What's next for Nassau Coliseum? After the Aug. 1 referendum on the Coliseum plan was rejected by voters, we gave our Facebook fans and Twitter followers the chance to get their questions answered by Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, who had announced after the vote that the county would seek redevelopment plans from private developers.
Reporter Randi Marshall posed the questions directly to Mangano by phone and took down his answers.
Stuart Landes (@RealSturat)
How is it Nassau is back to square 1, requesting RFPs for the site? Why will it be any different than the previous results?
MANGANO: One, we're not back at square one. There have been three or four clear attempts at creating an economic plan that retains the Islanders. They all have failed, but we have learned what the public won’t accept. The density of the Lighthouse was rejected. The casino concept is not timely. A Lighthouse Lite was not economically viable, and the appetite was not there for a publicly financed arena. So, we learned we need to continue to find a balance that works — and that’s exactly what we’re doing — seeking another path to get to our vision. As you know, during the referendum, there were many thoughts and suggestions that were put forth through the media. We’ve called for those suggestions to be clarified and brought to us so we can incorporate those ideas in a new RFP. So that’s what makes the RFP different.
Bradley D. Smith (@NumberBradleyF)
How come the Democrats seemed so much more proactive at campaigning for no then the Republicans for a yes?
MANGANO: Again, we tried to make this a nonpolitical issue; this should not have been a political issue. This was an issue to bring to the people. Unfortunately, the Democrats seized on it for political gain. That’s what sometimes parties do. We had presented it as a nonpolitical issue for the people to decide. The Republican Party did not engage itself in the issue. The Democrats saw an opportunity to take some political shots at me and used it for that purpose.
Brendan Morris (Facebook)
Will somebody with an idea that includes a new Coliseum get priority over other ideas?
MANGANO: That will likely be reflected in the RFP, but we have not made that decision as we are waiting for input from our call for suggestions. We don’t want to shut any doors right now. But that is our preferred vision to clearly to keep the Islanders here and really maintain and build on the $200 million of revenue that represents to our economy now. We certainly believe that building on $200 million in revenue is better than starting from zero.
Charles Avnyin (@cba81islanders)
If this RFP has been in prospect for a while, in this bleak & abysmal economy, why didn't you choose to use the RFP first and then as a last-ditch attempt, try the vote?
MANGANO: As I said, the private-public partnerships have been tried three different ways. The clock is ticking. This was a way to jump-start our economy and create jobs simultaneously while retaining the jobs that were there and move forward seamlessly. That’s why we put the question to the people. We have discussed it [what to do for the Islanders] since January. We had already tried the casino and Lighthouse Lite. I hope that we find a balance that works.
Christopher Mauceri (Facebook)
You claim to want development AND to keep the Islanders in Nassau. But now you say that development of the Hub does not have to include an arena. So how do you propose to save the team if an arena is not part of any new Hub development plan?
MANGANO: Again, after four distinct attempts at creating something to keep the Islanders here and with the clock ticking, we need to explore all options so that we are prepared should the Islanders decide not to stay here. We need to be prepared, and this is a time when you explore all options.
Christopher Mauceri (Facebook)
Now that privately-funded development seems the way to go, will there be any chance of Charles Wang's Lighthouse Project being brought back to the table?
MANGANO: That’s basically part of the RFP process — soliciting proposals.
Lucy Maimone Barone (Facebook)
Why can't you work with Suffolk County Exec. Steve Levy to see IF there are any revenues we (in Suffolk) can contribute to the cause?
MANGANO: The governor created the regional council. [Note: Mangano is referring to the newly created Long Island Regional Economic Development Council, one of 10 councils statewide. --RFM]. I’m a member of the council. That is the purpose of it. If there are regional opportunities, we’d explore it in that forum.
Keith Gregory (Facebook)
Why can't the existing Coliseum be refurbished?
MANGANO: It can. Professionals have looked at this. The cost between refurbishment and new construction are not that far apart and most professionals believe you get a better useful life out of new construction rather than refurbishment. But again, that is on the table. We’re accepting plans that call for either a refurbishment or a new arena. The vision is we wanted to keep the arena open [while construction was going on]. The decision was to simultaneously keep one building open while building the other.
Claire Bennet (Facebook)
How did the referendum that just failed differ from a "bailout?"
MANGANO: The people of Nassau County, one, own the building, two, own the property around the building, and three, would have shared in the gross revenue generated in the building. It’s not a bailout at all because the Islanders would have been a tenant and an operator. The taxpayers would have made the profit as opposed to the private tenant.
Marie Koretsky (Facebook)
Why not develop affordable housing for young adults who want to reside on Long Island?
MANGANO: That was preserved in the development rights which stayed with the people. And it is reflected in the Town of Hempstead’s new zone that remained part of the plan. It remains a distinct option.
Chris Jacob (Facebook)
What do you think the chances are that the Islanders stay in Nassau?
MANGANO: It wouldn’t be right for me to proffer a guess.
Do you have plans to include a new arena as part of a Shinnecock casino development at Belmont raceway?
MANGANO: Everything’s on the table as we seek new proposals. Our preference is clearly to keep them in Uniondale.