2 Nassau advisory panels OK 49-year Coliseum lease

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and Bruce Ratner, Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and Bruce Ratner, executive chairman of Forest City Ratner Cos., announce additional details related to a new Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale. (Aug. 16, 2013) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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A pair of Nassau advisory panels unanimously recommended Friday that the county legislature approve a 49-year lease with developer Bruce Ratner to renovate the Nassau Coliseum and transform its surrounding plaza into a retail and entertainment district.

The seven-member Open Space & Parks Advisory Committee, along with the nine-member county Planning Commission, made its recommendation after hearing presentations from county lawyers and officials with Forest City Ratner Cos.

The commission also determined that the $229 million project will not have a significant environmental impact. The New York State Environmental Quality Review Act requires government agencies to consider the environmental impact of land use projects.

For example, the lease requires Ratner to remove all asbestos inside the arena that it disturbs during renovation, said Josh Meyer, an attorney with Pannone Lopes Devereaux & West, who negotiated the deal for the county.

Open space committee secretary Steven Rhoads said the project protects the environment, creates new jobs and will "benefit the county for years to come."

The lease must now be approved by the GOP-controlled legislature, which will begin deliberating the deal at a committee meeting on Sept. 9.

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Ratner's proposal calls for a renovated 13,000-seat arena, up to seven restaurants, a bowling alley, movie theater, an ice-skating rink, outdoor amphitheater, retail space and a monument -- costing at least $1 million -- to Nassau veterans.

Development will occur exclusively on the 12-acre Coliseum plaza, said James Lester, senior vice president of commercial and residential development at Forest City Ratner.

The other 65 acres on the Hub property will be available for surface parking. Nassau, however, is seeking state funds to build parking garages at the site, which would free up land for other development. The garages would hold 6,500 vehicles and cost more than $150 million to construct.

The lease calls for Ratner to pay Nassau 8 percent of all revenue generated by the arena each year, including tickets and concessions, and 12.75 percent of parking. The company guarantees Nassau a minimum of $4.4 million in the first year with the figure escalating by 10 percent every five years.

In total, Nassau would receive more than $500 million in rent and sales taxes over the course of the initial 34-year lease, Lester said. The agreement includes three extensions to the lease of five years apiece.

"These seem like very favorable lease terms," said Planning Commission chairman Jeff Greenfield.

The New York Islanders, scheduled to depart in 2015 to play at Ratner's Barclays Center in Brooklyn, would return to Uniondale to play four regular season games and two pre-season games at the renovated Coliseum. The Islanders also would host two open practices and four training camp days at the Coliseum for the next 10 years.

The Islanders minor league affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, also would relocate to the Coliseum, Ratner said. The Brooklyn Nets will have a preseason game and open practices at the Coliseum. And both the Nets and the New York Yankees would host annual clinics for area high school coaches at the arena, Meyer said.

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The meeting was open to the public but only Joan Pinard, a member of the Greater Uniondale Area Action Committee, spoke about the project, raising concerns about noise from the amphitheater.

Peter Clines, counsel to Nassau legislative Democrats, complained that the hearing was held on short notice and the eve of a holiday weekend when few members of the public were available to attend.

Greenfield, however, said the upcoming Jewish holidays led to the expedited hearing process. He said a more thorough airing of the issues would come during the upcoming legislative hearings.

"This is just the first step," he said. "A baby step, quite frankly."

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