CONTENTION AND DISSENSION AT LIGHTHOUSE HEARING: Two Sides Clash And Have Alternative Takes On The Procedings

LIGHTHOUSEHINDENBURG

You could see this coming miles away. When the ToH complained that is was the Lighthouse Project themselves not willing to negotiate a few weeks back over size and scope, they plied a letter to Suozzi and then to people on Long Island in an Open Letter. Meanwhile, the Lighthouse stuck to their momentum and then crashed into the Town Board hearing like a lead zeppelin.

THUD!

Issues like traffic turned into an adversarial question and answer period between the Town Board and the Lighthouse Consultant Bob Eschbacher. Eschbacher was complained about by a highly placed ToH source as someone whose answers were “woefully inadequate and who seemed ill-prepared for the hearing”.

Meanwhile, Eschbacher is Engineer of the Year award winner specializing in the traffic and transportation field, overseeing the planning, design and construction inspection of more than $1 billion in projects in the New York area. He is regularly called upon to provide expert testimony in his field before State and Federal Courts, as well as Town and Village zoning boards.*

So, this is not just some lightweight who is getting “testy” with the Town of Hempstead. Yet, the Town Board is making a show of it, focusing on every piece of info.

ToH Source: One large issue was the discrepancy over his stipulation of 1200 more commuters. Wait, wasn’t this the project that said there would be over 19k jobs created? How could that be 1200 cars then?”

Hilariously, Robert M. Eschbacher actually donated to the Kate Murray campaign in recent years.

Nick Giglia had a completely different take: The town board refused to listen. On your (ToH sources) first point about the discrepancy in cars, there will be a little less than 12,000 NEW permanent jobs as a result of the lighthouse. The consultant said that, during a peak hour, there are 1500 trip meaning, 1500 more trips PER PEAK HOUR. 19k when they kept saying, but 19k is a cumulative between the jobs already there and the new jobs

Sadly, the Town Board and Kate Murray warned the Lighthouse Project that these type of questions would be forthcoming. There has been a huge disconnect between the two sides, no matter who kicked who in the balls first. The Town Board wants certain issues handled, and their stipulation is that the Lighthouse Project has been: “It’s our way or the highway”. The Lighthouse Project spoke many times of wanting to work out a deal, but that was long before the Murray handshake or the NY States Democrats landing themselves behind them. Perhaps that victory went to a few heads?

Meanwhile, the Town of Hempstead has clearly adopted and employed a certain stance (more like a blockage) and tact…divisive at times, led by Anthony Santino. According to Nick Giglia of Let There Be Lighthouse and also our own HockeyIndependent, Santino even disputed a traffic light by asking what happens if people run it.

And this guy is running for re-election? Good thing there isn’t an IQ test.

To be honest, the Town Board plays with fire. As one ToH source tell me that some board members are willing to do just that for their constituents. Even if it causes them to lose re-election bids.

However, in knowing the many things that have slid down the wayside over the years, this runs in direct opposition to some reality. Plus the cost might be very high, despite that bluster. Right now, despite the previous game run by the Lighthouse trying to avoid any negotiation, it is the Town of Hempstead who will stay at the focal point of ire since they run the table game currently. And make  no mistake about it, a table game is being run and the dice are loaded. The Town Board is clearly railing to goad the Lighthouse into slipping further into anger in order to get them conciliatory to the size and scope to address those questions. The problem is they are also sliding Islanders fans into that same place, and that might be their undoing.

If by next week, no matter the Town Board’s reservations, we are still at this thick atmosphere and discord, there shall be a venting of steam in the coming month as we move towards the Town’s own re-election. An organized movement could be born then and there next week that might give many anxious moments as payback to those being created during this one. NY Islander fans have been underestimated throughout this process by the ToH, except when they finally admitted to their “political will” as big part to why the Town of Hempstead was even listening.

However, as questions fly out of mouths before a synapse can crackle, are they really listening to the answers.

One shining example is one board members not knowing that the Lighthouse Project and the Uniondale Fire Department came to an agreement. For one thing it ran in Newsday. Even bigger, a high level ToH source cited it back to me in a previous blog about paying FP Clark.

From that blog: “After all,” they continued, ”they made sure to pay off the school system (Uniondale), and also donated to the Fire Department. Why couldn’t they pay the bill and then argue the price after is time is so important?”

Either the Town Board is willfully ignorant, just plain dumb, or lying through their teeth. Many more question and answers went like this, causing many Islander fans at the Hearing to want to claw their own eyes and ears out. Chris Botta’s own blog read like a Harry Potter book as Lord Voldermort seemed to be behind this nefarious scheme as our heroes, the Lighthouse Project, seemed in dire straits. Maybe he was right, his longtime Media Relations acumen attached to a deep vibration that seemed to crescendo soon after. Many fans and casual observers walking away from the hearing seemed to feel the Town Board was pushing themselves at odds.

What was the Town of Hempstead perception of the hearing? That the Lighthouse Project stumbled, and did not answer key questions adequately. That the Lighthouse was arrogant.

LOCKHORNS


Islanders fans and bloggers at the hearing clearly disagree, according to the tweets on Twitter. They cited the ToH seemed to be of willful ignorance and repetitive. They had constant questions looking to undermine or hem & haw on what was pointless issues that was out of the Town of Hempstead’s own knowledge base.

In fact, Nick Giglia spoke to me on something very important. As per the cards they fill out, the crowd never below 60-40 in favor of the project. In fact, at times it was 80-20 in favor. However, Nick cited that there was a disproportionate amount of speakers against the project. I asked him if some of those for the project didn’t get to speak. Nick’s answer? HUNDREDS.

