Hearing on Lighthouse project draws more than 1,000

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A rally Thursday night in support of the proposed $3.7 billion Lighthouse mixed-use development in Uniondale drew a crowd of more than 1,000, an array of local politicians and a vote of support from Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi.

The megaproject is the solution to the county's four major problems, Suozzi said: high property taxes, the inability of young people to afford homes on Long Island, traffic congestion and pockets of poverty.

"We've got to expand the tax base in a responsible way," he said. "We need to create exciting places where young people will want to live. The development is going to generate revenues. The project is right for so many different reasons."

Suozzi joined Lighthouse developers Charles Wang and Scott Rechler, several county legislators, two members of the Hempstead Town Board, three former New York Islanders and several labor officials at the Marriott Hotel next to the Nassau Coliseum.

Suozzi said if the project isn't approved, there won't be sufficient funding to rehabilitate the Coliseum - making it hard for the Islanders to remain.

The development proposal requires approval from the town and county, as well as from state agencies. The developers recently began a campaign criticizing the lengthy approval process.

The developers were greeted with rousing applause and a standing ovation.

One speaker, former Islander Bobby Nystrom, summed up the sentiment of the evening: We need to do this project, and we need to do it now.

"The Islanders have to stay on Long Island," Nystrom said. "And we've got to have a place where people can go to be entertained, have dinner, gather, go to a movie - it's so important.

Wang urged supporters to contact their elected officials: "Make sure they understand how important this is to us."

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Jim Castellane, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Long Island, suggested appointing a czar to expedite the approval process. "We're facing the worst economic times we could possibly face," he said. "What is holding it up? What can be done?"

Joe Slattery, president of the United Veterans Organization of Nassau County, said his executive committee endorsed the project after a meeting with Wang last week. He called on Town Supervisor Kate Murray, whom he termed "a longtime friend of the veterans," to support the project "so a new state-of-the-art arena can be built to replace our outdated Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum."

A lone voice yelling "I'm holding it up. I don't want it in my backyard" was drowned out.

Wang said the developers have begun to negotiate a lease for the county-owned property with Suozzi. "That's usually done after you get the approvals," he said. "We're working in parallel."

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