Mangano-Shinnecock talks cast shadow on Lighthouse

Charles Wang listens at a public hearing on

Charles Wang listens at a public hearing on the Lighthouse Project held at Hofstra University. (September 22, 2009) (Credit: Newsday File / Joel Cairo)

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Does a potential deal with the Shinnecock Nation for the land around Nassau Coliseum for a casino spell the end of the $3.7-billion Lighthouse Project that has been proposed on the same property?

Some observers expressed surprise over Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano's announcement Tuesday that he was talking to the Shinnecocks about creating an "entertainment destination center and casino" at the Coliseum site.

"Clearly, it's a shock to the system," said Eric Alexander, who heads Vision Long Island, a smart-growth advocacy group that has supported the Lighthouse Project. "But there are still a lot of question marks."

Lighthouse developers Charles Wang and Scott Rechler and other Lighthouse officials did not respond to calls for comment Tuesday on the future of their project.

After winning the county's request for proposals in 2006, Wang signed legal agreements with the county that appear to give the Lighthouse team the right of first refusal if the county were to negotiate with other parties. The Islanders have a lease with the county and arena manager SMG that expires in 2015.

County officials said they are researching Wang's potential developer rights.

The Shinnecock proposal comes as the Town of Hempstead is attempting to create a zone that would allow for smaller and less dense development than what Wang and Rechler have suggested. The town's work is expected to be done by early summer.

"The town is continuing to work on a scaled-back zone for the property surrounding the Coliseum and that zone would incorporate many of the priorities of the Lighthouse proposal," Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray said. "We don't have any other proposals before us."

Observers said Tuesday it's too early to know whether discussions with the Shinnecock Nation mark the end for Lighthouse - or simply another step in what has been a lengthy process.

"I don't know what to make of this," said Neal Lewis, executive director of the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College and a member of the county planning commission. "I don't think any of us know yet."

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