It goes deeper, where many, including Nick, cited that it seemed Kate Murray was VERY quick to stop positive speakers and cut them off, but seemed to let those who were speaking against the project go far past their allotted time.

Was the Town of Hempstead setting the event to skew a certain way? Many seemed to feel so.

So, what is the truth beneath? To this objective observer, the Town of Hempstead seemed to suck the Lighthouse Project into their game and made them look testy and contentious, even if the ToH also was doing the same. We expected or feared it with the ToH. But when the Lighthouse Project went head over heels into the back and forth, it seemed leave them on the defensive the entire time.Like a boxing match, the ToH had the ring generalship and was dictating the match. That plies into the notion that the ToH has been citing on back channels for a while…that the Lighthouse Project is in over their heads.

The problem?

So is the Town of Hempstead.

Whatever the ToH’s motivations, it might blow up in their face. The Lighthouse Project did not have a good day, and seemed to stagger around aimless to the ToH’s tactics.

So, who is going to swim through all of this, as we body surf into the reef of frustrations as we are slammed against certainty dates and the body politic? Only the ones who can rise above the fray. Someone needs to climb a higher road and get the two sides to both relent on their stances. An accord must be reached.

Unless this is done, all is lost.

I asked the ToH source their opinion of the Lighthouse Project on this direct line of thought.

“The Lighthouse Project is NOT dead. But someone needs to come to their senses, sit down with the board, and be willing to come to some sort of agreement. Whether they cut some residential, commercial or office space; the board has some issues with the traffic and size of this project. Today it was made clear, whether you like the line of questioning as an Isles fan or not. These board members are not answerable to Islander fans or the Lighthouse, they are to their constituents. They need better answers.”

Well, to be honest, if the ToH manages to nix the Lighthouse Project, many sports, concerts and event fans who are ALSO constituents might say the same of them. It won’t be pretty. The Lighthouse Project and the blogosphere has seemed to let the ToH make the Lighthouse Project solely an Islanders issue. That was a big mistake. As someone who has gone to Legislature and Republican Roundtables, it is much larger than that. One should be careful here, for as fans showed up to kickoff rallies just before they could really stretch a unified muscle, the ToH seemed to come to their senses.

Here, they seem to be throwing up lighters and dynamite.

Today’s hearing seemed to get ugly as opposing sides pushed on both ends. But, let us hope calmer heads prevail and start meeting somewhere in the middle. It will take both sides to get there, not just one.

- BD

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/bdgallof

Email: bd@hockeyindependent.com

*VHB Award Press Release

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About the Author: B.D. Gallof is a published writer and hockey blogger. He writes about Hockey, NY Islanders & the NY Islanders venue situation for CBS New York. BD has been written up in Sports Illustrated, TSN.ca, the NY Times Slapshots blog, Yahoo's Sports and SportsBusiness Journal. He has been a featured blogger for The Huffington Post, as well as owner, lead writer, and managing editor at HockeyIndependent.com.

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  1. Islander505 says:

    So BD…..just to put you on the spot for a moment, I seem to remember a recent entry on the old blog where you expressed confidence that the zoning hearings would come out positively in the LH favor.

    What say you now?

  2. @BDGallof says:

    I did. I really thought that the Lighthouse Project would have had better answers and not gotten into a verbal debate with the Board. I did not read the tea leaves I was given by the ToH, even when the letter itself from them that I had said there would be tough questions. I figured that there would be tough questions and good answers. We got stupid questions, poor answers, not many listening and a lot of circular talk. A recipe for a disaster and honestly, as I said, something I did not expect since the punches were telegraphed.

  3. AMalmut says:

    I bet you after all of this craziness, one of two things will happen: 1. TOH board declines unless the project is scaled down tremendously or 2. Wang sells the team to a new owner(or group of owners more likely), Bettman and the NHL refuse to move the franchise (just like phoenix) and the TOH will grant the new owners a new arena and not much else.

  4. AMalmut says:

    The TOH probably knows that, hence the "Stonewall" routine. Because the Islander's have die-hard fans that care about the team to a ridiculous degree, it's been panic city.

  5. Islander505 says:

    Regardless of tonight's attendance issues in Kansas City, (they won't be Wang's problem), if the right offer comes from Kansas City or any of the other handful of potential suitors, I can't imagine that Wang won't sell.
    And there is no way that Bettman and the NHL will prevent the move (this situation is NOTHING like Phoenix, AMalmut). It's tough for a league to restrain free trade unless they have a really good reason to get involved like a Bankruptcy.
    At this point, I would suggest that you and Nick and Botta unite to mount the most aggressive blog campaign against a candidate (Murray) in the history of politics. All McElroy, all Anti-Murray….. everyday.
    The only hope for the LH is to get McElroy elected.
    And I fully realize that getting that acomplished is a gargantuan task.
    But stranger things have happened.
    Cuz Wang ain't gonna do it.
    Just my opinion…

  6. Islander505 says:

    Whoops……..due to "length restrictions" the 1st half of my previous comment was deleted.
    And I am too tired to rehash it out

    Suffice to say that I ripped Wang for his recent "lack of commitment" to the project over the past year.

    And about the only hope I see now is for a November defeat of Murray.
    Tough task 45 days before the election.

  7. WayneZ says:

    BD are you going to the game tonight?

  8. AMalmut says:

    Who says Kansas City will be the only bidder? After the lousy turnout I would not be very encouraged. I'm sure some corp will crop up and buy the Isles if the situation arises. It might even be Jay-Z. Hah

  9. bdgallof says:

    Hey Wayne, nope. Won't be able to get out to games till season opener.