Monday, February 8, 2010

Forget the Last End-Game...THIS Is End-Game

In a stunning move that reverses years of policy, the Town of Hempstead has truly entered end-game in the Lighthouse Project negotiations.  At a press conference that began at 11 AM today, the Town called on Charles Wang to pay the over $150,000 in outstanding bills to environmental consultants Frederick P. Clark Associates, and they then took an even bolder move.  The Town announced it has retained F.P. Clark to devise a "zoning plan" for the Coliseum property, the most direct sign we have ever had that the Town will only accept the Lighthouse Project in a scaled-back form.

This represents the biggest news since Mr. Wang's "deadline" passed on October 3, something I'd been saying for weeks, if not months, earlier.  Since then, the Lighthouse has gone dark, allowing its opponents, people with an agenda, and bloggers with very little information (not a swipe, I'm including myself in that) to control and dictate the public discourse.

The whole time, Mr. Wang has repeated his mantra, which became hardened in the steamy summer months: Just tell me Yes or No.  Interestingly enough, the Town of Hempstead appears to have adhered to his previous mantra: Just tell me what I can build.

While Mr. Wang repeated his mantra, however, the behavior has been downright odd.  An organization that built its base of support through open engagement, which allowed the Lighthouse to be the most widely-supported large building project in perhaps Long Island's history, suddenly turned inward.  F.P. Clark was not paid, as the Lighthouse is obligated by law to do.  In fact, source within the Town claims the environmental review could be finished by now had the bill been paid.  Requests and pleas for any kind of indication largely fell on deaf ears.  Lighthouse representatives, including Mr. Wang himself, repeatedly denied that meetings happened with the Town since the October 3 deadline, even though multiple sources are reporting they have.

This sort of behavior is inexcusable, and it's not a stretch to ask why an organization supposedly committed to doing something on Long Island was suddenly acting like it wasn't.

The political chickens began coming home to roost, as well, an unfortunate consequence of the Lighthouse deciding to tie itself closely to a Democratic Party that no longer controls any piece of this process.  Representatives of Ed Mangano, the new Republican County Executive, claim their calls to Mr. Wang have gone unreturned, and the Town of Hempstead has allowed itself the ability to spread misinformation (such as the asinine "the Lighthouse is as dense as Manhattan's Upper West Side" argument).

The Town, as I mentioned, has decided to force Mr. Wang's hand, because they believe these amount to stall tactics.  They don't believe the Lighthouse has financing, with some sources claiming that people connected to Scott Rechler have admitted as much, and they want to back the developer into a corner.

Here's the biggest piece: a new zoning plan, puts the chance of a groundbreaking in 2010 in serious jeopardy, and it opens up the possibility that the project will be handed to another more connected developer if the Lighthouse chooses to walk away.

As per the press conference, Kate Murray re-iterated that she does not want the New York Islanders to move, and she stressed that the plan will include a renovated arena.

In fact, sources say the Town of Hempstead will vote on this "vision" tomorrow night at the Town Board meeting.  (I'm sure they'd love to see all of us...Hint, Hint.)

The Lighthouse has engaged in severely misguided behavior over the past few months, but that does not mean I'm ready to throw the Town of Hempstead a parade either.  I heard from multiple sources involved with the discussions at the time that Kate Murray has refused to participate in discussions along these lines for 7 years, citing the ridiculous reasoning that she would eventually have to vote on the project.  She believed that simple fact absolved her from any responsibility for shaping the project and any role in guiding the approval process. An open discussion could have resolved any issues before they started

Now, all of a sudden, it's happened.  What changed?  Is the Town of Hempstead suddenly not concerned about this policy, and, if not, why have they hidden behind it for years?

A source in the Town of Hempstead believes the passion of citizen supporters motivated the Town to suddenly take the Lighthouse Project seriously, since most considered it to be a sideshow.  This is not an achievement of representative government, nor should the Town be credited for suddenly taking its fingers out of its ears.

