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For some of us, the Islanders’ move to Brooklyn might of course prompt a flashback to 35 or so years ago — when the merger of the American Basketball Association into the NBA ended up prompting the New York Nets’ return to New Jersey, from whence they came. For you youngsters who may never have known: The glorious ‘Dr. J’ Nets of 1972-77 played at a place called the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale.
Stadiums and the teams that occupy them are the fodder of malleable sentiment on the political scene.
As NYC mayor between 1994 and 2001, Rudy Giuliani made a lot of noise about new stadiums for the Yankees and Mets, and about the prospects of the Yanks’ threatened departure, and how the baseball Giants and Dodgers had left in the 1950s, and how the football Jets and Giants relocated across the border, and how other pols did not understand as he did the importance of these franchises as businesses, etc.
In the end, the Yanks and Mets got new mostly private-funded homes right across from their old ones — but under the stewardship of the Bloomberg administration. Giuliani did get going two minor league stadiums of great spirit but questionable economic impact.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s governmental contortions to get the Jets to play on the Upper West Side flopped. Until the Barclay Arena in Brooklyn brought back the Nets and now lured the Islanders, both on Bloomberg’s watch, the most important sports-stadium development of recent years was the development of the U.S. Tennis center under the Dinkins administration.
How much are elected executives responsible for the fate of major league home teams? A borrowing referendum, of hazy legal pedigree, for rebuilding the Coliseum — which Nassau Exec Ed Mangano had portrayed as huge for the local economy — took place in August 2011. Voters rejected the deal. That, in retrospect, becomes one turning point for the Islanders’ departure. But the change also may symbolize, in an indirect way, a younger generation of area residents also preferring Brooklyn to Nassau when their parents or grandparents may have gone the opposite way.