Critics, supporters: Find new direction

Election workers Johann Tamburello, left, and Margaret Hitchcock Election workers Johann Tamburello, left, and Margaret Hitchcock assist voter Jean Pierre on the Nassau Coliseum referendum at Elmont High School. Photo Credit: Kevin P Coughlin

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Critics and supporters said Nassau should immediately start looking for private financing to fund a development deal that includes the rebuilding of the aging Coliseum.

Nassau Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs, who opposed the plan for taxpayers to borrow up to $400 million, told News12 late last night, "This was a bad plan . . . government should not be running entertainment venues."

Jimmy Castellane, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Nassau and Suffolk counties and an enthusiastic supporter of the plan because of its potential to create jobs, said, "We'll continue to fight. We'll continue to try to move forward with progress. We know something has to get built here. I have thousands of guys sitting at home now," noting that unemployment among construction workers on Long Island is 30 percent.

Nassau Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick), who broke ranks with Democrats in support of putting the plan to a vote, said, "The public spoke. They don't want to pay for everything. So let's have a real bid, which opens up development rights and ensures an anchor tenant and some split on funding of the arena."

County Executive Edward Mangano and Islanders owner Charles Wang had proposed that taxpayers borrow up to $400 million to pay for a new arena and create construction jobs. They said rent guaranteed by the team and additional sales tax revenue would offset the projected 3.5 percent to 4 percent increase in property taxes.

Critic Desmond Ryan, executive director of the Association for a Better Long Island, said, "There is no credit to be taken here because the fact is most people did not hear our message of fiscal integrity and competitive bidding. They heard Mr. Wang's message and they decided in a county on a financial brink, enough is enough. As he said he would do with his previous Lighthouse project, private dollars can build the Coliseum and more, creating investment, union jobs and a viable future for Mitchel Field. That discussion should start Tuesday."

But John Durso, president of the Long Island Federation of Labor, called the results, "a big disappointment. It's a shame that something like this could occur. It's a very bad sign for the future of Nassau County. And it's a very bad sign for young people and business. And it's something we in labor will not forget come November."

Minority Leader Diane Yatauro (D-Glen Cove) said, "The Mangano administration asked residents to approve a 5% property tax increase for themselves, therefore it came as no shock that the plan was defeated. I urge Mr. Mangano to do what he should have done in the first place, give us a privately-funded development plan with clear details as to how it protects taxpayers while stimulating economic growth."

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