Sunday, March 1, 2009

Newsday Endorses the Lighthouse

In light of this breaking Lighthouse news, today's regularly-scheduled post will be moved to tomorrow. Expect a numerical breakdown of exactly why a stand-alone arena does not make sense for the developers or the community.

While many people who follow the New York Islanders were distracted by the impending Bill Guerin trade, Newsday has put out a major show of support for the Lighthouse.

In an editorial entitled "Let the Lighthouse Shine," Newsday laid out its case for supporting the project. I especially liked the beginning, where they hope Long Island can convert from Fantasy Island, the place where big ideas exist only in the mind, to Reality Island, a place that understands change is necessary for overall survival.

The editorial gives deserved credit to Supervisor Kate Murray for following through on her promise to fast-track the project. As I've said before, this was very fast by Town of Hempstead standards, and we should not forget that even if it may not fit with our own personal definitions of speed.

Newsday also called attention to the real benefits in jobs (60,000 construction and construction related, 20,000 permanent) and tax revenue ($71 million for the Town, County, and State per year) that the current estimates provide. At this time of crisis, when governments are looking to slash spending across the board, any project that brings money in should be carefully and happily considered.

Process Update

The article also points out a slight flaw in my previous explanations of the SEQR process. Now that the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (all 18 paper boxes full of it) has been submitted, the Town, as Lead Agency, has 45 days to review. Once the review period is over, the mandatory public comments period begins. Since they are trying to do things in parallel as much as possible, I'm standing by my prediction that the public comments will be held either at the end of March or the beginning of April.

It also discusses an issue that many people have brought up. Yes, the Lighthouse is too ambitious and complex to be done all at once. The plan is for the Coliseum to be done first, followed by the rest of the 150-acre site, for an overall 10-year buildout period. This can serve as Long Island's very own economic stimulus, creating jobs and a reason to both attract and retain our citizens.

Bottom Line

The 20th Century "suburban" mentality is deeply ingrained on Long Island among those who were either born here or moved here seeking a single-family home with a white picket fence on a quiet side street. Newsday rightly points out the myriad issues surrounding trafic and infrastructure that must be addressed in the proper manner before the project goes forward, but the biggest crisis may be one of imagination. Kate Murray and her benefactor, GOP Chairman Joseph Mondello, are both from Levittown, and it will be difficult for them to move from the Levittown mentality they have harbored all their lives to a Lighthouse mentality. However, as I've said before, the Lighthouse can launch a renewal of the Long Island spirit in the same way Levittown launched a million suburban dreams in the years after World War II. The world is changing, and it will not wait for us to catch up.

At this time of crisis, when our Island has been in very real decline, it is time for bold action rather than stale rehashed solutions. Tom Suozzi took that leap when he and the County Legislature approved the Lighthouse in 2006. Kate Murray and the Town of Hempstead took a significant step forward, but this is not the time to rest on our laurels. Kudos to Newsday for pointing out the future benefits of the Lighthouse Project and urging its approval after a thorough but speedy review.

Momentum, current conditions, and public opinion are in our favor. It's up to Kate Murray and all of us to build on the steps taken and ensure we move forward in a positive way.

Blogger's Note: Just when I began to question Newsday's behavior in relation to the Lighthouse, it publishes this piece and a very well-written article from Mark Herrmann detailing the pains Charles Wang has taken to keep his team where it belongs. Just as I criticized them for the appearance of slanted journalism, I must commend them for these two informative and purely fact-based pieces. As I've said numerous times to numerous people, I don't care what position you have on the project as long as you are dealing with the pure facts instead of trying to push an individual agenda.

Share your thoughts on the Newsday endorsement in comments. As always, don't forget to sign the petition and pass it on. I welcome your feedback at


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