Nassau Coliseum proposals hold great promise
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For all the openness of last week's presentations on ideas for remaking the Nassau Coliseum, there really are only two major contenders.
One is Team Ratner, led by Bruce Ratner, chairman of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner development company; the other is Team MSG, led by Hank Ratner, president and CEO of the Madison Square Garden Co.
Let us pause here to clarify two important points: Bruce Ratner is not related to Hank Ratner; but the controlling interest in MSG is owned by the Dolan family, which also owns Cablevision, Newsday's parent company.
There's a reason Jay-Z, one of the hottest purveyors of popular culture on the planet, took time to sit with Bruce Ratner in Nassau's police headquarters auditorium.
He, like the other businessmen and women pitching ideas for redeveloping the Coliseum and 77 acres of parking lot surrounding it, sees the possibility of making money.
Bruce Ratner and MSG were among four developers making presentations to a committee that will make recommendations to County Executive Edward Mangano.
Ed Blumenfeld of Syosset was the only bidder recommending that the rundown arena be demolished. He said he wanted to build something new, something iconic -- words repeated by developers in other presentations.
Unfortunately, his presentation -- because Nassau gave him too little time to prepare, Blumenfeld said -- had no up-to-date renderings of what he had in mind.
New York Sports LLC, based in Bayville and headed by Bernard Shereck, pitched using a renovated facility to build on Long Island's track record of producing skilled lacrosse and hockey players. The developers want to make the Coliseum a place where families can find what they called "affordable" entertainment.
But while Blumenfeld and New York Sports had their proposals planted firmly in the ground, Bruce Ratner and MSG -- as Islanders owner Charles Wang did before them for the Lighthouse project -- used plentiful props to support their quest to reimagine the arena.
One key difference: Ratner would refashion the arena's configuration to make it smaller and more intimate; MSG would keep the arena's size but rework it -- accordionlike -- so that it could expand and contract to accommodate attractions large and small.
Together, all four presentations generated excitement in the room -- for the first time in a long time -- at the prospect that maybe, just maybe, Nassau's fortunes could rise again.
Plentiful hurdles remain, however.
For one, Nassau residents need to know more, much more, about the economics of whatever plan Mangano chooses. Would it, as promised, provide good-paying jobs -- beyond short-term construction ones -- along with the economic-and-tax-revenue boost the cash-strapped county sorely needs?
All four bidders said they would use private money to fund their proposals, but it's likely questions will be raised if that will be enough. If so, what would be the source of other potential funding?
Last week's show -- which included Bruce Ratner-provided gourmet boxed lunches with red-velvet cake lollipops, for goodness sakes -- was grand. But there's plentiful, and serious, work to be done.
Mangano's goal ought to be to adopt and execute the best proposal. He's under pressure because it is an election year; and because of Wang's decision to move the Islanders to Brooklyn.
What's essential, especially since this would be development on county-owned land, is that what's good for Nassau and its residents, rather than any developer, come first.