Back about a year ago, the Nassau County Young Republicans met using the conference space of the office area of Nassau Coliseum. One of the main issues that they discussed was how Long Island was losing tourism dollars to places like Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York City.
Addressing this group primarily was Michael Picker, head of the Lighthouse Development Group, who spoke eloquently and to many nods of the head by those there on how important and fruitful the Lighthouse Project would be in this regard. The LHP seemed an almost customized answer to the vision of needs: refurbished Coliseum for sports and concerts, convention center, hotels, etc.
Marc Ratner, of the UFC spoke next, as they were trying to get NY States Draconian laws about fighting overturned. He exclaimed how he and the UFC would love to come to the Lighthouse. That it was the type of destination that would boom as the UFC could generate over 30 million dollars per event to the surrounding area, hotels and venue.
More nods from the young politicians at the table.
Lastly, came a pro-Gambling group, who seemed to only get half attention as talk of game tables, slot machines and such seemed a tough sell unless placed strategically. Though they all new those speaking, there was far less affirmation and excitement between sessions as far more of this group seemed much more excited by the first former speakers.
Now, one year later, a Republican sits as Nassau County Executive. The legislature has also gone to the right. The UFC has made headway via NY State to get them in far better position.
Yet the Lighthouse Project sits on a thin heartbeat, it’s proponents choosing to go dark and stop paying the Town of Hempstead developer.
How did it get to this point? Perhaps tying them to the former Democrat, Tom Suozzi, as he fell from grace…so to seemed the status and respect between the opposite sides of the political aisle.
It seemed, with the Town of Hempstead taking the lead to finish that FP Clark study, that it would be a simple contest between the two. The TOH would come out with a smaller scaled project, Wang’s group would decide if they wanted to build it or come up with a changed plan. This was supposed to all come to a head in late May…
Instead, the County Exec, Edward Mangano, has slammed talk of a casino straight down the middle of this just yesterday. It seems a bizarre disrupting element that seems to ignore the ToH’s stated issues, as well as a smack in the face to the Lighthouse, Islanders and Charles Wang.
Back at Augusts’ hearing, the Town of Hempstead board is all on the record decrying, complaining and exclaiming about traffic issues. Kate Murray stood on a soapbox on her own election concerned about urban plight infiltrating the idyllic Long Island vision of suburbia.
Since then, it has been the crux of the issue between the ToH and the LHP, as they had backchannel meetings about size and scope and could not come to any middle ground.
Now comes a controversial lightning bolt slamming into the fray. Casinos in Connecticut had to be placed in special areas and zones, not in the middle of the suburban landscape, yet Mangano chooses to attempt to place one in hub between areas that seemed to have a lot to say about even shopping, traffic and apartments.
A casino explodes all of this.
The traffic to some sporting events and concerts is nothing compared to a venue that will bring in busloads from other areas and boroughs.
Far more of an issue is the responsibility by Mangano to consider a casino next two colleges, and within a 5-mile radius of several others. Sources from Gamblers Anonymous say that gambling between the youth on Long Island is at an all time high. It is considered an epidemic. They ask how can they even consider one in such a local suburban locale?
They are not the only ones concerned. Many locals that I have spoken to are perplexed and concerned on such a move by the Nassau Executive. From sports fans to just those that live nearby, everyone seems to scratch their head on why this has even been brought to the conversation.
The biggest concern left unsaid is how a new regime has taken control and looked for the easy way out answer to the complex problems of Long Island’s economic state. Only four months into Mangano’s reign, they seemed to have pushed the panic button to take on a highly controversial and fracturing issue that is better left for less populated venues as it was done in Connecticut
Much more is that Mangano doesn’t even have rights to the land to swap with the Shinnecock nation who is out east. His predecessor, Tom Suozzi, gave the lease deal and first dibs to Wang and Rechler.
Are right wing politics and favors being called in by the political party that helped place Mangano? Or is this merely a feint as to get a more reasonable locale for a casino accepted by opponents down the line? Or is this panic and looking for the easy way out in lieu of the hard work it will take to dig out Nassau County from its economic woes.
We are left with more questions than answers and note an interesting odor emanating from all this…whether it is pure politics, recession panic, or drinking their own Kool Aid. We are now privy to a huge chasm of disconnect to the Town of Hempstead, the new Nassau Executive, Long Islanders, sports fans, and the owner of the NY Islanders.
I will be speaking to some on the ToH via the backchannels later today. Kate Murray’s official stance is that she was surprised via Newsday’s report. If I was her and on the up-and-up…I’d be more than just surprised. I’d be pissed.
Meanwhile, as I reported earlier this year, there has been a falling out per one source between Mangano and Charles Wang. This stems from a myriad of issues including Charles Wang’s flat out denial that he’s not spoken to anyone in Mangano’s group when Mangano had not had responses by Wang having left two messages with them.
In the end, as a Long Islander, I have no issue with a casino…except, like any other area and responsible government, you choose a good location. This has not been done here.
So, who’s going to try to make this bad idea even shittier?
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.