Mangano needs to move quickly -- and transparently -- on Coliseum developer choice

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano pushed back the Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano pushed back the deadline for a final decision on Nassau Coliseum until mid-August from July 15, giving the firms time to negotiate and execute contracts that will contain their final offers for the project. (Oct. 25, 2011) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

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Joye Brown Newsday columnist Joye Brown

Joye Brown has been a columnist for Newsday since 2006. She joined the newspaper in 1983 and has ...

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano has named the two logical finalists to overhaul the Coliseum, and now ought to move quickly -- and transparently -- to choose one.

Mangano made a good move in requiring contracts from the Madison Square Garden Co. and Forest City Ratner Companies, rather than picking a winner based on a standard "term sheet" that is open to change.

He needs to negotiate and then make those proposed contracts public as soon as possible -- and keep to his stated deadline of mid-August for a final decision. Otherwise, the issue will become debate fodder in the November election for county executive, in which Mangano, a Republican, is seeking a second term.

In the past, the Mangano administration has been criticized for waiting almost until the last minute -- as with privatizing the management of county bus service -- to release details of significant proposals.

The change in bus management impacted bus riders.

What happens next at the Nassau Hub -- the last significant parcel of developable county-owned land -- will impact every resident and determine how much in annual revenue the county will reap.

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In 2004, New York Islanders owner Charles Wang proposed an ambitious redevelopment plan for the 77-acre parcel. It included a 60-story tower of hotels and condominiums, and died before the Hempstead Town board in 2010.

But MSG and Ratner have a chance to finally get things moving.

It's taken a long time -- too long a time -- to get to this point.

To be sure, both proposals focus primarily on the Coliseum itself, leaving acres and acres of parking lot that someday could be ripe for development too.

A recent trip to the nation's capital illustrated the possibilities for the underused land.

Several years ago, there were groans when the Washington Nationals departed the city's venerable RFK Stadium in favor of a new ballfield in a different part of town.

But the new field is a wonder. And Nationals Park seems to have helped seed development nearby, including National Harbor, 350 acres across the Potomac River in Maryland that includes shops, restaurants, hotels and town houses.

Over the Fourth of July weekend, National Harbor -- which seemed to have sprung out of nowhere -- was crowded every evening with people watching fireworks, visiting the restaurants and shops, or riding the waterfront carousel.

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It was impossible not to look around and think: Could the Hub evolve into something as lively as this?

Both finalists' proposals for the Coliseum are ambitious -- with MSG's $250 million proposal calling for a renovated 14,500-seat arena and a 150,000 square-foot entertainment complex, and Ratner's $229 million plan envisioning a renovated 13,000-seat arena and restaurants, retail and an outdoor amphitheater.

Mangano from the beginning made a point of telling residents about what MSG, Ratner and two other bidders had in mind.

He should keep it up, which means releasing both contracts to the public as soon as they're executed -- and coming to a decision about which proposal best serves Nassau's residents long before the November elections.

The Dolan family owns controlling interest in MSG and owns Cablevision,

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