Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Wednesday Wackiness - Phony Outrage, An Absent Media, And Grass-Mowing Goats

UPDATE (10:18 PM) - Kate Murray has made this Wednesday even more wacky. According to Newsday, she has sent a mailer to 240,000 Town of Hempstead households urging them to push Tom Suozzi to seek federal stimulus money for the new Coliseum. Mr. Suozzi called the move "silly and amateurish." Expect a full post on this tomorrow - Gentlemen (and ladies), welcome to flavor country. (I hope you got that reference)

I apologize for being MIA the last few days. I was celebrating my beloved BU Terriers making the Frozen Four, and I've spent the last 2 days making arrangements to guarantee I can be down there to watch the games.

Due to recent developments, I have once again delayed Part III of our SEQR series. We will have something discussing the "So What?" of the environmental review process tomorrow. Without further ado, let's go right to our recent news:

Veterans Problem?

After the feel-good testimony of many veterans this past Thursday, the truth became a bit more clear. Newsday has run an article in which some veterans criticize the agreement that will, apparently, remove the "Veterans Memorial" part of the name.

The comments section predictably filled up with phony outrage and half-baked logic. Seriously, everyone, spare me. The veterans group was offered a deal in which, in exchange for relinquishing the "Veterans Memorial" part of the Nassau Coliseum name, they received:
  • $1 million over 20 years for upkeep of the Eisenhower Park Veterans Memorial
  • Re-naming the street leading to the new Coliseum Veterans Memorial Way
  • Free office and conference space in the Lighthouse for veterans groups
The veterans groups were offered a deal, and in a vote, they accepted it. End of story. Veterans in this country face severe problems like sub-par healthcare and homelessness, and needed money and office space could do much more in helping these people than a simple name on a building. In addition, what if the worst happens and the Lighthouse fails? Would an abandoned arena in a sea of asphalt be a fitting tribute to those who so bravely fought and died for this country?

This is yet another example of a media that seems more concerned with stirring the pot than reporting the facts. I wish we would see more pieces goinng over project specifics, discussing the planned benefits, or hearing from supporters in the community that are not "just" Islanders fans. This is yet another attempt to throw up a smokescreen and distract from the real issues that we face and the Lighthouse seeks to address.

Also, we cannot forget the Lighthouse's role in this. I may think this is a non-issue, but many people who have spoken at the public meetings have made a very big deal about keeping the "Veterans Memorial" in the arena name. Did the Lighthouse need to pick this fight? Should they have given their opponents ammunition to demagogue this issue? There are many creative ways this could be solved, such as keeping the arena name as Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and having a sponsor pay for naming rights to the rink, therefore it could be "Company X Rink at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum." Just a thought.

(Blogger's Note: This name change would require a vote from the Nassau County Legislature)

The Media Criticizes Itself

As if that wasn't crazy enough - a post on Newsday's Final Score blog really takes the cake.

First of all, I think it is very important to understand the true financial health of the New York Islanders as a hockey team. Jim Baumbach is 100% correct to point out that if the team is truly in such dire straits they should open the books and let everybody see. Forbes reported that the Islanders lost about $9 million last year, and if Mr. Wang's statements are so radically different we should know the full story.

However, Mr. Baumbach then made a serious statement:

The new arena is a mere fraction of the project. Seriously, if you reach your opinion of whether this project is good for Long Island based solely on saving the Islanders, you're doing yourself, your neighbor and your home community a disservice. - Jim Baumbach

This is incredibly insulting to anybody who has taken the time to learn about this project. Once again, Lighthouse supporters are stereotyped as merely "Islanders fans" when it is simply not true. Those Islanders fans I speak with were attracted to the Lighthouse because it keeps our team here, but when you talk to them they discuss issues such as jobs, tax revenue, children leaving, and creating a destination for our Island. As I say all the time, I myself was attracted to the Lighthouse because it kept my beloved Islanders where they belong, but I became an advocate because of the non-hockey benefits this project brings.

I think using a platform in a major newspaper to unfairly generalize people is doing the public a major disservice. If Mr. Baumbach truly believes people need to be educated, he should be using his platform as a writer for a major newspaper to push the kind of coverage he deems necessary. As a member of the media, he cannot ignore the media's role in pushing some of the innuendo and misinformation surrounding the Lighthouse, even if he did not do it himself.

