Lighthouse's Wang, Rechler: No more negotiating

Aerial view of Nassau Coliseum and surrounding area.

Aerial view of Nassau Coliseum and surrounding area. Photo Credit: NEWSDAY / Jim Peppler

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Lighthouse partners Charles Wang and Scott Rechler said Thursday they are no longer willing to change their plans to develop the land around Nassau Coliseum.

"This is not the point to start negotiating anything," Wang said Thursday, five years after unveiling the project. "It's yes or no."

Even amid the fanfare of Thursday's agreement on a proposed lease between the developers and Nassau County, anger and frustration took center stage. Wang, Rechler and County Executive Thomas Suozzi pointed fingers at Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray and the town board for delaying the project and not trying to meet Wang's Oct. 3 deadline for significant progress on the project.

"Shame on those folks who would stop this project from getting done," Suozzi said.

Wang said if Murray, a Republican, and the board did not give any answer, he "would construe that as a no."

Wang set Saturday as his deadline for getting a lease and zoning approval. The town board, which met yesterday and doesn't plan to meet again before tomorrow, has not voted on zoning.

"They created their own deadline dilemma at the zoning hearing when they couldn't give accurate answers on traffic, where they were going to site a well and even the number of buildings," Murray said Thursday.

The proposed 99-year lease - which would keep Wang's Islanders on Long Island until at least 2030 - covers 77 acres of county-owned land. While the Lighthouse project spans a total of 150 acres, the vast majority of new development, including the residential component and the renovated Coliseum, would occur on the smaller 77-acre parcel.

The lease now must be approved by the Nassau County Legislature, but that can't happen until the town approves the final environmental impact statement, which Lighthouse officials submitted last month.

Under the proposed lease, Wang and Rechler would spend $320 million on an extensive, three-year renovation of the Coliseum, without public funds. The lease encourages the developers to pay prevailing wages and use unionized workers, and Wang said he will make the effort to hire locally.

Wang and Rechler would pay the county $50 million for traffic mitigation and $5 million for other projects. On top of that, they'll pay the county $1.5 million a year, plus inflation, in rent. The developers would keep ticket sales, concessions and parking revenue and would pay for all maintenance.

They'd also have the right to buy much of the land they are leasing - except for the Coliseum itself - for $1. Wang and Rechler could also transfer or sell that non-Coliseum land, although they have to complete the renovation work.

Nassau County Minority Leader Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa) said the land was worth more than $1.

"If the property is given away from the taxpayers of this county to the developer, it's a nonstarter," Schmitt said. "It's a bad deal for everybody."

But Suozzi, a Democrat, said the project would be a "net plus" for taxpayers.

"It's a $3-billion investment in the future of Long Island," he said. "It's the best opportunity we've had in a long time."

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