Wednesday, June 1, 2011

We Will Vote on August 1 (I Think)

Today, by a vote of 11-7 (with one legislator not present), the Nassau Legislature approved the special election for the new areener, to be held August 1.

Welcome to what I've dubbed Wet Hot Areener Summer.

I have a detailed post I want to make that is coming tomorrow, but I wanted to get some quick updates as well as to record my speech to the legislature, as best as I can remember it.

Quick Hits/Impressions

Jim Castellane from the Nassau/Suffolk Building Trades union spoke, and he claimed that 50% of his 60,000 union members were currently unemployed.  It underscores how tough times are and how much new construction could mean to the area.

It's amazing how many legislators are on the exact opposite edge of the spectrum than they were when a County Executive from the other party was attempting to do something with Nassau Coliseum and the surrounding land.

Democrats, save Legis. Dave Denenberg, all voted against holding the special election, citing the same issue: they did not know enough details about the referendum and did not believe they could in good conscience approve the vote in this condition.

It's worth noting that, while Democrats had objections to the process, none of them objected to the belief that the Coliseum needs to be replaced and the Islanders need to be kept where they are.

Two amendments were defeated: one to move the referendum to Election Day in November, and the other to move it to primary day in September.  A third amendment, proposed by Legis. Denenberg, would put the tax revenue and revenue-sharing money from the Coliseum and surrounding property into a dedicated fund which will be used to pay the debt service.  It was ruled out of order and tabled because it was submitted after the deadline to submit bills to be considered today.....Expect more on this issue later, because it's a big one.

Charles Wang and Ed Mangano showed up on the second floor of the Theodore Roosevelt Executive Building for a signing ceremony immediately after.  The County Executive confirmed that he expects details, which are currently being ironed out, to be released by the middle of June.

Interesting news from Legis. Kevan Abrahams: Nassau County can revoke the special election 15 days prior to the scheduled vote if they believe the proper details have not been provided.  It'll be interesting to see how this plays out.

Charles Wang is reiterating his offer to cover the county's costs for holding the vote....if the vote passes.  I'll have my own views on this in the coming days.

Next up is approval on the special election from NIFA, which has been loudly critical of this plan since it was unveiled.  NIFA will be a sticky part of this process, and it's worth paying attention.

Hat tip to Scott C. for saying hi, everyone I spoke to, Greg M. with the county, and Christian for having me on Power Play Radio this past afternoon to make sense of all this.

My Speech (As I Remember It)

This is, to the best of my memory, a paraphrased version of what I said to the county today, because a few people have asked for it (and in one case, I've added in something I should have said):

Good afternoon, I'm Nick Giglia from North Bellmore.  Those of you who have followed this saga for many years may remember me from my blog, Let There Be Light(house).  It was an interesting ride, and I wish today we could be debating a new lease for the Lighthouse development rather than the question before us, but I understand that reality must intrude.

I don't know if any of you are Mad Men fans, but I'm reminded of one of my favorite scenes from that show.  Don Draper is talking to a woman, who, shockingly, would later become his mistress, and she spoke to him about the concept of Utopia.  In Classical Greek, "Utopia" can have two meanings: "the good place" and "the place that cannot be."

The Lighthouse Project was the most widely-supported project in Long Island history, and it represented hope for thousands.  It was our "good place."  However, recent events and political maneuvering have made it clear that the Lighthouse is now our "place that cannot be."  It breaks my heart to say this, and I wish things could have turned out differently, but I am not here to re-hash the past.  The proposal before you cannot be considered in comparison to the Lighthouse Project; it must be considered against the cost of doing nothing.

Long Island is in trouble, and our economy is still struggling to find a new way forward.  To lose the Islanders and the economic engine they provide for the area would be catastrophic and could strike a blow from which we may never recover.  This bond issue is not meant just to build an arena; it is meant to be a catalyst for the area and serve as an anchor tenant for this newly-developed land.  Without the Islanders, there cannot be a new arena.  Without a new arena, there is likely not going to be any new development.

I was a little late for these proceedings because I was watching a press conference announcing the news that the Atlanta Thrashers would be relocating to Winnipeg.  We can't afford to be on the receiving end of one of these press conferences in 4 years.

The referendum must be put to the people, and the best choice is to vote on August 1.  I urge this body to vote unanimously and take a stand that we will not be slaves to an unknown future, but that we will do something.  This is a catalyst, not for the Islanders, but for Long Islanders.  This is a new way forward, not for Democrats or Republicans, but for citizens.  

