Sunday, August 2, 2009

What is the Sound of One Side Debating?

2 days until the public hearing - I think I'm excited!

I have danced around this a few times, and I believe it's finally time to come right out and issue a direct challenge.

I posted a poll for this site that ended last week (sorry for not having another - I want to get through the public hearings first). I wasn't surprised that so many people wanted to hear the voice of the opposition, since I've been concerned at times that this site was becoming an echo chamber.

I dutifully went around trying to get comments from people who opposed the Lighthouse, but there was a big problem: None of the opponents seemed interested in having a real debate. I got a lot of the following:

- Ad hominem attacks on Charles Wang

- Accusing Tom Suozzi of perpetrating a "landgrab" on land he already owns

- Uninformed complaining about how "Just the Coliseum" is a perfect solution without government financing (no-it-isn't)

- Yelling about traffic (Traffic is bad now - I fail to see how traffic improves if we ignore it)

- Using the current housing crisis as an excuse to disparage the housing component (First, housing won't be available until around 2015, when the market is expected to be better, and second, the Lighthouse is adding housing stock that is not currently available, so you're comparing apples to oranges)

- Complaining that it's only a renovated Coliseum (here are before and after pictures of Angels Stadium in Anaheim - can you tell the difference?)

- And my new favorite, the trustees of Garden City deciding not to complain about traffic in an attempt to kill the mass transit solution.

I had a chance to meet a few opponents of the Lighthouse at various events. I made sure to give them this blog's email address and asked for an interview. None of them have been willing to talk to me, even off the record, about their beliefs. This is the real problem, from my perspective, and why we haven't heard more from the opponents on this site. Most of them (with a few notable exceptions that we've seen here) can't make an articulate case against the Lighthouse, and those who resort to name-calling and ad hominem attacks usually do so because they know they can't win on the facts.

An Example

Our friend 19 Isle in NJ 22, a valuable commenter on this blog and elsewhere who really knows his stuff, sent me this public comment, and I think it paints a useful picture:
My name is [19 Isle in NJ 22]. I am neither a resident of Nassau County or New York State for that matter. I am a former NYS resident now living in Central New Jersey. Born in Brooklyn and raised in Staten Island, I had always planned on moving to Long Island as many in my my family had, once I was established in my career, and was ready to begin a family.
As you may have guessed I am an Islander fan, which is what has made me aware of the situation regarding the Lighthouse Project and the fate of the Islanders' future on Long Island. Admittedly my focus is on the fate of the Islanders, of whom I have remained loyal to the core. That being said I still LOVE New York, I still LOVE Long Island and I always have considered Long Island my second home.
I attended school at New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury before financial burdens & commuting between school and my home in Staten Island made it nearly impossible. In hindsight I can look at that time in the late 80's as the first sign of my plans to make a life in Long Island slipping away.
Now here we are 20 years later, and a lot of other young people that had the same plans, or have lived there their entire lives are getting to understand what I had felt. A lot of my friends and family that had lived on Long Island no longer live there anymore due to economics and lack of jobs. As I don't have to tell you the tax burden alone makes it nearly impossible for young middle class single people or families to gain an economic foothold while living on Long Island ... or the NYC metro area for that matter. That is one of the reasons I had to retreat to the mostly rural confines of central New Jersey just as previous generations of my family moved to Long Island. However for them it was more of a move from Brooklyn to Long Island in an affordable pursuit of the American dream.
I've been a frequent visitor to Long Island since I was a baby in the late 60s. I saw Long Island grow up into a suburban paradise, and then fall onto itself as the mega businesses that had helped employ the Island and support other small businesses had left. Take it from an outsider like myself. When you can see the changes in Long Island on a quarterly time frame you notice more change then the gradual creep of change by living there on a daily basis.
I know some of the biggest and valid concerns about the Lighthouse Project is traffic, and infrastructure. However the fact of the matter is that traffic on Long Island has already been horrible for decades, and the infrastructure has eroded over the years and will continue to erode even without a Lighthouse Project. I see the Lighthouse as an oasis in suburbia that is the beginning of re-energizing the economic engine that will reinvigorate the job market and keep the young talented Long Islanders that were educated with Long Island tax dollars ... home.
As far as the Islanders are concerned I believe the Islanders are the last big icon of the Island that once was the envy of every suburban area in the nation. It is only fitting that the passion of us Islander fans that have seen decades of neglect and decay of the team we love are still enduring and supporting the team as it embarks on a renaissance to restore greatness ... as the nucleus of that renaissance is the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum the jewel of the Lighthouse Project.
I know I speak for a lot of former New Yorkers and Islander fans around the world, that we support our team ... and support it's resurgence via the Lighthouse Project. Uniondale needs to become more than a place to see hockey and a concert or show, it needs to become a multi-attraction destination. I spend lots of my disposable income going to games, and would spend even more if the NVMC site becomes more than just an event venue ... but a destination.
Thank You for your consideration.
[19 Isle in NJ 22]

After reading such a well-written, thoughtful, fact-based piece advocating for the Lighthouse, it begs the question: Why haven't we seen anything so eloquent written against it? Why do so many people resort to the same tired arguments that have been used to stifle real and needed change on Long Island for decades?


