Monday, September 21, 2009

Let's Tip The Scales Tomorrow

This is, quite possibly, our final and most important call to arms within the Lighthouse process, and a strong turnout can permanently tip the scales in favor of the Lighthouse Project.

I have said many times throughout this process that the re-zoning hearing is the ultimate milestone. This is why, as you have all noticed, the petition linked from this site says "Approve the Lighthouse Re-Zoning Application" - everything else is largely in place, and approval of re-zoning will lead to the project becoming reality.

Now, finally, this date is upon us, and save for a brief article in Newsday, we have heard nary a peep from most of the usual suspects. Even the Lighthouse Project itself, whose "Just Build It" rally before the public hearing in August has probably done as much - if not more - than any other action to convince the Town of Hempstead that the support for this project exists across a broad spectrum of citizens. We realize that insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results, and we want the Lighthouse Project to become a reality so our Island can ensure its economic survival for generations to come. Many people have begun to accept the Lighthouse as simply a done deal, an approval waiting to happen.

Not so fast.

There are still negotiations going on behind the scenes, and there have been whispers from Town of Hempstead sources that both sides are not currently communicating in a give-and-take fashion. In a sign of the times, Chris Botta, who has done so much to advance the cause, is now claiming that "NHL Sources" say the Borough of Brooklyn has emerged as a suitor for the Islanders should the October 3 deadline pass without an approved re-zoning application (this space has said for months that this deadline will almost certainly come and go without this certainty, and I have already shared my thoughts on it). Botta's readers, some of whom seem more loyal to him than the process, have started discussing potential relocation options for the Islanders because they assume that the Lighthouse is simply a dead deal, a disapproval waiting to happen.

This is also wrong. The Lighthouse proposal is very much alive, and we cannot afford either complacency or a crack in our solidarity.

The re-zoning hearing will not be like the other hearings we have seen at the Town level. We have previously been hampered by simple discussion of the Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS) - a document that lays out, according to the New York SEQR process, the type of environmental effects expected from a project such as the Lighthouse, and what will be done to mitigate adverse impacts to the ecosystem. Tomorrow, the format will be much more free-form. Citizens are not asked to comment on any document; they are simply asked to share whether they believe the Lighthouse Project is good for the community or not.

UNIONDALE, NY - AUGUST 04:  Kate Murray, Super...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

I (and others) have long suspected that the Town of Hempstead had issues with the size and scope of the Lighthouse Project, since it is on a scale unlike anything Long Island has yet seen. There will likely be pointed questions from the Town Board about this, and legitimate issues, such as those covered in Kate Murray's letter, will be raised in public, and the Lighthouse will be asked to answer them on the public record. Let me be clear: there is nothing wrong with this. The Lighthouse is the perfect project for Long Island's future, but that does not mean it should be given a free pass through the layers of approval. All good questions must be answered, all issues must be addressed, and the Town Board must feel comfortable casting a deciding vote in favor of this project.

It is worth noting that re-zoning could be the place where the final scope is changed. I am in favor of the Lighthouse as it is currently proposed, and I sincerely hope the project is approved as it currently stands. However, I also realize that this is a negotiation, and things may change. Think about it: if I am offered a job, and they ask my salary requirements, I should not ask for the bare minimum I would accept. I should go higher, because, if the company says yes, I'm getting more than I would have been comfortable receiving, and, if they say no, I have somewhere to go in the negotiation. This could happen now, or the Town could negotiate size and scope by placing restrictions on certain buildings within the re-zoning. I am interested to see how this turns out.

Meanwhile, the opponents, who are clearly upset the public did not rally to their cause the previous time, are sharpening their knives. As I said previously, our old friend Christine Mullaney from Garden City is raising the specter of litigation to stop the Lighthouse Project in its tracks. Dennis Donnelly, a Trustee of the Village of Garden City, is claiming unfair retail competition (a rich argument for a village in the shadow of the 8th-largest mall in the United States) and who is, stunningly, complaining about the design of the project when final plans are not yet received.

Map of New York highlighting Nassau CountyImage via Wikipedia

Mr. Donnelly (who, it should be noted, draws his paycheck by defending Garden City businesses at all costs) also disputes the notion that Nassau County, as a mature suburb, needs to grow. This is a dangerous and short-sighted argument that willfully ignores the facts. I have previously discussed how Long Island is falling further and further behind the region and now has a reputation as a place with no business identity and a Can't-Do Spirit that infects all bold proposals. There are many good parts about Long Island that should be conserved, but we also must re-imagine some old ways of thinking to bring Long Island into the 21st Century. As I've said, suburbia is an artificial concept, and that presents a wonderful opportunity to communities who now have the power to decide how they will be suburbia in the face of a changing world.

Ms. Mullaney, Mr. Donnelly, and others like them will be there, fighting for the right to tell their grandchildren how they stood in the way of progress and advocated killing our community through neglect and a willfull ignorance of fact. We cannot allow them to do this. We have to attend the Lighthouse re-zoning hearing so we can tell our grandchildren how Long Island made a bold declaration of how it will be suburbia in the 21st Century thanks in part to our efforts.

Bottom Line

Tomorrow's hearing will, in many ways, pull back the curtain on negotiations and discussions that have been going on behind the scenes for months, if not years. After trying to read the tea leaves for so long, we may finally know where Kate Murray and the rest of her board stand on this momentous project that will shape the future of Long Island for generations to come.

The opposition is in high dudgeon, angry and bewildered that the cavalry (in the form of organized opposition) did not emerge August 4. They have sharpened their rhetoric, and they will be ready to do what it is those sorts of people do best: obstruct. If turnout is not significant on the supporter side, these backward-thinking people can potentially gain traction and threaten everything we have fought for over the previous years.

