Coliseum critics urge NIFA to oppose plan

An aerial view of Nassau Coliseum

An aerial view of Nassau Coliseum (Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin)

Critics of a plan to build a new Nassau Coliseum on Thursday urged a state monitoring board to oppose the project as local charities and churches backed the plan, saying it would bring jobs and lower taxes.

The Association for a Better Long Island, a real estate group that calls the up to $400 million plan a real estate grab by New York Islanders' owner Charles Wang, said the Nassau Interim Finance Authority should oppose the Monday voter referendum on funding the project.

"Are they a watchdog or a lap dog?" asked ABLI executive director Desmond Ryan at a news conference in Mineola. Union leaders supporting the deal then held a counter news conference to argue that a new Coliseum would generate thousands of jobs for Long Island.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano yesterday criticized ABLI's efforts. "A vocal minority is attempting to drown out the majority," he said.

If approved by residents and the county legislature, the borrowing plan will go to NIFA for a final vote. NIFA board members have raised concerns that the project would lead to a 3.5 to 4 percent county property tax increase.

Board chairman Ronald Stack has said NIFA would not issue a formal opinion on the issue until it is before them for a vote. Stack said Thursday that his position has not changed and declined to comment further.

The debate over NIFA came as local charities, including the American Red Cross, Cancer Care and the Henry Viscardi School, argued that losing the Islanders would devastate their efforts to help sick children.

"We would not have been able to help any of these young children battling cancer here on Long Island without the help and support of Charles Wang and the New York Islanders," Nancy Zuch, head of the Morgan Center in Brightwaters, said at a news conference outside the Coliseum. The center operates programs for preschool age children with cancer.

At another news conference at the arena, the Long Island Council of Churches announced its backing of the project.

Echoing other supporters, the council said the plan would lower taxes, create jobs and make the surrounding area more attractive to young professionals.

"This is what we believe the people need now," said Bishop Norman Lyons Jr., pastor of Fountain of Life Church in Uniondale.

Mangano also said Thursday that the project would generate a net profit of $27 per household for Nassau residents.

That figure, from a county consultant's report, assumes revenue sharing projections from the arena pan out and are used to directly offset homeowners' property taxes.

Nassau this week amended its lease agreement with the Islanders to reiterate that the county retained all development rights for the area around the Coliseum.

Future development, however, must include the construction of a parking garage for the team.

With Sid Cassese

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