Lighthouse backers don't mention ties to project

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Last week, it appeared that the proposed Lighthouse project gained a few new supporters from Garden City - the hub of opposition to the nearby mega-development.

But a closer look shows that five of the eight letter writers who voiced support in the weekly Garden City News could stand to benefit financially from the project or its developers.

Only one of the five - Lighthouse president Michael Picker - identified a specific affiliation with the project, a $3.7-billion effort to renovate Nassau Coliseum, which is home to the New York Islanders, and redevelop the surrounding area.

The others - a 40-year employee of the Islanders, an executive with the Islanders' insurance firm and two attorneys whose firms have worked for Lighthouse partner Charles Wang or the Islanders - voiced support without noting their connections.

Neither the editor of the Garden City News nor Lighthouse officials could be reached for comment Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Lighthouse and Hempstead Town officials have begun negotiations on project revisions, a source close to the negotiations said, adding that the projected increase in traffic is the town's main issue.

Town spokesman Mike Deery wouldn't comment on the negotiations but said "as a result of a meeting between [Supervisor] Kate Murray and Charles Wang, their respective staffs are meeting to discuss the project."

The Garden City News' letters appeared a week after the newspaper quoted members of the local Eastern Property Owners Association about their concerns that the project would affect local businesses.

Charles Strain, managing partner of the law firm Farrell Fritz, which worked for the Lighthouse Development Group and now works directly for Wang, did not identify those affiliations when he wrote: "Contrary to what this newspaper and a vocal minority in this Village have put forth publicly, there are many residents and families in the Village of Garden City that support the Lighthouse project. The benefits of this project are too significant to ignore."

Joanne Holewa, the operations manager for the Islanders who has worked for the team for four decades, identified herself as "a Garden City property-owner" and wrote: "Rather than fighting against the Lighthouse, we should find a way to work with them. With a new hotel and businesses, our restaurants and boutique-type shops shall attract more visitors."

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Robert F. Larocca, executive vice president with Woodbury-based Sterling & Sterling, which insures the Islanders and occupies a suite at Nassau Coliseum, identified himself only as a Garden City resident and said his family is "deeply concerned about the one-sided information being communicated with regards to the Lighthouse."

Attorney Jim Haggerty noted that he is an Islanders season ticket holder and part of a firm that "has done work for the Islanders" - but did not identify the firm or his title. He said he wrote as a Garden City resident and argued that the project will "revitalize and transform the Coliseum and surrounding 77 acres of asphalt," while creating thousands of jobs.

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