However, regardless of how we got here...we're here.

The Town is voting on this vision tomorrow night, and we now have a clear path to end-game.  There are 3 main variables:

Will the Town of Hempstead be willing to budge? As we've seen, the Town of Hempstead is prone to overreaching and has a reputation of being arrogant in its dealings with developers.  Will there be any wiggle room, or will this zoning plan be treated as a take it or leave it offer?

Will Charles Wang play ball?  The Town is doubting his motives, and the recent dark period has all but obliterated all the positive momentum. However, I have heard from sources the plan was built with compromise in mind, and we know from our back to basics post how economic benefit will be calculated.

How far apart are the 2 sides?  It has been clear for months that the Lighthouse Project will not be approved in its current form.  It will be interesting to see how much smaller the Town of Hempstead's proposal will be, because if the 2 sides are far apart and cannot bridge the gap the whole project could fall apart.

Are we nearing the end?

Ed Mangano has repeatedly said he wants the project to move forward, and now it's time for him and all the rest of us who want this to step up.  Now is the time for Ed Mangano to bring the sides together like he told me he can.  Now is the time for all of us to make one last push, urging both sides to come to a mutually-beneficial solution.

We've done so much...and we need to move forward one more time.  It appears this will be over soon.

After all, despite the rancor from both sides, one thing is clear: the easiest solution for all parties is for the Town and the Lighthouse to come to a deal.

UPDATE: The Supervisor also shared that she called Charles Wang an hour before the hearing and had a "pleasant" conversation.  She claims Mr. Wang said he is "looking forward" to the new plan.  Stay tuned tomorrow for more details.

MEDIA ALERT: Looks like I'll be sharing a reaction with News 12.  Stay tuned for more information.

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  1. this could be good or really bad lets hope Mr Wang can agree on something and lets see the thing built already

  2. Finally! Some type of communication! Pay the 150K to FPC and let's get moving!

  3. I hope this for once is a good sign, and ur last comment about her speaking to wang is hopefully true. I think he will give into them. Becuase he wants something out of his and i dont see Wang willing to just throw in the towel and lose everything. He will still make $$ off of this. If not, then i'd rather see him sell. The fans have showed this yr when the team plays well ppl come. So, if they provide a good product then someone coulkd possibly make $$ off of the Isles.

  4. CW will, and should, go with the best deal available to him, and that won't be known for awhile. Brooklyn? Possible. Queens? Possible. Suffolk? Possible. Uniondale? Possible. New owner? Possible. Why should he rush now. See what the town offers, compare it to other options (very quietly), then devise and announce. Done. There will be minimal negotiation IMO. Best deal wins. And since the lease goes for awhile, no rush. The lease change makes the last few years less costly and allows for an easier sale. But nothing will happen until he can compared the silly ToH 'plan' to other available options. I think he's in a great position, even if we don't like it. After all he laid out the $$ and has lost even more. Good for him. For us, we may not like uncertainty, but we will have it for quite some time. We better get used to it!

  5. Nick, has the Town's zoning plan already been developed by FP Clarke? Or is the vote that will be taking place, a vote to allow FP Clarke to go forward with developing a plan? The difference being that under the latter scenario, Wang will still not know what can be built for some time.

  6. " ...the Lighthouse has gone dark, allowing its opponents, people with an agenda, and bloggers with very little information (not a swipe, I'm including myself in that) to control and dictate the public discourse."

    good job getting info out on the run. you must feel like a reporter. more so than any who are getting paid to "cover" this story have a right to.
    i don't know if bloggers (are those who post once in a while "bloggers," or only those who actually run the blog?) are in it to "control and dictate." for myself, most of what i contribute (try to) is simply reaction to what little i see and hear. it's more a release than anything, and inevitably influenced by my passion for this team.

