Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and New York Islanders owner Charles Wang have reached a tentative agreement that could give Wang control of the entire 77-acre parcel of county-owned land surrounding Nassau Coliseum, people close to the talks said.
Under the terms of the preliminary deal, Wang would get the site exclusively for a new hockey arena and surface parking -- far less expensive to build than a garage or underground parking -- and no other development, according to two members of the Hub Advisory Committee, which was charged by Mangano to offer options for the project. However, terms of the agreement might still change because of objections to its lack of mixed-use, the sources said.
Nassau County administration sources said that future mixed-use development may be possible, subject to a request for proposals process that would be opened to developers other than Wang. But, the administration sources said, any additional development would have to replace the parking spaces on which it would sit.
In exchange for use of the site, Wang would provide a percentage of Coliseum revenue to the county. The deal includes a minimum annual payment, the sources said. The county has not released details on the size of the payment but has promised to do so in mid-June.
Nassau County spokesman Brian Nevin had no comment. Islanders Senior Vice President Michael Picker was unavailable for comment.
Advisory committee members expressed concern that the deal might result in a new arena and a parking lot -- and nothing else. The Islanders' current lease expires in 2015 and Wang says he potentially would move the team if a new Coliseum isn't built by then.
One committee member said the county executive has told several people "there wasn't going to be any development."
"Instead of being faced with the choice, 'Do you want a renovated Coliseum and smart growth development,' the issue now became, 'You can have the Islanders and nothing, or the Islanders had to leave,' " said the committee member, who asked not to be named. "With this, he might lose some of his really important supporters for that referendum. They want jobs and economic development."
The county has scheduled an Aug. 1 referendum to determine whether to borrow as much as $400 million to build a new Coliseum and a minor league ballpark.
Area business leaders interviewed expressed concern about a plan that didn't involve housing, commercial and office space, or retail.
"We should be concerned about paying $400 million by the taxpayers without getting a true mixed-use development," said Rich Bivone, the Nassau chairman of the Long Island Business Council and an advisory committee member. "We don't want to sign on to something and in five years or 10 years, we say, 'How did we get here?' "
At the center of the issue, several people said, is the cost of garage or underground parking. Structured parking lots cost $25,000 per space. The Coliseum area now houses almost 7,000 outdoor parking spaces, adding up to a $175 million price tag.
"Surface parking is always the cheapest," said economic consultant Martin Cantor, who is being paid to advise Nassau County on the Coliseum redevelopment. "All developers hate parking because they're losing the economic potential of the land."
Hub committee members said an arena and surface parking alone is not enough.
"To maximize or optimize development there, you're going to need structured parking," said John Cameron, chairman of the Long Island Regional Planning Council and a committee member. "Otherwise you're looking at a sea of concrete."
Surface parking alone, he said, "would be a major mistake that would limit the economic development potential of the site."
Cameron, who noted that parking could be shared between area employees during the day and arena users at night, said he was hoping for high-tech or education-related development, which would complement the area's colleges.
And some said there could be room for such plans.
"At the end of the day, there will be development around there -- all of the details just need to be worked out," said a source close to the discussions.
But a Hub committee member said if there was the opportunity for development, it would only be because objections were recently raised.
"It's my belief that if nobody questioned it, we'd have a tremendous parking lot with no housing," the member said.
The details came as the Hub Advisory Committee postponed its first meeting, scheduled for Thursday. In an email to the committee, chairman Frank Zarb said "the extent to which any land remains available for other economic development" was "unknown."