Hempstead's Murray agrees to Lighthouse meeting

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After several contentious months - and some pointed exchanges Tuesday - Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray and Lighthouse development principal Charles Wang said they have agreed to meet to discuss the approval process for Wang's mixed-use proposal for 150 acres around a renovated Nassau Coliseum.

The meeting will be Friday at the Mineola office of Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi.

Tuesday, at a meeting of the Long Island Regional Planning Council, Wang again criticized the length of the town's approval process and characterized as a "five-month delay" the time since he last met with Murray. She countered that the town is following procedures mandated by state law as it considers the proposal for a new coliseum, 2,300 residential units and 1.5 million square feet of offices and shops.

Murray said the town has moved in an "unprecedented, expeditious" way and that shortcutting the process would put the town and developers at legal risk.

The announcement of the face-to-face meeting came as the Regional Planning Council designated Lighthouse as "regionally significant." Such a move can assist in the application for state and federal stimulus money as well as private funding.

Wang also said that he and co-developer Scott Rechler will present the project to Gov. David A. Paterson Thursday at his Manhattan office.

At Tuesday's meeting in the Nassau County Legislature's meeting room in Mineola, Murray pointed to the length of the approval process for other sizable developments, including the 476-acre Heartland Town Square in Islip (six years for an environmental review) and a smaller Wang proposal, Old Plainview (three years) in Oyster Bay. To that, Wang responded, "I also pulled out of Plainview."

He has said that if he doesn't have a decision on the Lighthouse by October - start of hockey season - he will explore other options. Union representatives at the meeting said Long Island can't afford not to complete the project, which the developers estimate would create thousands of permanent jobs.

"There is nothing in this county more important to the future of the county than this project," said John Durso, president of the Long Island Federation of Labor. "We will not stand for it not being done."

On Friday, the town's consultants completed their review of the developer's environmental impact statement and outlined issues that still need to be addressed.

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Suozzi and several members of the council have suggested that the town bypass the customary approval sequence by opening the project to public comment before completion of the draft environmental impact statement.

Murray said she hoped public hearings could be held this summer.

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