6,000-page report tackles Lighthouse Project's details

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Roadways would be widened and highway exit ramps reconfigured. A new water well would be dug. Another pedestrian bridge would cross Hempstead Turnpike.

Those were among details in a 6,000-page report submitted to Hempstead Town yesterday by developers of the proposed $3-billion Lighthouse Project on how they intend to deal with the anticipated impact of the proposed massive complex for 150 acres of county-owned land surrounding Nassau Coliseum.

And the consensus in the packed meeting room at Hempstead Town Hall was that Long Island needs this project soon.

The developers submitted their draft environmental impact statement just after the town board voted to approve the environmental review's scope.

The plan says Lighthouse Project founders Charles Wang and Scott Rechler pledge to put $55 million into mitigating traffic and transportation fallout from the project by re-engineering traffic flow with additional traffic signals, reconfigured U-turns, a 1.59-mile bicycle/ walking/trolley path and an express shuttle to the Mineola train station.

At yesterday's town board meeting, a crowd ranging from 150 to 200 greeted Wang with thunderous applause.

Only one of two dozen speakers expressed less than complete enthusiasm, asking for written guarantees that the estimated 70,000 jobs associated with construction would go to Long Islanders and that 20 percent of the housing would be "affordable" or "next generation."

Speakers included lifelong Islanders fans and a union representative who touted the much-needed jobs the project would generate.

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In an interview after the meeting, Wang said he has not yet obtained financing for the project. But he said he's optimistic about getting funding in increments over the 10 years the project would be built.

"How can I get funding until zoning is approved?" he said. "We are talking to a lot of banks obviously. ... If the project is good, we can get it done.

"Obviously, the climate has changed dramatically because of all the economic turmoil, but ... we know that won't last forever."

Wang said he's been looking to foreign investors and governments, including China, as financing options.

Some commercial real estate experts said the project might face dim chances of financing in the current economy - if it wasn't headed by two business giants.

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"There's a track record here," real estate attorney Morton Weber said. "You have somebody who built Computer Associates, which was very successful, and you've got Scott Rechler, who has this impeccable reputation in what he's done in the real estate world. Is that one of the keys in getting financing? Absolutely."

But developer Ted Weiss was less optimistic, saying Wang and Rechler face a "virtually impossible" task.

"I can't imagine any bank, insurance company, pension plan or any traditional lender who's capable of doing a project of that size," Weiss said. "... There is no funding to do that project."

Wang said the project would be completed in two phases over 10 years. "I hope this will be a catalyst for Long Island. Without it, Long Island will certainly fade away," Wang said.

Staff writer Ellen Yan contributed to this story.

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