attract both visitors and residents.

On the downside (where the brain begins to kick in and say, "Whoa! Wait a minute."), there's the questionable economic gains (long term), and the obvious short term loss (increased taxes to pay for borrowed money).

Sure, there will be job creation -- mostly surrounding the construction project -- but in the long run, how many permanent jobs will be created and sustained?

Then there's the projected revenues. Enough to cover costs and to give the County something extra in its coffers at day's end? So they say. Then again, in a County that boasts a surplus one minute, then lays off hundreds the next, we wouldn't exactly start counting on money in the bank -- or, for that matter, in our pockets.

Speaking of money -- our money -- the projected tax increase for the average Nassau County homeowner (are you average, or a cut above?) is said to be $58 per year. A drop in the tax bucket, one might say. Then again, this is just a projection. And we all know that taxes only go up, not down or away. And will there really be a return on our investment?

Consider, too, that when the Lighthouse Project was on the table (remember the Lighthouse, and Lighthouse Lite, before we were left in the dark?), private developers were set to pick up the tab (to the tune of $3.75 billion), fully funding a comprehensive (arena, ballpark, hotel, residential, retail, you name it) revitalization plan. Come now the Mangano Plan and, voila, already overburdened taxpayers are asked to cough up some $400+ million to finance the project. Your tax cap "savings" (which, as followers of this blog already know are nonexistent, a "cap" not being a "drop") gone in one fell swoop. Well, actually, a swoop that picks tax dollars out of our wallets for some 30 years. [Geez. We're still paying off those Environmental Bond issues, aren't we?]

Do you feel the tug of a NO vote, or its equivalent, the "stay at home and don't bother to" vote? Um. The empty pockets and equally vacuous promises say so. The hope, the dream, no, the reality of a truly viable, sustainable Long Island, say otherwise.

Progress has a cost. As history shows, the act of doing nothing (something we've become all too accustomed to here on Long Island) has a much greater cost.

If the surveys are correct (and is the LI Index ever wrong?), they're leaving -- or planning to leave -- Long Island in droves. The young. The old. Whatever may be left of the middle class. The tired, yearning to be free of outrageous taxes, unaffordable housing, unbearable congestion (another issue not adequately addressed under the Hub plan) and an ever encroaching malaise that accompanies the sinking feeling that our island's -- and, perhaps, suburbia's -- best days are behind her.

Hold that thought. Then, embrace the vision. [I said, "embrace the vision." Not get forever stalled in a visioning process that circles the wagons but leads us nowhere!]

Nassau County, with all of its wounds -- economic, social, political -- many of which were, of course, self-inflicted, is due (long overdue) for what can only be categorized as an extreme makeover. It's infrastructure is aged out and crumbling. The spirits of the populace, sagging. There is little to look forward to on a horizon that has been built out upon a foundation of miserable planning and lousy zoning.

The grand plan -- and, perhaps, best plan -- would have been to scrap it all and start again. Bulldoze, from the Turnpike in Elmont to the Grand Avenue in Baldwin. Begin anew.

Of course, here on Long Island, grand schemes and big thinking -- like the Lighthouse Project itself -- tend to fall by the wayside, prey to the hobgoblin of little minds and provincial mindsets.

Piecemeal "improvements," though little more than facades themselves, seem to be all that we can tolerate.

The Mangano Plan for the Hub/Coliseum, while far from the renaissance called for, gives Nassau, and, yes, all of Long Island, the chance -- at least in theory -- to rebound, to restart, to reinvigorate the suburban landscape.

True, the plan, as presently constituted, is no panacea. Small potatoes in a land that once called vast potato farms home. And yet, the "build it and they will come" concept has more than a little merit to it.

Yes, we could leave the Coliseum as is, perhaps setting up a farmer's market in the parking lot on alternate Tuesdays. [Smart Growth dumbed down to the lowest level. If you can't rebuild Main Street, hawk cauliflower!]

Fact is, despite the drawbacks -- and there are many we have yet to touch upon here -- doing nothing is simply not an option. Take another route? Well, just how long can we wait here, on the side of the pot-marked road, for Godot?

Do something, and Long Island has a shot at redemption, and so much more. Sit tight in the great void of NYMBYism, and we forever foreclose the opportunity to emerge from the doldrums into which Nassau has descended.

The decision on August first is not easy, by any means or measure. It is, however, a necessary one that every County resident must make.

To move forward, although with trepidation, toward a future where Nassau County is once again a destination. Or, to stand in place, mired in stagnant waters (the precursor of regression, decay, and, ultimately, the suburban demise), with Nassau being the place to flee rather than to flock.

That decision, of course, is yours. We, at The Community Alliance, encourage all Nassau residents to VOTE ON AUGUST 1. And, indeed, we implore you to VOTE YES!
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  1. WOW - I am extremely surprised there aren't any comments on this topic yet. I guess that PROVES the point - not many folks are aware of the issue, the situation, the problem or what is at stake. We are OVER TAXED on school taxes, even when we have NO CHILDREN in attendance - RENTERS need to pay for sending their children to public schools & I don't buy the point that it is included in the rent they re paying - BS - A better purpose for the Nassau Coliseum are - we have a plan - The "BED OF CULTURE" - tourist draw - JOB OPPORTUNITY - D

  2. The Hub is a Flub
    by Bruce Piel

    "The time has come the walrus said to speak of many things, of sailing ships and sealing wax, cabbages and kings." With the referendum looming, PARCnassau believes it is time to address the Hub, the Coliseum and a minor league ball park, etc. etc. Let us say right off, we think it is a bad idea in the current economic climate. What seems good to die hard Islander's fans and members of the building trades seems less so for the vast majority of Nassau County residents.

    At the core of this idea is the assumption that Nassau can create a new "Times Square" at Mitchel Field and that residents will flock to this place of public assembly to live, work, play and socialize. Ain't gonna happen! Nassau taxpayers will continue to visit Green Acres Mall, Roosevelt Field, Westfield Sunrise Mall not to mention their local downtowns to shop, eat and enjoy their suburban lifestyle. If we want to go to Times Square, Yankee Stadium, Citifield, Madison Square Garden or Bethpage Bank Field, we can always take the LIRR or drive. In truth, most moved to Nassau to avoid living "in the city".

    The initial cost of $400 million will, as always, balloon over the 30 years into a financial monster. The estimated $58 annual cost to the taxpayer households will also balloon to pay for the usual cost overruns, legal fees, etc. etc. When it does, where will our political leaders be? Retired or advanced to higher office, feeling no regret or remorse over the mess they left to their successors who will in turn blame prior administrations. So who takes it in the neck? Why we do! Our $1,740.00 will just be the start.

    Let's face some truths. Most Nassau taxpayers are not Islander fans or in the building trades and while we sympathize with those that are, development of the"Hub" should be with private funds and on private lands. Mr Wang should pay for the new Coliseum, The Ducks owners should pay for another minor league field and developers should build modified high density housing, risking their money, not ours.

    If none of this comes to be, we will survive as a suburban community. We just have to get thru the current economic doldrums using our funds to support our families rather than throwing our money away on a fantasy Mecca we don't need. So please vote NO on the August 1st referendum.

    Bruce Piel
    Park Advocacy & Recreation Council of Nassau (PARCnassau)
    246 Twin Lane East
    Wantagh, NY 11793
    (516) 783-8378