Please move this process forward and allow the people their voice.  When the time comes, let's make it work.  Thank you.

(NOTE: I should've said the following)

Now, to be fair, I do not support this without reservations.  Mr. Mangano must provide the promised details about this information, and it must be clear to residents that this will not become a burdensome tax on already-stretched families.  The money must also be placed inside a dedicated fund to avoid it becoming another line item in the county general fund that is constantly being re-purposed and re-allocated.  These are important details, and I will join you on the ramparts against this should there be a major error, but we must not derail this process now.  We have been waiting for far too long.

Coming Up

Expect many opinion pieces in the coming days, as well as some investigations (such as whether and how the revenue-sharing numbers could work to pay the debt service).  I'm hoping to talk to a few Nassau legislators and leaders in the community to gauge reaction, both pro and con.  What would you guys like to see?



  1. Excellent job, Nick.

    "The proposal before you cannot be considered in comparison to the Lighthouse Project; it must be considered against the cost of doing nothing."


  2. I keep reading that NIFA (as a whole) has criticized the deal and spoken out against it, but I’ve seen actual comments only from Marlin and no other members. He’s the director, but he’s only got one vote like the other six members, and as far as I know he has no more decision making authority than they do. Am I right on this? Did I miss public comments by other members?

  3. I like how you slapped the republicans in the face about the LHP...It was poignant

  4. IP: it was honestly a smack against both sides. Republicans for not fighting harder and Democrats for opposing this out of preference to a dead project. I think we'd all prefer the Lighthouse, but it's not going to be built. Why waste energy going back to that well?

    Day1: Marlin is the only person to speak publicly, but I'm very concerned about NIFA until I have reason not to be. They have the power to kill the special election and/or stop the bond issue after voters approve it (assuming they do). The numbers need to work for all parties, because Ed Mangano does not currently control the county's wallet. More on this in the coming days.

    Also worth noting is that approving the bond issue requires a supermajority. Democrats may have done what they did yesterday to posture for a deal. Mangano needs them to pass this.

  5. Nick - Been meaning to drop you a line. It's good to have you back. It's not good to see the local political scene is unchanged.

    I concur with you that I find it very disturbing that votes are being drawn right down party lines as they were with the dearly departed LHP. It's what is killing Long Island and at times killing our country. Elected officisls are supposed to serve at the best interests of their constituents, not what makes their party look best. I hope if the referendum passes, the Nassau Legislature does right by their constituents, the county and the region.

    That said, NIFA is wildcard in this entire endeavor. I would hate to think we go through another saga here and in the end it is for all for naught due to this watchdog agency. Would love a piece from you on NIFA, the odds that they will squash this, and what alternatives there are if they do. I've read in some places Nassau can do a different type of bond (riskier, higher interest rate) that would not need NIFA approval. I do not know if that is a valid option or not.

    Lastly, although I was terribly disheartened and angered at the demise of the LHP, I will be backing this newest, latest plan. While maybe the economics dollar for dollar do not support pubicly funded arenas or areeners (or whatever model Managano will present), we need to account for the cost of losing our soul as a region if the Islanders leave. Every town that loses a sports team, (whether it was Cleveland and Baltimore in the NFL, Hartford, Winnepeg, Quebec, Minnesota in the NHL, Charlotte in the NBA) then winds up spending time, energy, money and emotional resources attempting to get a team back. The loss of the team creates a hole that cannot be filled - the area's soul is lost is how I like to refer it. Hopefully this will not be Long Island, as the Islanders are one our last distinct entities separating us from New York City. A big piece of our soul will be gone, and as I've stated before, we will be nothing more than the 6th borough.

  6. What I'm saying is we don't really know the makeup of the NIFA members, at least I don't, in terms of their individual agendas/priorities, and how open/reachable they are to being convinced or influenced. To assume or even guess that NIFA as a whole is ready to kill the deal and can't be swayed may be way off.

  7. Marc - great to hear as always.

    Day1 - you're right. I hope I didn't use bad wording up there....I meant to point out that NIFA has the ability to kill this 2 different ways in the process. They could kill the special election or reject the bond issue after the vote passes. I know little about them, but the only public communication we have is Marlin blasting th plan. To me that means NIFA has to stay a concern, at least for now.