Friday, September 18, 2009

One Hearing to Rule Them All

One ring to rule them all...

Let's not mince words: the re-zoning hearing this Tuesday is the biggest hearing of them all, and all citizens who can reasonably make one of the sessions should be there and make a stand for Long Island's future. Quickly, I want to make a quick announcement:

Hear Me on Preds on the Glass this Monday

This Monday, I will be appearing on Preds on the Glass radio from 8-9 PM with Katrina, the blogger extraordinaire from Psycho Lady Hockey who calls herself the Carmen Sandiego of the National Hockey League. I'll be talking about the Lighthouse re-zoning hearing, and whatever else strikes our fancy. Buddy Oakes and Katrina are great - this show should be unmissable.

The Re-Zoning Hearing

NASA Landsat satellite image of Long Island an...Image via Wikipedia

We have been through so much in this process, buffeted by dismissive accusations ranging from Charles Wang is paying us to Supporters are "just" Islanders fans and don't know anything about the project or the process. The Town of Hempstead made its share of mistakes this year, and it seemed for a time that our pleas would fall on deaf ears. However, the tone has markedly shifted, and a source within the Town of Hempstead even admitted to my friend B.D. Gallof that the Town consciously shifted its tone and stance thanks to the positive pressure applied by those who favor the Lighthouse. Things look solid now, and for the first time there appears to be a clear path between where we currently find ourselves and our ultimate goal: re-zoning approval, a move that will pave the way for the Lighthouse to be built.

I think it is important to speak about what is at stake for the re-zoning hearing:

Avoid Complacency

Things have looked very good for Lighthouse supporters in recent months, in stark contrast to the bleak days of March, April, and May. However, just like the Lighthouse was not dead at that point, it is not a done deal now. Our attendance, and our vocal support, are of paramount importance. We cannot afford complacency, and we cannot afford a premature celebration. We still hold the power to tilt the scales in favor of the Lighthouse, and we need to harness it.

Last Chance for Organized Opposition

The Lighthouse is unique among recent large programs on Long Island, because there are still no organized coalitions formed for the purpose of opposing it. Typical labels also do not apply; for example, while there are a few winners from Garden City who are trying to cause trouble, I have also spoken to and traded emails with many Garden City residents who strongly support the Lighthouse. Issues have been raised, and there are certainly opponents, but there is nothing that jeopardizes the project's future (more on this over the weekend...). Opponents have largely been relegated to talking about fringe issues, such as the alarmist thinking that assumes, once the Lighthouse is completed, all common sense and urban planning will be permanently thrown out the window and Nassau County will immediately become a more "urban" place (take a breath; 150 acres in the middle of a county that is almost 400 square miles should not permanently alter the landscape, and all future projects should be judged on their benefit to the community - like this one was).

The Montauk Point LighthouseImage via Wikipedia

That is not to say that those same individuals will not attempt to make a stand on Tuesday. They are already firing warning shots, with Dennis Donnelly of the Garden City Board of Trustees pushing the "unfair competition" angle and writing letters asking "What's wrong with the Lighthouse?" Our old friend Christine Mullaney has also joined the party. Even though she has not had time to respond to me after making me an issue, she has had time to confirm her name and concerns to the New York Times, and she has asked her cohorts at the Eastern Property Owners' Association about the possibility of litigation to stop the Lighthouse in its tracks.

(Blogger's Note: I've been sitting on this one, but it's time to say it. I have confirmation from multiple people in the know that the same Eastern Property Owners' Association turned down multiple offers for the Lighthouse to do an outreach meeting for their group. People are entitled to have an opinion, but shouldn't they be secure enough in their beliefs to share them with the Lighthouse in person? It might do more to advance the discussion than what's currently going on)

These people, and others like them, will be prepared to make a final (possibly desperate) case on Tuesday. We must be ready for them, just as well.

Political Support

We saw a veritable parade of luminaries speak in favor of the Lighthouse Project at the public hearing, and since then the project has been endorsed by Gov. David Paterson, as well as other politicians. It will be interesting to see how many politicians will speak on Tuesday, because we know how politicians love to back a winner, and how they love to be seen in public backing a winner.


B.D. Gallof's anonymous source within the Town of Hempstead assured him that, while many Hempstead Board members favored the Lighthouse, they would "ask good questions" on Tuesday.

These questions will likely center around specifics of the Lighthouse proposal, as well as the size and scope. The optimist would say this is a tactic for the Town of Hempstead to become comfortable enough with what the Lighthouse is going to do to approve the project and let the real work begin.

Personally, I think the type of questions asked will shed considerable light (no pun intended) on the Town, its motives, and, ultimately, its capacity to handle a project like this. Many of us here sat through the environmental scoping hearing in February in which, before the Lighthouse came on the docket, the Town Board interrogated two people wanting to renovate a body shop in Bellmore for nearly 45 minutes. The questions were largely minutia, and many were of questionable relevance.

I am very interested to see how granular the Town of Hempstead wants to go here. Will they ask questions about the goals and vision, will we hear about the lamppost designs and what specific plants they plan to use in the landscaping, or will the truth be somewhere in between? I for one am very interested to see the response.

