Unions, restaurants rally for new Coliseum

Restaurants and construction union members say they support plans to replace Nassau Coliseum as part of an effort to keep Islanders hockey on Long Island. Videojournalist: Jim Staubitser (May 23, 2011)

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Business and construction union leaders rallied Monday for a new Nassau Coliseum in an effort to keep the New York Islanders on Long Island.

"The big picture is that without the Islanders, there will be no Coliseum," said Bruce Avery, general manager of WRHU Radio Hofstra, the hockey team's flagship station. "We need to have a world-class centerpiece -- instead of the parking lot we'll have if the Islanders leave."

Tuesday in Mineola, the Nassau Legislature will hold a hearing into whether to proceed with a referendum on up to $400 million in borrowing to build a new Coliseum and a minor league ballpark.

Monday, about 100 people including representatives of eight construction unions and various restaurants, as well as Islander fans, gathered in the lobby of the Coliseum to back the referendum, which would take place Aug. 1.

The Legislature, with an 11-8 Republican majority, must approve the bonding vote.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican, is pushing for the referendum. Borrowing costs would be recouped in an as-yet undefined revenue sharing arrangement with the Islanders and a minor league baseball club.

Islanders owner Charles Wang has said he would move the team if a new arena is not built.

Bill Duffy, president of Operating Engineers Local 138 and a member of the Public Works Alliance of construction unions, said: "We see ourselves as a full partner in this process, and we believe that failure to lead is a failure of our future potential. We need this project to go."

Pete Zarcone Jr., an executive board member with the General Building Laborers Local 66, said approval of the referendum would be a "great shot in the arm for the local economy."

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