    "and it opens up the possibility that the project will be handed to another more connected developer if the Lighthouse chooses to walk away." this was their objective all along. a wang/reck project would be built by contractors of their choice. the opposition doesn't like that. at all. for obvious reasons.

  7. alex/islanders1fanFebruary 8, 2010 at 1:32 PM

    here is all i want to know.. if all goes smoothly and the LH and F.P Clark need to redraw thier plans....CAN WE STILL BREAK GROUND THIS SUMMER?

  8. Kate Murray wouldn't talk size/scope with LDC because she was eventually going to vote on the project. Maybe she'll refuse to speak with her own advisors and consultants in developing the TOH's counter proposal? She may eventually vote on it too, right?

  9. Nick,

    Not sure you can answer this question, but you're the best person to ask.

    If Murray and the TOH come back and say that they have zoned for a new/refurb Coli, the canal, some office space, etc. that reduces the original LHP by 25-35% and both the LHG and the TOH agree to the project, would a new DEIGIS (Or whatever it's called) need to be conducted or can they use the current one?

  10. HA, my captcha for that last comment was


    Is that a sign?

  11. The Isles should tell Murray what should have been said a long time ago: We're moving to NYC. Do NOT pay F.P Clark and tell Fat Murray to SCREW with what you want.

  12. Wang is not getting his dream project. Im not one bit surprised. It is truly massive for the area. While I do love the Islanders, I never wanted the lighthouse project. Wang only bought the Islanders for the real estate all along. To bad wang, your golden plan has failed!

  13. So, the Town has FP Clark in charge of both reviewing the DGEIS behind Wang's proposal, and of esssentially developing the town's own counter-proposal.



  14. Anon (2:19), we've proven many times why the Islanders can't stay in the arena as currently constructed, and also why simply renovating the arena would be akin to flushing money down the toilet unless taxpayers bear the burden. Why do you insist on painting this as a whim that Charles Wang had one day?

  15. Also, to answer a few questions here, the revisions to the DGEIS would be pretty minor. If the project is smaller, that means they would be recommending remediation actions for more than they would actually need. Most sources say that would not be too much of an issue.

    As for the timeframe, I'm really not sure how this affects a summer groundbreaking, because we don't know whether the plan is complete or whether they will authorize the creation of a plan. It sounds like the latter, which is of course another way to draw out the process, but we'll know more tomorrow night at the Town Board meeting.

  16. Nick, I find this FP Clark situation so mind-boggling that I have to post twice.

    Can you shed any light on this (no pun intended)?

    As I see it, in layman's terms, you have one firm being responsible for both scrutinizing the LDG's proposal, and for developing the TOH's counter-proposal.

    On what planet is this not at least an appearance of conflict of interest?

    And that's without getting into questions you raised last year around billing practices and political donations.


  17. From anon 2:19..
    Nick-I understand SMG has strangled wang but he knew that going in. It is up to Wang to rectify the contract and be realistic about it. But truthfully, the Islanders have lost there passionate fan base. I doubt the new can be supported here anymore. You can build a new arena sure but its the same product on the ice. Very basic talent, nothing special. A new arena will not magicly bring a new fan base. a new arena will bring new higher ticket prices and higher parking fees. No question

  18. "we'll know more tomorrow night at the Town Board meeting."

    OK are people going to this or what? What time is it?

  19. Town Board meeting is tomorrow at 7PM at Town Hall.

    I'm sure they'd love to see us.

  20. We all need to remember how LI politics work, the biggest contributor to the GOP in Nassau & Suffolk are builders & contracting co's with the owners/officers donating in their own name.

    Wang & Rechler first approached the project to Suozzi & aligned themselves with the guy in charge, It is my belief that Murry & the GOP simply waited out Suozzi & Wang, knowing that eventually Souzzi would be out & Wang would give up.
    Now that suozzi is gone, they are saying to Wang, or will make this clearer soon is "OK, you can have the arena, the garage & the sports center, but we want Builder A to do this here & builder B to do this here.
    Remember that an Arena alone can be a losing proposition from the builders angle, but an array of Condo's in the same place all but gaurantee's whomever builds will make MILLIONS & some of that money will make it's way back to the GOP.

