Sunday, October 4, 2009

I Re-Iterate: ENOUGH!

UNIONDALE, NY - AUGUST 04: New York Islanders ...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

UPDATE: I heard from The Sign Man. He and his family spent the week making the HUNDREDS of signs seen at Saturday's game, and the team staff helped them out by giving them to fans. I apologize for the implication, and congratulate them on such a herculean effort. Their hands must hurt, but it's for a noble cause.

Yesterday was a significant day, as Charles Wang's October 3 deadline passed and he declared the New York Islanders to be free agents. Many things occurred yesterday, including Kristen McElroy re-emerging to stump with a bullhorn outside Nassau Coliseum, Tom Suozzi dropping the puck flanked by Mr. Wang, Mike Bossy, and Bryan Trottier, Charles Wang and the Town of Hempstead trading barbs in the press.....and, oh, yea, they played a hockey game.

For me, hockey was overshadowed by Charles Wang's announcement just minutes before the drop of the puck that he would explore all options (again, as is his right). However, I was amazed (though not exactly surprised) by the sharp tone Mr. Wang took in his statements, in light of Friday's overture from Kate Murray to sit down at the table and discuss "amending" the Lighthouse Project to something with which the Town Board could feel more comfortable. Mr. Wang criticized Supervisor Kate Murray for leaking the negotiation to the press (as if she would ever keep it secret), and he declared himself sick of the Supervisor's "game-playing."

Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right....
(With apologies to Stealer's Wheel)

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

The Supervisor has surely played games throughout this process, and I have no intention of suddenly giving her a free pass from that. Calling at 4 PM on a Friday, the day before Mr. Wang's self-imposed deadline, when she for months (if not years) refused to meet and discuss the Lighthouse Project, cannot possibly be spun as a benevolent gesture from a willing partner. In the same vein, her spokesman is telling Newsday that there are significant questions that need to be answered, including something that never came up in the re-zoning hearing ($120 million needed for traffic improvements) and something that has been discussed ad nauseam (the Lighthouse would dig a new well on the campus of Nassau Community College to reach the water). I think it would have been far more beneficial to send these concerns privately to the Lighthouse and to then receive the answers in private.

UNIONDALE, NY - MARCH 26:  A fan who identifie...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

(I've removed this paragraph because we now know the signs seen on Saturday were homemade and truly a grass-roots effort. I regret implying anything else)

However, the Lighthouse has not been 100% clean in its conduct either. While it has always been something Long Island needed, and I supported it as such from the beginning, it was also billed as the only way to keep the Islanders on Long Island. Since the local government was not willing to spend money to fund a new arena, especially since the average public contribution for a sports arena is 65%, the only way a businessperson would finance the arena would be to make the money back by developing the land. Lighthouse officials have been talking for months about eventual negotiation and compromise, with many of the same people now saying there can be no negotiations repeatedly assuring concerned citizens that the final project would not look exactly like the renderings. That makes the recent decision to not negotiate a strange one, and people should rightly ask what brought about this change of heart.

I've spoken many times in this blog about Can-Do thinking vs. Can't-Do thinking, that inherent dichotomy between discussing obstacles as dead-ends and discussing obstacles in the spirit of solving them. While there have been flashes, neither side has shown Can-Do thinking toward the other. At this point, the Lighthouse and the County are criticizing the Town for throwing up roadblocks, and the Town is insisting just as fervently that the blame lies solely at the feet of Tom Suozzi and Charles Wang.

At the end of the day, what's done is done, and re-litigating every misstep would take more time and energy than any of us are willing to spend. Continuing to point fingers and slowly devolve this scenario into a mindless tit-for-tat will distract from the real work that has to be done, and to be honest, it would make me wonder whether any side is negotiating from the perspective of wanting something done.

I've said it many times before: Long Island loses if this devolves solely into partisan bickering and posturing, and we can't allow it to happen.

Stuck in the Middle With You

UNIONDALE, NY - AUGUST 04:  Fans rally for sup...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

We, the people, the citizens and voters who know Long Island needs the Lighthouse, need to make ourselves the focus once more. Neither side should manipulate us, since we have the ultimate voice. Previously, sources within the Town of Hempstead seemed to allude to the large public support as a reason this would get done, and we cannot scatter our energy now by bickering and arguing about who started with whom.

We should demand more of our elected representatives, and maintain accountability for the people that want to invest billions of dollars into Long Island at a time when it sorely needs both investment and a new identity.

I believe we need to raise our voices as one and make it clear that this is too important for the future of Long Island to die at the hand of political gamesmanship. No more roadblocks, no more excuses....Just Zone It and Just Build It!

Bottom Line

UNIONDALE, NY - AUGUST 04:  Fans rally for sup...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

There have been many missteps throughout the process, and I am not about to call Kate Murray a hero for suddenly doing what she should have done months, or more accurately, years ago. We can't forget this....or this.....or this. In the same vein, Nassau County could have gotten this done quicker, and I am shocked the Lighthouse would come this far and spend so much money without having a clear idea where the Town stood on the matter, or that they would now go out of their way to spin every move from the Town as a negative.

However, none of this matters. We can sit here and re-hash all the mistakes each side has made until Kate Murray's goats have eaten every blade of grass in the Town of Hempstead, but it does nothing to get us toward the true goal. I believe some people have forgotten or minimized the true bottom line by getting caught up in every small movement during the negotiation (I have also been guilty of this at times). At the end of the day, the Lighthouse Project is the right one for Long Island. I don't care how this current mess started nearly as much as I care about which side is going to bring the project to its proper resolution.

Who's it going to be?

Who is going to stand up and make sure that the sides come to a mutually-beneficial solution?

Long Island needs the Lighthouse like it has not needed something in decades. As the County Executive said himself, shame on anyone who would prevent it from happening.

Coming Soon

Expect a couple of interesting interviews this week that will help shed a light on a few different aspects of this project.

Also....Thank You

I've noticed readership of this blog increasing, with a more engaged reader base. Thank you from the bottom of my heart; this blog is for all of you, and you give me the strength to keep writing.

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  1. Very interesting and critical questions, Nick. I really hope that there is a lot of political posturing going on here on both sides. If both sides truly want to get this done and are not just interested in pounding the other into submission, it can still be done.

    I think a George Mitchell type mediator would be a big help here (too bad he is otherwise occupied). I cannot think of anyone on the local level with the trust of both sides and the credentials to do this. If you or any of your readers have an idea, I think this would help a lot here and might make the critical difference.

  2. I've been reading since this blog was born - you do excellent work and I hope this is not in vein.

  3. No mediator, no deal...and there is no one remotely capable of taking the intellectually challenged in the ToH into a room with Wang and work this out. Too late for that. The ToH wants this to be much smaller than CW will ever agree to, so sadly, where are we onto next...

  4. Very unbiased piece, nick...We need answers and I'm anticipating your interviews...