Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Annual Airing of Grievances

Today is Festivus, the annual celebration in which you gather your loved ones around an aluminum pole, and tell them all the ways they have disappointed you in the past year.  I have decided to do my part, in the spirit of the season.  I have gotten the pole out of the crawl space, and I am ready to begin the Airing of Grievances, where I mention all the ways people connected to the Lighthouse Project have disappointed me in the past year.

I've got a lot of problems with you people, and now you're gonna hear about it!

Let's begin...

KRUGER! My son tells me your company STINKS....oh, right, wrong occasion...

Tom "The Broker" Suozzi deserves top billing for the needless destruction of his own political career.  Suozzi chose to ignore the storm around him and seemed to forget that running for a new term actually involved running.  Suozzi lost a very winnable election to upstart Ed Mangano* and his hopes for higher office are at least temporarily dashed. (* it's worth mentioning this space is a fan of Mangano's after my interview with him, and I am cautiously optimistic he will do a good job).

Kate Murray and the Town of Hempstead are a close second.  Whether fair or not, the Town has a reputation as a place that makes it difficult to conduct large developments and which seeks to defend a long-dead idea of suburbia.  The Town has moved the Lighthouse process along at record time (for it), but there are many opportunities for improvement.  The phony stimulus drive, the fake petition, and the constant game-playing that characterized most of the early spring and summer likely cost valuable months in the process, and it has helped to engender unnecessary ill will.

Joe Mondello may have gotten the last laugh during the elections, but his ridiculous and childish insults hurled at citizen Joe Conte during Kate Murray's kickoff rally showed how out of touch and seemingly surprised the entrenched machine was at being questioned.  It was one in a series of events that led Mr. Mondello to be stripped of his chairmanship of the New York Republican Party, and with a victory under his belt he is almost certain to retire in 2010.  And now, I can never look at Joe Conte again without thinking "Blow it out your dufflebag!"

Speaking of the election, the "voters" who barely bothered to turn out deserve mention here.  Here's a little hint: if you want things to get better, you can participate in the process rather than sit on the sidelines hurling stones.

Jay Jacobs, whose hold on power in the Nassau County and New York Democratic Party is now on shaky ground, should be called out as well.  He ceded what could have been a very winnable Town of Hempstead election by nominating a candidate who, through health issues and personal decision, only campaigned for the last month of the election.  Old friend Joe Conte did an admirable job here, but there was no way he could have saved this situation.

The Lighthouse Project, which made so many intelligent moves throughout this process, has been playing a weird kind of defense the past 2 months.  I've already shared my belief on why the media blackout needs to end, so I will not repeat myself here.  I will say that the Lighthouse's refusal to engage the public after the Long Island Press report that the project was dead has given supporters a case of nerves and ceded the debate to people who believe the project is dead or wish to kill it.  To make matters worse, the project has now once again ceased payments to environmental consultants F.P. Clark, halting the review they themselves claimed needed to be done with all haste.

Frederick P. Clark Associates should not be off the hook either - they are known to be very close to the Town of Hempstead, and their work has at times been questioned.  Given their actions, such as stopping work without notification during the first billing dispute, and the fact that there are few developers lining up with such lucrative work, you still have to ask if they have any motivation to speed the process along.

Al D'Amato, probably the biggest reason Charles Wang purchased the New York Islanders to begin with, was known to be pulling the strings in the past, and he and other high-profile Republicans have been noticeably silent.  With other developers such as David Mack moving money to Ed Mangano, I think it's worth asking why.

There is a special horror reserved for the mainstream media, whose coverage of this event (save for a few quality writers and investigative reporters) has been nothing short of embarrassing.  The latest example came today, when a certain newspaper cited "sources" discussing the issue of the Lighthouse Project stopping payments to F.P. Clark, the Town's environmental consultancy.  If that sounds familiar, it's because B.D. Gallof broke the story 12 days ago on Hockey Independent, and I have written two pieces about it since.  Given the resources, and the known talent of certain people who work at these papers, there is no reason bloggers who do this in their spare time should be consistently winning the coverage battle against such mainstream outlets.  This is only the most important Island-wide issue since Levittown; there is no reason to actually cover it as such...(sorry for the sarcasm)

I also have to call out short-sighted citizens, on either side.  This has been a drawn-out issue, and in many instances things have changed seemingly on a dime (or an opinion poll...).  It is both incorrect and irresponsible to base your entire opinion on this process based on the last thing any blogger writes, especially since this is an issue that will require solidarity if we truly wish to see it happen.  Please trust your ability to think and understand that the current status is something beyond the last article you read.

Now, as Festivus Rolls On...

