Saturday, October 10, 2009

Offers and Mediation

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

It has been a few quiet days on the Lighthouse front. We have not heard anything from the official principals, just news that Brooklyn and Queens are making offers and the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency's (IDA) decision to take out a full-page ad in Newsday supporting the Lighthouse. This silence should not be considered a bad thing, simply the sign of an organization that is exploring its options in a low-key way.

We also had another interesting bit of news come out last week. John Cameron, Chair of the Long Island Regional Planning Committee (which, in June, recognized the Lighthouse as a "project of regional significance") publicly offered to step in and negotiate a resolution to the current impasse.


UNIONDALE, NY - AUGUST 04:  (L-R) Nassau Count...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

I have wondered at times whether the Town of Hempstead and the Lighthouse Project needed a mediator to help toward the final goal. I speculated last month that Nassau County should have taken a more prominent role as the landowner and the government body that originated the idea for a large-scale development on the Nassau Coliseum property. However, with the County Executive himself stepping into the fray and criticizing Kate Murray personally, Mr. Suozzi's ship as a "broker" may have sailed (even though he should still be publicly advocating the Lighthouse and helping voters understand the benefit to the community and why the Lighthouse is a needed project for Long Island). Gov. David Paterson's support, combined with organized labor's renewed push to make the Lighthouse a reality, has allied these parties with Tom Suozzi, and in my opinion it might not be possible for these parties to serve as an honest broker, either. Some began to wonder whether or not a neutral broker was even possible.

Mr. Cameron, however, may be one of the best "independent" people for the role. Before Mr. Cameron made this offer, he spoke eloquently about the need for change on Long Island at the kickoff meeting for Tom Suozzi's 90/10 Project for renewing Nassau County. Mr. Cameron inherently understands that, in his own words, a lack of change on Long Island would mean "game over." He is politically connected, understands the situation, and does not stand to gain financially from successful completion of the project. If both sides are willing to talk, he may be just what the doctor ordered. Hopefully, if nothing else, this offer can help both sides realize that they should be speaking for the good of Long Island.


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

With the election approaching in less than a month, the Lighthouse Project is showing signs of calcifying into Republicans vs. Democrats in the key issues (despite many prominent Republicans, including Assemb. Fred Thiele (R-Bridgehampton) and Assemb. Bob Barra (R-Lynbrook) coming out strongly in support of the project). The Town of Hempstead and Nassau County are now talking past each other, and that is almost to be expected since there are politicians from opposite parties trying to get re-elected and hold onto their majorities in each area. Given these political realities and the ongoing environmental review, it is clear that nothing will be done before Election Day to grant "certainty," one way or the other. The issue is what will happen afterward.

Bottom Line

Mr. Cameron should be lauded for his decision to step up and offer to mediate the situation, especially since he is politically savvy. I have long believed that any mediation or "brokering" could only succeed if the party were either apolitical or, if that cannot happen, bipartisan. No agreement can be shoved by one party down the other's throat.

I think the main issue now is how serious the principals are about reaching a deal. If Mr. Wang and the Town of Hempstead are willing to bury the hatchet, we could hopefully see some positive movement, even if mediation is never truly necessary.

Do not expect any major news for the next few days, but after the loud accusations and posturing from each side last week, no news may be good news.

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  1. Not optimistic Nick...wish it were so.

  2. The LHP will get approved, some how, and the Isles will have a brand new place to play, right here on Long Island...At least thats what Im telling my poor heart....How else, as Isles fans, do we stay excited for our future???

  3. Stop being so naive. This is not about the Islanders. As an Islanders fan, I wish it were that simple. Most residents of Nassau County are blissfully unaware that the developers wil seek and be awarded millions in tax breaks and the shortfall in that assessment is then passed to the tax-paying peasants.

    The people in Uniondale will no doubt recieve their short term payoff of a couple of million and then never see another penny from this project. They will pay dearly in terms of the traffic, schools etc.

    Check out the Nassau IDA website: . If you click on "About NCIDA" in the top right corner, it will bring you to a list of documents. Click on "Uniform Tax Exemption Policy". That tells it all.... This is not a good project for anyone but the developers. They will earn billions from this deal. I personally think a lot more transparency is in order before this development deal should be allowed to proceed. Uniondale and Nassau County residents will in effect be paying the developers to build this boondoggle.

    The mortgage recording tax must also be considered. According to the "Uniform Tax Exemption Policy", it will also be exempted as will the sales tax on everything they purchase--Hugh??

  4. Who's being naive? If you're going to say that, I would like you to tell me exactly what I've said here that is naive or unaware of the nature of what's happening here.

    First of all, I've spoken many a time about the Lighthouse Project as something for Long Islanders and not just the Islanders. If you're comfortable with spending hundreds of millions of our tax dollars to construct a new arena, I welcome you to contact Tom Suozzi and ask him to cut County services so that could happen. Otherwise, any future owner that hopes to do this will need to develop the land.

    Here's what I know: County taxpayers have lost untold millions on the Coliseum property due to the County's own stupidity. If it continues to lie fallow, we will continue to lose money. If there is no building in the area, nobody will invest the millions of dollars needed to improve traffic or anything else, it will continue to be what it is now...a mess.

    In addition, I suggest you go to this site, since it's the most relevant:

    The Empire Zone designation is for the State to assume the tax breaks while maintaining the local levels of tax breaks.

    Also, let's be real here. Nobody who works does so for free, and tax breaks are available to everyone who invests in the area. The Town of Hempstead IDA is providing breaks for the planned expansion for the Covanta energy plant, countless large building projects (especially skyscrapers in the city) receive the same benefits.

    I would love to know why you think it's so criminal that the Lighthouse is applying for credits anybody could get.

  5. Tax breaks have been around for a long time and were originally intended for economic development. However, now they serve only to protect political contributions from real estate developers, wealthy individuals and corporations. Please read the IDA guidelines for yourself,.....Nassau County taxpayers will be paying dearly to have the Lighthouse project built because all of the real estate taxes to the Uniondale school district will be exempted (most likely for 20 or more years!)
    You were absolutely right about one point....everyone builds with tax exemptions these days, but that does not make it right or fair to the communities that expect to benefit from the taxes on these projects.