The Lonely Goatherd

Meanwhile, Kate Murray was in the news today discussing the important issue of...goats. She is discussing the five dwarf goats the Norman J. Ley Nature Preserve in Merrick has recruited to "mow" the grass.

I wish the Supervisor was as willing to discuss the Lighthouse as she is matters like these and those tourism advertisements for the Town of Hempstead. As I posited in Occam's Lighthouse, this could simply be the most public and high-profile issue the Supervisor has discussed in her political career, and she would rather stick to safe subjects like, well...lawn-mowing goats.

I hope we, as voters, can open up a dialogue with the Town of Hempstead and make them understand that this is the biggest issue we have faced in a generation, and it deserves their honest attention and genuine statements. A government cannot avoid discussing any issue more controversial than cute animals.

Bottom Line

On some level, it seems like all groups involved in the Lighthouse process have abdicated some form of their responsibility. At this point, it seems that we have two layers of government politicizing the Lighthouse in the hope of electoral wins in November, media coverage that seems far more concerned with stirring the pot than reporting the facts, and a development group that needs to do a better job of both informing the public and motivating the public to get more informed on the Lighthouse.

Also, I have to ask again about Lighthouse opponents. I have not heard any cogent arguments, only demagoguery and smokescreens about Charles Wang supposedly not caring about hockey or the capital offense of taking "Veterans Memorial" off the arena name. It is now clear that opponents of the Lighthouse do not have a solid intellectual footing, and they will attempt to throw up smokescreens like phony outrage on behalf of our brave veterans or the ridiculous assertion that a renovated arena is not as good rather than making cogent, reasoned arguments. We must be prepared for this.

I have said this many times, and I will say it again. This underscores the urgent need for all citizens to get informed on this project. Do independent research (or suggest independent research I can do if you don't have time), don't put blind faith in your elected leaders to know what they're doing, and don't get all your news or information from just one source. This is far too important a project to let it be decided by misinformation and innuendo.

Please share your thoughts in comments. Petition. Email Me.


  1. And Newsday is now giving you another story to write about: this idiotic petition that Kate Murray and Dorothy Gossby are backing.

    I'm sitting here many miles away, reading it on newsday.com, and I'm sinking into another funk. It raises several questions:

    --Does Kate Murray truly not believe that Wang has no intention of keeping the Isles in an arena-only development?

    --Does she know nothing about the onerous terms of the lease, which will kill the Islanders for another 4-5 years, far too much for anybody to accept?

    --Does she really think there are other buyers out there who are going to step up and buy the Islanders and let them play in an arena surrounded by a big parking lot, something almost nobody else does today?

    --Does she think -- and I'm sure the answer is "yes" -- that this petition is the way to get re-elected, because it shows she's in favor of something, even though nothing is going to become of it?

    --Does she care about anything except the next re-election?

    Oh, man, this story has me sinking fast...

  2. It really never ends - and at this rate the last part of the SEQR series will never see the light of day.

    Yes, Kate - Long Islanders will not be held hostage BY AN AMATEURISH POLITICIAN WHO REFUSES TO ACCEPT THE FACTS.

    If anyone receives the mailing before I do, please scan it and email it to me so I can post it here. This is just mind-boggling.

  3. When do we start campaigning against Murray? As informative as you have been about the lighthouse, perhaps you can write a piece about the upcoming election, when do we learn what office Murray will be running for, either town or county, and then who she will be running against? Are there primaries like the national offices, or are they nominated by someone? When are these announcements made? Everyone knows this is a political issue, so lets make it political, the only thing politicians care about is getting elected? Why should we be asking the federal government to support a sports arena, does that make any sense? I thought Republicans are against hand-outs!!!! Lets start the campaining now!!!

  4. Here's another interesting new development that may have a big impact on all this. Tonight, Mark Lesko, a Democrat, won the Town Supervisor's race in the Town of Brookhaven, handily defeating long-time Republican town councilman Tim Mazzei. This was apparently a significant upset, as the Town has historically been solidly Republican (though it did elect a Democrat as Town Supervisor in 2005 after decades of Republican control). At every level of government, Long Island has been trending sharply Democratic. Will this result scare Kate Murray into taking a position more consonant with what TOH residents apparently desire, namely, approval of the Lighthouse Project?