We come to the Feats of Strength.  Maybe we should cede this one to the principals who will be in charge of this as the new year dawns: Charles Wang and Kate Murray.  It might be an interesting method: until Mr. Wang pins the Supervisor, the Lighthouse is not approved! I'd pay to watch that....but I think the real solution is simpler.  When both sides eschew the game-playing and once again work in good faith toward a resolution (look for that to happen roughly .24 seconds after Ed Mangano takes office as County Executive), then we will hopefully see closure.

Let's hope the actual approval of this project would require a little less than a Festivus Miracle.

Feel free to add your own grievances.

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  1. The Town of Hempstead couldn't smooth a silk sheet if they had a hot date with a babe... I lost my train of thought. Seriously, quality post. Clearly, everyone involved deserves a share of the blame for the current state of affairs.

  2. You are so right, Nick... so much blame, so many people. Its almost a perfect storm of craptastic decisions on behalf of politicians and the voters to put us in the situation we find ourselves.

    I do find it interesting what Suozzi is doing... and I think working on things like this at this hour shows how much this project has meant to Tom Suozzi as well as how much Charles Wang wants this team to stay in Nassau county. Oddly, I have seen fan reactions that seem to think it proves the exact opposite. Honestly, I will never really understand the reasoning of some Isles fans.

  3. if Brooklyn Law Student is reading this, are there any legal maneuvers available to TOH et al to challenge this move by suozzi?

  4. with all due respect to chris tmc, the technical/legal details of all the lease stuff can be pretty complicated. i know it is to me. i can see how there might be differing interpretations and questions. also, while suozzi's comment would indicate this all purely to "encourage" the team to stay in nassau, can you really blame anyone for being leery of the motivations of anyone in the morass, or reluctant to assume that everything said is entirely devoid of unspoken motivations?

  5. Brooklyn Law StudentDecember 24, 2009 at 11:03 AM

    [before I say anything, let me make note that I am a law student. Nothing I say should be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. If you need clarifications or are worried about any legal consequences please consult A REAL LAWYER]

    Sorry, legal disclaimers are a necessary evil:

    In answer to your question, I don't know of any specific NY state laws/rules/procedures that give the TOH any recourse. From a straight contract or property rights analysis, there are no rights for the town. It is county property, which (according to traditional property law) is only subject to county authority. And, the town is not a contract to the party, and traditionally 3rd parties have no ability to affect the rights of parties to a contract. Mangano may have some recourse to rescind the contract in the new year, if he finds a creative lawyer who can argue that the contract was made under less than perfect conditions or that there is some type of time limit to back out. But, like I said, barring some special/quirky NY law giving the town special rights, the TOH is out of luck

  6. thanks for the input 'law student.'
    the mangano angle once he's in is what i wondered about. i guess the ability of elected officials to undo a predecessor's actions varies by level and location. i'd be surprised if at least some part of this whole quagmire doesn't involve litigation at some point.

  7. Day1 and others....I figured out what happened with the lease (confirmed by Brooklyn Law Student), and I'm writing a new quick post about it...

    Suozzi didn't sign a new agreement - Suozzi COMPELLED a sub-lease between SMG and the Islanders/Lighthouse. That means that this is a new contract, has nothing to do with the original County agreement, and therefore it's only up to the (current) County Executive to sign off.

    From my vantage point, Mangano is over a barrel, because he would have to compel the Islanders to voluntarily give up that money, and that just isn't happening.

  8. has there been any reaction from toh? (no way i'm subscribing to newsday)

  9. Tweet from last night:

    RT @BDGallof: However, i do have a source from ToH with a reaction: It would stick it to Mangano, (and could) seal the fate of the LHP

  10. Not sure what BD is getting at here. Presumably "seal the fate" as in "It's over?"

  11. for the first time i feel like its all coming to resolution. (unless some court actions i suppose)

  12. Day1 - no court action; there couldn't be. The Islanders and SMG signed an agreement that did not include the County. It seems (mrlbem help - you're a lawyer) that, in that case, all Suozzi would have to do as the current sitting County Executive is give his blessing to it, since it doesn't materially affect the current County/SMG agreement.

  13. Soooo, for all intents and purposes, does this put an end to the Lighthouse project?

    With all the profits now going into Wangs pockets, does this mean the end of the LI Project? Or does he continue the battle? Could Wang and Rechler disengage completely, and Wang then sells or what?!?

    -Big Van Vader

    Very nervous about all this and very confused as to what this all really mean for the LHP.

  14. They (and Gary Bettman) have consistently said the current situation is unsustainable. It doesn't look to me like this means the project is dead, or that they will seek to develop just the arena without anything else.