Islanders owner Charles Wang said Wednesday that the future of Long Island is at stake on Aug. 1 as voters head to the polls to decide the fate of a new Nassau Coliseum.
"We have got to start rebuilding our island," Wang said.
But Leg. Wayne Wink (D-Roslyn) was skeptical that revenue projections forecast by the county would pan out.
"Publicly financed arenas do not pay for themselves," Wink said.
Frank Boulton, owner of the Long Island Ducks, who won a bid to build a minor league baseball field at Mitchel Field, said the project would create a new Nassau-Suffolk rivalry. He conceded, however, that it may be challenging to find enough advertisers in this economy to support ballparks in both destinations.
County officials said this week the terms of a revenue -sharing agreement with Boulton may not be available until after the vote.
Earlier Wednesday, about 2,000 people gathered outside Nassau Coliseum Wednesday to rally in favor of the referendum that would allow the county to borrow up to $400 million for a new arena and a minor league ballpark.
Wearing New York Islanders gear, union T-shirts and, in some cases, hard hats and work vests, the sometimes-boisterous crowd stood on the plaza just outside the arena's box office and watched as a parade of union leaders and politicians, along with Wang, encouraged their support.
"This is not only about us," Wang told the crowd. "This is about our kids and our grandkids."
The Islanders fans and union members who made up most of the crowd focused on the need for more jobs and more revenue -- and the desire to see the Islanders stay. Wang has said he would move the team if there is not a new arena by 2015, when his lease expires.
"If my taxes are going to go up $50, so be it," said Bellmore resident Norm Misrok, who said he has been an Islanders fan since the team's inception. "I'm going to vote for it. And I'm going to make sure my wife votes, too."
Port Jefferson resident Alan Scheriff, a member of Local 137 of the Sheet Metal workers union, said taxes for Nassau residents would go higher if the new arena isn't built. Scheriff, who said he has worked on signage around and inside the arena, argued that area businesses and jobs would disappear if the Coliseum shuttered.
Said Scheriff: "It'll all go down if this place goes down."
"I'm not going to tell individual regions what their future should be," Cuomo said. "I understand the potential upside, but I want Long Island to make that decision."
With James T. Madore
and Sid Cassese