    All I can say is look it up I'd bet most of the Contractors/Builders who are chomping at the bit to get these 77 acres ( some have said all along that they would leave the NVMC alone & build only condos ) have all donated heavily to the LI GOP, and they want their payback, Murry hands that land to Wang & in response maybe some of the election fund money dries up, this may seem a bit over the top, but everything fits.
    Wangs only mistake was not budding up to ( Donating ) to the real powers that be.
    Maybe, that was Wangs plan all along? your
    thoughts Nick??

  21. I don't get how people didn't see this coming. This was the Town's plan all along. They're gonna get their way. 70%-ish of what the original plans proposed. Wang and Rechler had to know this. I wouldn't be surprised if this was the last step before they bust out some shovels.

  22. Any news at this point to me is positive. Having nothing happen is worse than getting a flat out no. I hope both sides can reach an agreement. This plan or a variation of it is a positive for everyone in my opinion.

  23. 70% of the original plan is still a lot of development. Let's get it done.

  24. Nick - Great job covering. Couple of questions:

    1. If Wang/Rechler are having issues financing, wouldn't other developers have the same issue?

    2. Any idea if the ToH will cut out the housing part for the zone? I know this is has been a bone of contention throughout.

    I'm at the point where I'm hoping for a resolution on this either way. We've all taken too many days off from work to support this project, not to mention the psychic and mentally energy expended. All the parties here, (The county, the LDG, The ToH) have given all of us a lesson on how not to act. Just dreadful.

  25. Wang said "hes looking forward to a new plan", is positive but thats only if the ToH doesn't insult Wang with a shopping mall and a renovated arena....We should also remember Wanger can make money on the Coliseum after that SMG contract change

  26. Funny how the Town schedules the meeting for 7:00 p.m. on a game night.

  27. Frederick P. Clark Associates is a contributor to the Republican party and has given money to Jo Ra's Republican Club. Why not have an open Bid? because the Republican controlled Town of Hempstead are simply just a bunch of crooks.

    Nick - please call the AG's office to investigate

    Charles Wang should NOT pay the bill.

  28. Nick maybe you clarify something, I,m going under the assumption that tomorrows vote will be to allow these consultants to come up with the towns own plan, if this happens would it then have to go back to the county to voted on.

  29. I'm sick of Wang & TOH. Enough is enough as this has dragged on way too long. The best thing for NYI is to get rid of both of them as Wang sells NYI and they end up in Brooklyn or Queens.

    How is it the Devils do great in just a new arena but NYI can't and they need a whole real estate project?

  30. Does anybody know whether the Islanders will get a portion of the arena or a large part of the Atlantic Yards development if the y move into Brooklyn? I think it would be comical if Brooklyn tried to attract the Islanders by only giving them a small portion of the arena.

  31. Hello Nick, Long time, no speak. I have been silent due to Botta's silencing anyone who doesn't agree with him. I won't stand for having to be "approved" by a guy who can't keep a job for more than a year at a time.
    In any case, I believe that with Mangano now in charge something with get done. Mangano has to know that the project will be good for the County and he will force Murray to move on it.
    In my opinion the ball is in Wang's court now. He has to realize that the Lighthouse as he proposes will not get done. So, it's up to him to scale back and make the best deal that he can.
    In the end, the money man, Rechler will convince Wang that half a loaf is better than nothing and the two sides will agree on a slimmed down Lighthouse.
    Mangano will emerge as the Lighthouse savior (just at the GOP wanted all along) and the project will result in his re election four years from now. Souzzi won't even be invited to the opening (causing Botta to bleat even further).
    This is how it will evolve and it will get done.
    Write it down.....SIR WILLIAM

  32. I think that if TOH comes back with a legitimate offer (70-80%), everything will go smoothly and ground will be broken early spring 2011. I wouldn't worry about the quality of the team if I were you.. we will have a talented core of players by then, and if this project gets approved Wang won't be afraid to pay $$ to fill in the blanks. This bodes well for the club

  33. Anon 3:26 - wanna buy a bridge in Brooklyn? Which is close to where NYI should be.

  34. sir william - how exactly is mangano going to "force" kate murray to "act?"

