Queens first in line to make pitch for Wang's Islanders
The executive vice president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce said Monday the search should begin in his borough.
"Option Number One should be Queens," Jack Friedman said. "We are ready for him."
Friedman renewed his contention that a new home for the Islanders would be the perfect centerpiece in the city's plans for the Willets Point area. Groundbreaking probably won't take place for another four or five years, he said, which dovetails nicely with the Islanders' lease, which stipulates the team must play at Nassau Coliseum through 2015.
Wang could not be reached for comment Monday, but Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi - a major proponent of the Lighthouse - said he thinks "there will be many municipalities that are going to go out of their way to roll out the red carpet [for Wang].
"It's absurd that the Town of Hempstead wouldn't do the same thing," he said.
City development officials said they have not been approached by Wang but would welcome discussing the Islanders' future with him.
Sources close to Wang say he also has received an offer from "politicians in Brooklyn" to facilitate a move there.
Hempstead's town board must approve new zoning for the project, a proposed mixed-use development on 77 acres around a renovated Coliseum. Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray, a Republican, has said there still are unanswered questions about traffic, water and density.
On Friday, Wang accepted a request from Murray to discuss "amending the project."
Monday, Murray said, "Mr. Wang made it clear he was going to explore his options and so we're not surprised. The town is going to remain focused on reasonable development at the Coliseum site."
Friedman said the 62-acre site in Queens would be a perfect fit for the Lighthouse as it has access to "the Long Island Rail Road, the subway system, the airports. It already has a huge parking lot because of Citi Field. It already has the parkway access."
Friedman said he sent Wang a letter in March and never received a response. At the time, the Islanders released a statement saying they were focused only on working with the town.
That's changed now.
Wang set this past Saturday - the Islanders' opening day - as his deadline for "certainty" on the project. It passed without a decision from Hempstead so Wang announced he would begin exploring his options.
He added he would continue negotiations with the town.
Town officials have said they wouldn't be swayed by an applicant's self-imposed deadline.
Democrat Kristen McElroy, Murray's political opponent for supervisor, said Murray "is pushing the Islanders out of the Town of Hempstead." McElroy said if she were supervisor, building the Lighthouse project would be her "Number One priority."
Friedman said early plans for the Willets Point area include a 400,000-square-foot convention center that could become a new arena for the Islanders.
"So the footprint is already there," he said. "There's also many of the things Wang wanted in his Lighthouse project - hotels, family entertainment centers, restaurants."