Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Eyes on the Ball

The Daily News reported today that some Queens lawmakers are pushing an arena on Willets Point for the Islanders, "just in case" something happens with the Lighthouse. This news was received pretty warmly by Islanders fans in many quadrants, and still others are still reminding us of Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and even Suffolk County as options to forgo the "stalled" negotiations with the Town of Hempstead.

I think it's necessary to get a few things clear. First of all, the Town of Hempstead has not been procrastinating on the project since the environmental review has only been going on for 8 months. Let's not forget that the Lighthouse submitted the application for re-zoning the property in November 2007, so it's disingenuous to say that the Town of Hempstead has "waited years" to move the project along and "done nothing." Second of all, we are talking largely about pie-in-the-sky proposals that have less chance of becoming reality than the Lighthouse itself. Let's take a look at these other options:
  • Brooklyn: I think the Atlantic Yards project is a great idea, but I just don't see it working out. Bruce Ratner's financing plan was heavily dependent on credit that it doesn't appear he can get in these uncertain economic times. In addition, there has been fierce and organized opposition that the project has had to fight every step of the way. The Lighthouse has neither of these problems, so why would you want to abandon a good bet for a pipe dream?
  • Queens: It's great to see the Queens politicians step up and show the Islanders that they're wanted. However, this project is at the speculation stage right now, so while it's a great thing to see I wouldn't put too much stock in it.
  • Suffolk: So many people like to push Suffolk County as a solution, but I think it's by far the worst option that's considered. Suffolk is not a densely-populated county, so you would be moving the Islanders farther away from the city, making it harder for many fans to get to the games. In addition, if you think the Islanders get no coverage NOW, you should see what would happen if you moved them farther east. As the Jobing.com Arena in Glendale proves, building an arena far away from the population centers creates all sorts of problems. The Suffolk County idea is, to me, utter nonsense. I hope people drop it and it's not considered at all, except as a bottom of the barrel, Hail Mary, Oh My God We're Out of Options, Last-Ditch effort to keep the Islanders where they belong.
Let's not forget that any other home for the Islanders would still be subject to the same laborious environmental review as the current project, and it's always at risk for community opposition. It would also squander the opportunity to use the Lighthouse as a springboard for Long Island's future, and that would be a crying shame. We've all said time and again that the Lighthouse is about more than hockey, so why are so many people willing to throw it away for strictly hockey reasons?

As an Islander fan, I am glad that the team has options in the event the worst happens. However, this should not distract us from the main goal: getting the Lighthouse approved so we can build a new foundation for Long Island. The Lighthouse is still the best solution and these other ideas should remain no more than backup plans. We all need to keep our eyes on the ball and continue advocating for the Lighthouse, because, as a great man once said, a house (and a George) divided against itself cannot stand.

Please share your thoughts in the comments. As always, don't forget to sign the petition and pass it on. I welcome your feedback at lettherebelighthouse@gmail.com


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