To all the opponents out there, I have to ask: Can you please tell us your reasons for opposing the Lighthouse without using the words "landgrab," "traffic," or "destroy Long Island"? Why are so many of you so afraid to debate the project on its merits that you have to resort to attacking the Lighthouse principals and the credibility of those who support it?

Most importantly, why have so many of you not bothered to show up to the hearings if you're so set against this project?

Bottom Line

I normally don't like calling people out, but I think this is an interesting case, and the call-out is more than warranted. Lighthouse opponents are clearly there, but they have not so far been able to make a cogent case outside of the usual bugaboos about traffic and that defeatist cry of "This is Suburbia!" It has been frustrating from my end, especially since it's not rewarding to attempt to have a conversation with somebody who is clearly not interested in a fact-based debate. If people don't think the Lighthouse is a net benefit to the community, that's fine, but I don't think it's asking too much to wonder why they think that, and very few are willing to give answers.

Despite this, we can't afford to overlook the opposition, since they will be there on Tuesday. They will be ready with every empty statement I've outlined above, and we need to be ready to counter them with our fact-based advocacy for the Lighthouse.

We can tip the scales on Tuesday, and we need to be ready to deal with a group of people desperate to hold onto a failed ideology.

Give 'em hell, guys (and girls).

Please share your thoughts in comments. Petition. Email Me. Follow me on Twitter.

Expect a post tomorrow going over the nuts and bolts of the public hearings, and if anybody needs a refresher course for their planned statement or public comment, please be sure to check out our primer on public comments.


  1. Whoo!!! Excellent entry, Nick! As you know I too have searched for rational opposition- and have not found it. I have challenged the anonymous Internet voices of bitter dissent regarding this development to show up in person to the last half dozen meetings and express their alleged concerns in a researched and fact-based manner... but none of them ever have. They prefer sticking to e-yelling and a stagnant combination of NIMBYism, defeatism, and elitism.

    The difference between them and us is that we are REAL- and we are going to get this done! :D

  2. There have been commenters here that voiced their concerns, but you dismiss traffic concerns as just minor, when it is a growing concern. The area in question is at a gridlock level as it is now; just trivializing opponents' traffic concerns as not a valid argument proves to me you look at this with blue & orange tinted glasses.

  3. Funny that you insult me with something that has no basis in fact, and you immediately try to dismiss me as "just a hockey fan" despite the great pains I've taken to keep this site fact-based. Bravo.

    I have never said traffic wasn't a concern; nobody who drives around here could say traffic is non-existent. However, I think it's a cop-out because I fail to see how traffic will improve if we ignore it. So, please, since you're here, I'd love to know your opinion on this:

    Will traffic improve if we continue to do nothing except reflexively complain about it every time someone has an idea, or are we more likely to do something with a large project that forces people to study the area and brings needed investment to improve the infrastructure?

  4. Hmm- an "anonymous" who is against development and investment on LI... wow, never seen that before!

    Where are you people in reality? How come with all of the town meetings and Lighthouse meetings Ive been to I have never seen ANY of you in real life? Where are you? Are you real or are you just disembodied anonymous Internet complainers?

    If you believe what youre saying here, answer Nicks question. How will doing NOTHING and building NOTHING and investing NOTHING help ANYHTING? And back it up with some facts instead of just sticking your fingers in your ears while saying NO NO NO.

    And show up tomorrow. Stand up for what you supposedly believe, or else your anonymous complaints on the Web dont mean JACK. :)

  5. Hey Nick,

    The reality of it is that our supporters will greatly outnumber theirs tomorrow. Reason being the same reason we didn't see much if any of them at all those meetings: Empty threats.
    They have nothing but empty arguments to offer.

    It's time we returned long island and the Islanders to past glory.

    Tomorrow is the first BIG step.

    See you all there.

    -Big Van Vader

  6. Nick,

    Excellent blog as always....keep up the great work.

    This is our time to shine people, our future and our children's future on Long Island depend on this, as without the Lighthouse, industry will continue to flee.

    Great job again Nick...

    Tony Stabile