We must not let this happen.

I know I have said this before, but it is extremely important that you attend the hearing if it is at all possible. If you cannot, please send a comment indicating your support to the Town's email address - Our future is too important to risk everyone's work being squandered now.

Stand up, make your voice heard, and let's be on the right side of history.

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

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  1. Mike from Garden CitySeptember 21, 2009 at 3:26 PM

    Regarding your comment about Garden City being in the shadow of the 8th largest mall in the U.S.: I hope you realize that Garden City doesn't receive one dime in tax revenue from Roosevelt Field Mall, as Roosevelt Field is not actually located in the Village of Garden City or the Garden City School District. However, Garden City's retail businesses have held up better than most over the years, despite the overdevelopment at Roosevelt Field AND the area around the Source Mall. I think what some are saying is that the town and county need to consider what impact an additional 500,000 sq. ft. of retail space and 1 million sq. feet of office space will have on an already overdeveloped region that is experiencing nearly 15% vacancy rates.

    Also, regarding your statement that Mr. Donnelly draws his paycheck by defending Garden City businesses at all costs: it should be known that the Mayor and Village Trustees of Garden City serve as unpaid, elected volunteers. In fact, Mr. Donnelly and I once served together as directors of the Eastern Property Owners Association prior to him becomming a Village Trustee, and I can say he is one most hard working, knowledgeable people I know. If the Town Board asks half the questions he's been asking, then we're in good hands.

  2. Mike, I'm glad to see you here. I'm aware of the tax issue, and that's why I made sure to say in the shadow of rather than the home of. My belief has always been that something like this is the best thing for your village. A rising tide lifts all boats, and I believe that a successful development will attract people, jobs, and investment to the area, and that would be a boon to surrounding communities. Garden City's ability tosurvive with the mall being so close is proof that it can offer something to entice people to continue to patronize the area. If that happens here, everyone wins.

    For the vacancy rates, I believe it is worth discussing and never said otherwise. However, most of the retail is, according to plan, meant to support residents and patrons, so it would complement and not necessarily compete with existing space. In addition, the space isn't meant to exist until at least 2015, when the economy has recovered. Remember, the Empire State Building was built during the Depression.

    I concede the point on Mr. Donnelly. My point is that he is the liaison for the Garden City business community, so a reasonable person could expect bias toward protecting those interests.

    Every experience I had with people who lead your village has shown them to be smart people. I just think that these examples I cited are wrong on this issue. I'm willing to have a conversation with anyone, but a person who writes letters asking what is wrong with the Lighthouse, and a person who writes letters about this site despite not engaging me or accepting my invitations to comment here do not seem like people who want to talk.

    I, like you, want the best for this area. I'm not engaging in ad hominem attacks, and Long Island loses if there are 2 sides screaming at each other tomorrow.

    Thank you for the comment - you're welcome here anytime.

  3. Mike from Garden CitySeptember 21, 2009 at 4:51 PM

    Agreed. It's a shame that everything basically comes down to tomorrow's meeting, which will likely end up being people from each extreme stating their point of view without really listening to the other. I think leadership at every level -- County, town, village, and corporate -- has been lacking throughout this entire process.

    And thanks for the forum. I've been reading your blog for several months.

  4. You know what, Nick? I'm starting to think you're right when it comes to the readership of Point Blank, which is probably coincides with much of the general population of Islanders fans. It seems like people don't care if the Lighthouse doesn't get done as long as the Isles stay somewhat local. And that SUCKS. I want the Islanders to stay as much as anybody, but when I think about the Lighthouse, the Islanders barely factor into the equation. I'm far more concerned about Long Island developing into something for us younger people, as opposed to something the older and wealthier keep for themselves.

    Thanks for all you do, man. Hope today made a difference.

  5. Mike from Garden City said...
    "...everything basically comes down to tomorrow's meeting, which will likely end up being people from each extreme stating their point of view without really listening to the other. I think leadership at every level -- County, town, village, and corporate -- has been lacking throughout this entire process."

    The meeting certainly proved you right. I was disappointed by the actions of as many people against this project as advocates- and absolutely ashamed at the behavior of my represenatative Mr Santino. You are absolutely 100% correct that leadership at every level is lacking... and who ultimately pays the price for that? We do- all of us.

  6. If anyone has read the utter stupidity that newsday has written on the LH you should. The articles Sandra Peddie has written saying the devlopers were not well prepared, and saying how TOH basically tore them apart with questions is poor biased journalism. I left a comment on one Her "article's" telling her her reporting is as fair and blanced as fox news. Which is not saying much. From what I read from the live blog coverage from the lighthouse blog, twitter, pointblank and other outlets. It seemed to me that any true organized opposition towards the lighthouse did not really show itself aside from some residents from garden city (which we all knew that was coming) and one elderly woman who went into a racist fueled rant after speaking against mr. wang and the LH group. I can say I at least did my part by sending TOH a long email stating why this project is so important for long island and it not just being about a hockey team. It's tough trying to get to a hearing when you live 3,000 miles on the other side of the country but I made my voice heard through email. I'm happy to know that there was a big strong gathering of supporters at hofstra to prove that Long Island has to build the LH.

  7. Anthony C- we need to blame our old pal Eden Laiken for that piece of junk Sandra Peddie article.

    BTW It was great meeting some of you guys at the mtg yesterday- I wish I could have talked to some of you guys longer! I like the LTBLH readership crew. And like you Im looking forward to Nicks writeup of the mtg!

  8. ah I had a gut feeling eden was behind this. someone who also commented on the article said they spoke with sandra and she apparently finished the article eden wrote, and eden had sandra have her name as the writer of the piece. All I can say is eden is a coward and a low life who doesn't know a damn thing about fair and balance and honest journalism.