Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sifting Through the Rubble

Today, at around noon, Charles Wang issued a statement affirming that the Long Island Press story from yesterday declaring the Lighthouse Project "dead" was not true. This ended roughly 19 straight hours of speculation, as the Lighthouse went into a total media blackout after the story broke. This was truly a unique situation in the whole Lighthouse saga, and we should take a look at the key take-aways from this.

First, three quick things:

Appearance on HNLI Tomorrow

Tomorrow, I will appear on Hockey Night on Long Island at 5 PM to discuss the latest news related to the Lighthouse Project. I should be on for about 10 minutes, and I hope you will tune in.

Quoted in Newsday

I was quoted in Newsday's article discussing this strange scenario and the anxiety it caused fans and supporters. I'm not surprised they used that quote, and I stand by what I said. I reserved judgment on this, but people were very upset.

Kristen McElroy Interview Tomorrow

I am scheduled to sit down with Kristen McElroy, Democratic challenger for Town of Hempstead Supervisor, tomorrow afternoon. If you really want me to ask a certain question, please email me or leave it in comments.

Analyzing the Incident

The news hit many people like a gut punch yesterday, and some responded better than others. If the Lighthouse was truly caught off guard by this, and by all indications they were, I understand their desire to remain out of the media spotlight. However, that was no consolation to the people who felt like they were left twisting in the wind after a potential bombshell revelation. I understand why it was done, but I don't know if I would have made the same decision in that situation.

We had an interesting aftermath to the original story - all the major media outlets on Long Island spent hours trying to confirm the story, and they never posted anything last night save for a small blog post on Newsday that also cited an anonymous source. At the same time, the author of the original story doubled down, saying on Twitter and to Newsday that he believed the Charles Wang press release was not true and it was consistent with a group that wanted to bury a potentially devastating story.

As a pretty savvy media watcher, the thought that this was a deliberate, high-level leak does not jibe with everything we have seen. We had an anonymous, unconfirmed source who spoke to the Long Island Press, a paper which serves a reader base but has never broken a major story on the Lighthouse Project. The conspiracy theorists among us would say that this proves the Lighthouse did leak this bit of news because it was so easy to deny, but it would not make a bit of sense to do this.

At the end of the day, I believe there is one plausible explanation to this: somebody with a connection to either the Lighthouse or the political situation (or both) in a tangential way overreacted to a potential story and relayed the information to an equally-overzealous writer. The Lighthouse Project has done a very good job managing the media throughout this whole process, and if they legitimately had such devastating news to report, they would not suddenly change their tactics. This leak could have then caused the organization to go into lockdown and identify the source before making any public pronouncements. This would have the sad side effect of leaving supporters searching desperately for information, but, again, this is the only situation that, in my view, would explain everything that happened after this story hit the wire and was gobbled up by the national hockey press.

Next Steps

UNIONDALE, NY - JANUARY 19:  Fans show their s...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Hidden inside the Newsday article was yet another gem from Kate Murray: she apparently called Charles Wang to suggest another meeting to discuss scaling down the project. Apparently the Supervisor does not understand the request from October 3 to keep the negotiations out of the media (though I'm not surprised).

This move by Kate Murray raises the legitimate question of why this had not been done in the 5 years since the Lighthouse Project was first publicly announced. As I have said many times, the two sides should be speaking, but the Supervisor is not a hero for suddenly doing something that she should have done from the beginning.

The Lighthouse is vehemently against any potential scale-down because work that has already been done would have to be re-done for the new project, of smaller size. I am trying to get more information on this so we can better understand the exact situation now.

While I am not encouraged that Kate Murray is once again up to her usual tricks, I am encouraged that the sides have spoken and agreed to speak again.

Bottom Line

A reader pointed out earlier today that solely discussing events like this distracts us from the true goal, and I could not agree more. This process has been fraught with more drama and political calculation than most people thought possible, but that is not why I am writing this blog, and I also know that is not why you are reading it. We are here because the Lighthouse Project is the right one for Long Island, a visionary undertaking that can bring badly-needed jobs, private investment, and maybe even an economic engine for a Long Island that has been stagnant for nearly 25 years, especially since the departure of Northrup-Grumman.

Ironically, yesterday started with another major point that has become lost among the tit-for-tat, the political gamesmanship, and the barely-sane commenters at Newsday who seem to believe that their opposition means the project needs to die as quick a death as possible. Newsday commissioned one of the only scientific polls on the Lighthouse Project, and the results were consistent with everything I have seen and heard throughout this process: 51% in favor, 25% against, and 23% with either no preference or no opinion. All major demographic groups and political affiliations supported the project, and only one group (women) showed less than 50% overall support.

Despite this wonderful news, I need to point something out: the insistence of many media outlets, including Newsday in this particular piece, to label the Lighthouse Project "controversial." Isn't something widely supported and endorsed by the people, by its very nature, not controversial? Seems like poor word choice to me.

The Lighthouse has, in many circles, become a proxy for the factions that currently disagree over the future direction Long Island should take. It is clear that a majority of Long Islanders understand that the current situation is unsustainable, and they endorse the vision put forward.

This, at the end of the day, is the most important thing. The people of Long Island have stood up and said how they want to be suburbia in the 21st Century. Every time we the people have shown our support publicly, the politicians that work for us (so many have forgotten that...) have taken notice and moved the process forward.

We are now at the 11th hour, and we are needed again. If we want our Island dream to become a reality, we cannot sit back as passive observers. We must continue to fight in public (and at the ballot box) to make sure yesterday's scare does not become tomorrow's reality.

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  1. Great article, Nick. :)

    I totally agree regarding Newsdays inappropriate and incorrect use of the term "controversial". Inoticed it and it bothered me, too. But then I reminded myself we are looking at a publication that, throught its LH coverage, has consistently downplayed majority support for this project over all racial and political demographics (and has constantly pushed the fallacy that advocates consist only of the significant minority number of people fully decked out in Islanders gear.) News12 also used the term tonight in their coverage, but I believe that was just mimicry.

  2. Nick,

    Great post, as always. I am looking forward to your interview with Mcelroy. I wonder just how many Isles fans/intelligent TOH residents does she really need to take down Murray? I have never voted in these things, but I will be THIS election. And I know plenty of others who will be doing the same thing. I know Botta thinks it's automatic that Murray will win, but voter turnout was low last time and if enough residents believe that Murrays' shenanigans have crossed the line, not just with the Lighthouse but other instances as well, coupled with Isles fans who have a damn good REASON to get out and vote, well, you know what they say......anything is possible.

    Think the blackout was so that Wang and Co. could find out who was running to the "media" with lies from within their castle walls?

    -Big Van Vader

  3. You hit the nail on the head about Newsday calling the LHP, "controversial" which is out right "incredulous" and its not the 1st time its been said in the press...I also wanted to point out that In that same article, about the newsday poll, they quoted some opposer's and supporters...The one that chaps my @ss was this one, "democrats always want to spend money and they get it from the tax payers"...I kept reading and expected to read a rebuttal about the fact that "Wang and the developers are going to be responsible for the financing" which blows that theory out the window...I pointed this out to you, Nick, in an email and your response was, "why leave the truth out of it", facetiously...I gaurantee there are many, many, apposers for the simple reason they dont want to have their taxes raised...So to leave this out is just "unconscionable"...

    On that note, Kudos to Nick...The fact that your quote was posted in Newsday, shows that the media is reading your blog and thats a good thing, for sure...Many eyes are actually reading it...You're doing a "SUPER JOB" with this, Nick...Keep it up and I'm waiting for your instructions on the investigative piece...Keep me abreast cuz I want to OUT these scoundrels...