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Isle's owner threatens move

March 8, 2009 12:43:41 PM PDT
The owner of the New York Islanders hockey team is threatening to move if he doesn't get a new arena. The area would be part of a massive lighthouse project that includes an entertainment complex, hotels, office and apartment buildings. The Nassau Coliseum, planted in the heart of Garden City, is home to Long Islands only pro sports team. And thousands of hockey fans pack the arena every home game to see them.

But team owner Charles Wang says Nassau County will have to kiss the Islanders goodbye if he doesn't get full approval to transform the 37-year-old facility into a $3.5 billion world-class attraction, with not only a new Coliseum, but a residential section and all kinds of entertainment and shopping venues.

The Coliseum is owned by Nassau County, and the county has appointed Wang to also be its developer for the lighthouse project. But because the plans are so vast, the Town of Hempstead has to give its stamp of approval for rezoning.

"I can't shortchange the environmental review, and I won't do that," town supervisor Kate Murray said. "The health, safety and well-being of our residents will really be impacted by the project."

Murray says a state-mandated study highlights some potential pitfalls to the project. The biggest is major traffic issues, in addition to existing congestion.

But, isn't congestion a bonus, asks Wang. He pointed out that it will revitalize the area and bring 75,000 jobs over its 10-year construction.

"Plus Nassau County loses money every year to maintain it," Wang said. "They can't afford it."

Either way, Long Island will get its Islanders fix for six more years. That's part of the contract. But the summer, Wang says Nassau County may learn its fate, in losing not only the Islanders, but the economic benefits of having a pro team on local ice.

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WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King


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