  5. I had the same issue with this veterans story. When's the last time any of those vets went to the Coliseum? Have they SEEN the place lately? Is that what they want their memorial to be – a dilapidated concrete hatbox that opened in the 70s? Any and everyone seems to want to be an obstacle to this process right now. It's amazing to me that any new arenas ever get finished.

  6. Anon (veterans) - exactly. I honor the sacrifice of veterans by proudly displaying my grandfather's Purple Heart on my desk and donating money to groups that help veterans in need. 200,000 veterans in this country are homeless - THAT'S the disgrace, not a name on some building.

  7. Though, and this will be a future blog post - I think it's interesting that opponents are reaching so much. There are no actual issues standing in the way, just smokescreens. Expect more on this after I write about Kate Murray's press release and finally wrap up our SEQR series.

  8. This was sent to Krazy Kate and TOH Board members as well as Newsday who proceeded to edit out 90% of it before publishing it.

    April 5, 2009

    Supervisor Kate Murray
    Hempstead Town Hall
    One Washington Street
    Hempstead, New York 11550

    Subject: Lighthouse Development Proposal
    Ref: Hempstead Town Council, David Levy’s Opinion Piece; Newsday 3/27/09

    Dear Ms. Murray,

    Apparently you have found a new front man to defend the indefensible. Mr. Levy’s piece was disingenuous and insulting implying that Islanders fans and others believe the Lighthouse Project is a renovation of the coliseum only. His implication (he speaks for you and you continue to hide) is that the population at-large is ignorant. It would be proper for him to retract his statement, but I will bet that in keeping with yours and Hempstead Town Hall’s disregard for your constituency, that won’t happen. Mr. Levy’s opinion piece, not surprisingly, is almost verbatim the words of your previous Lighthouse opposition front-man attorney Joseph Ra. Hempstead Town Hall has become a Tower of Babel when it comes to this vital and necessary Long Island landmark project. You’re stonewalling and now your implicit total opposition to the project has been confirmed vis-à-vis your petition to Tom Suozzi seeking federal stimulus money. This is nothing more than a ruse and insults the citizenry by asking for taxpayer money for something that the private sector is ready, able and willing to do with private sector money. This project will create thousands of jobs now and in the future, provide a completely renovated and modern arena and give the region an exciting new destination point for young and old to live, work and play in. In addition, it will provide multiple millions in tax revenue to Nassau County and help to relieve the heavy tax burden that Nassau Taxpayers carry. But you could care less!

    Mr. Levy’s opinion piece carries on; five robust columns of words that move in an uninterrupted circle leaving the reader where he began; with nothing new, except a new front man. Municipalities from sea to shining sea have moved faster and with all due diligence in bringing far bigger and more complex projects to fruition in far less time. At both the county and town level there could not be greater examples of incompetence, dishonesty, and pure self-interest on the part of our elected officials. Mr. Levy is perpetuating that disgraceful pattern on your behalf.

    As a teenager in the seventies I recognized the value of this real estate in central Nassau and have watched the political process neglect hard-working Nassau Taxpayers by leaving this vast sea of asphalt, a vast sea of asphalt for 40+ years. To add insult to injury we then designated many more unsightly acres of over-grown weeds as a “prairie preserve”. This is perhaps some of the most expensive real estate in suburban America and putting it on the Nassau tax rolls would provide untold millions in tax relief to Nassau County residents. Eisenhower Park already has multiple acres of “prairie” land protected. There should be no need to waste hundreds of additional valuable acres near Nassau Community College and Meadowbrook Parkway for this excessive preserve that has its roots in the 60’s anti-establishment, anti-business hippie movement and has little to do with anything more.

    In the nineties, when the previous would-be developers of the coliseum property “apparently” tried to rape Nassau County (and now I wonder who the real culprits were), we called them pigs at the trough. Now we have developers who want nothing from the county. This is a private sector project. Yes, they want to profit, but I don’t know anyone who would propose a business deal with the intention to lose money. Do you? There have been more studies on this property than one can imagine. In a megalopolis of 24 million people, building a project this size is akin to adding a grain of sand to Jones Beach. Ms. Murray, it’s time to get Hempstead Town Hall out of the way. Mr. Levy’s opinion piece simply lacks credibility.

    Thank you for your time.