It will also be interesting to see if any new environmental issues are raised at this hearing. This should have been taken care of, and future planned pieces will cover some of these issues, but we should be vigilant.

Finally, I am interested to see if there is any mention of the lease, which is controlled by Nassau County but is now subject to conditions leveled by the Town of Hempstead in the only way it can: saying the Town will deny zoning if certain provisions are not in the lease. It will also be interesting to see how this is handled at the hearing. Many of the Town's questions were not unreasonable, and I have already shared my opinion on this, but further discussion may more fully illuminate the Town's intentions.

Bottom Line

I have played up the importance of the previous public meetings because, as the process has gone on, each one has been an important check-point. However, this re-zoning hearing is the biggest thing we will experience throughout the Lighthouse process.

This is our moment.

This is the culmination of all that so many people have stood up and fought for.

This is one of the biggest days in Long Island history, and it is the most important day in New York Islanders history since Lord Stanley made his last appearance on Hempstead Turnpike.

I will be there - all day.

We know there will not be a vote, but I'm hoping for two particular outcomes:
  1. Proof that a broad base of support exists for the Lighthouse across the community.
  2. A clear understanding of the issues the Town of Hempstead has, and what will have to be done to ensure final approval of the re-zoning application.
Please make every effort to be there. Let's make some history together.

(Also, check out my handy guide to getting from Hofstra Parking on the north side of Hempstead Turnpike to the John Cranford Adams Playhouse on the south side)

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

L'shana Tova to all my Jewish friends.

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  1. (Ah... Elias is my bay-bay.)

    The Eastern Property Owners' Association turned down all the offers for the Lighthouse to do an outreach meeting for their group because they are not interested in learning about any of this, its all about the NO NO LA LA LA LA I CANT HEAR YOU NO NO NO.

    I want to be there all day too, but my frinds think Im nuts.

  2. Nick,

    I'm aiming on attending the night session. One question as we all hope these people from the TOH vote yes, and I use the term people extremely loosely. What happens if all goes well and then they hold off on the vote until AFTER elections? Is there any time restrictions as to WHEN they have to let everyone know their decision? (Also, and I probably KNOW the answer to this one, what happens if they vote no?)

    Also, I think for future business ventures looking to set up here on LI, what you wrote here MUST be addressed by some "higher powers".

    "Finally, I am interested to see if there is any mention of the lease, which is controlled by Nassau County but is now subject to conditions leveled by the Town of Hempstead in the only way it can: saying the Town will deny zoning if certain provisions are not in the lease."

    These people CAN'T be allowed to hijack future business ventures if LI is to thrive.

    Great blog as always, Nick.


    -Big Van Vader

  3. Great Thread Nick ... and the hits keep coming!

    Nick ... Tuesday Night is my team's first and only practice / tryout before we have an exhibition game down at one of the Skate Zone rinks ... If I wasn't one of the guys with a say in who gets cut I'd probably skip the practice ... but then again. I haven't skated with pucks since the Spring ... so I need the practice. Also as far as the day sessions go ... My boss already told me not to call in sick unless I call in dead ... LOL! God forbid! Unfortunately my position at work comes with great responsibility that I sometimes wish I didn't have. It's not like the good Ole Days where I called in sick to go to Philly to watch the Flyers beat the Rangers in a day game, and then down to Landover to watch Turgeon, Thomas and King light up the Caps during a night game.

    Anyway ... the TOH should know by now ... No Lighthouse ... No Islanders ... No Jobs ... No $$$ ... No Future in Nassau.

    Metal Chick: Love the way you put that regarding Garden City.
    Big Van Vader: Well put ... the town's lease conditions really is bigger than the way they apply it to the Lighhouse's zoning application. That has huge impact on ALL businesses in the TOH. They could be setting a dangerous precident.

  4. Hey everyone - hope Sunday is treating you well.

    TMC - I think that's par for the course at this point. It's clear that this certain subset of people wants nothing more than to kill the project so they can gloat that they protected a dying ideal for no apparent reason. The thing that concerns me, though, is that they have been the most vocal leading into the re-zoning hearing. I am deadly concerned about a poor turnout, because that would hurt our chances.

    19 Isles - we'll miss you, my friend, but I know you have so many other things going on. I know you'll email a comment, and you'll be there in spirit.

    Big Van Vader - I agree with you that the Town of Hempstead would not do itself any favors if it is seen as anti-development, anti-jobs, or anti-anything else. I'm trying to do some research into other large projects on Long Island, because the practice of making demands on the developer before approving re-zoning may not be new. Whether this is a good thing or not, many levels of government use end-arounds like this to exert power in places where they don't actually have it. The national drinking age is a perfect example - Congress doesn't have the power to pass a law making the national drinking age 21, because that is a state issue. Instead, they passed a law saying any state that didn't set its drinking age to 21 would have its federal highway funds cut by 10%. Seems like a similar idea here.

    I'm deeply interested to see how this turns out. Look for a new post later this afternoon.

  5. Im worried about attendance too, Nick.
    I worry the fact that the LH group, Islanders, and unions did not make the fuss about this mtg that they made about the previous one is giving the message that this mtg does not really matter. I really hope we are wrong, but I dont know.