  35. Hey guys, Mnagano was standing RIGHT NEXT to Murray when they announced the scale back. Forget him. He's already done.

    -Big Van Vader

  36. mr. van vader is right. even if he had such authority or influence, which he does not, why would anyone assume he seeks a different outcome than ms. murray. his public comments? the man is - and i use the broadest possible meaning for this word - a politician.

    sir william - how exactly is mangano going to "force" kate murray to "act?"

    February 9, 2010 5:30 AM

  37. Wow, what an amazing conversation here. Thank you all...let me try to address as many of these as I can.

    I don't think anyone here is surprised this has happened. I was never "against" scaling it down, I was vehemently against the idea of Charles Wang voluntarily making it smaller before the Town made a move. As I love to say, you don't bid against yourself. Now that the Town is coming out with something, things will move forward.

    Anon (7PM): Charles Wang is required by law to pay the consultant's bills, and the Town has a right to name anyone they choose. It sucks, and I'm not sold on F.P. Clark at all, but there's nothing illegal about it.

    Marc N's question about financing is one I've never been able to figure out. If these 2 wealthy people who have hundreds of millions in collateral in and around the site can't get financing, how much hope would someone else have?

    As for the housing question, plus WJG's question, they will be authorizing the creation of a zoning plan, and we don't know what's going to be in it. Since the Town has ultimate control over zoning, they have say here. The County would have to approve sub-divisions and a property lease, so that's where they next come in.

    Anon (9:12 PM): the only way a project like this isn't necessary for a new arena is if the taxpayers foot the bill. The Devils can get by because over 70% of the financing was covered by taxpayers. In fact the average public share of a new building is it's 0.

    SW: Good to see you. You're hitting on a point that I think deserves its own post: at this point, it's clear the Town and County are ready to do something with the Coliseum and the land around it. There are so many other variables and problems with the other options in the NY area, and we have political will at all levels for the first time. The dirty little secret of all this is that the easiest thing for all sides to do is come to a deal.

  38. mtrico (5:36 p.m.): The town has meetings every other Tuesday every single month. The monthly calendar is on the TOH website. Tonight, it just happened to land on a game night.

  39. Always good to hear from you, Nick. Kate Murray has other ambitions when her run as TOH Supervisor is finished. She will play ball with Mangano or be on the outside looking in when all is said and done. I have it on pretty good authority that her career choice is to be a Judge. If she steps on Manganos toes now, her chances are zilch when the time comes. That's how politics work.....Sir Williamk.

  40. I was just wondering what came from last nights meeting?


  41. There was no meeting last night Christian. I think they postponed it due to weather.

  42. Theres really no new news that I an find on the subject. I guess the meeting was canceled.

  43. Meeting happened; Town of Hempstead voted unanimously to authorize F.P. Clark to produce an alternative zoning plan for the Coliseum site. I will write up something small at some point this afternoon (been on a few conference calls and had to shovel my walkway).

  44. Thanks Nick for the update. Not surprisingly, the TOH do NOT give a damn about the Islanders. Wang should walk away from ANYTHING involving F.P Clark in zoning, period.

  45. Murray is in TOTAL control of the very thing she said she wouldn't be able to talk to developers about because shes like a judge in a trial..Now shes a judge tampering with the case...What is this the mafia???I cant believe she Wang let her get away with this...I cant believe our govt allows for this criminal behavior, scoundrels!!!!