I found it more than a little ironic that, on the very day the people of Boston and, indeed, baseball fans around the world celebrated the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park, an iconic sports facility built by its inhabiting team with private funding, National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman was declaring the Nassau Coliseum "a facility that is long past its due date" and was once again pointing the finger of blame at the taxpayers of Nassau County and their duly elected officials ["NHL on Coliseum: We're outta there," News, April 21].
The commissioner spoke about working with New York Islanders owner Charles Wang to consider other sites in the metropolitan area and cynically declared that the Nassau Coliseum "is not a place that will be housing the Islanders any longer than their lease requires." Bettman bemoaned the fact that, in his mind, "it's clear that Nassau County and the Town of Hempstead don't seem to be invested in having a new arena in the place that probably makes the most sense, namely where the Nassau Coliseum is."
Nothing could be further from the truth! Speaking as one of the officials Bettman criticized, I know better than most just how invested the Town of Hempstead has been in this long, drawn-out process. From day one, the town has stood ready to fast-track an application for a new and improved Nassau Coliseum, only to be rebuffed by a developer seeking the grandiose Lighthouse project. I know how, after the developer's multiyear delay in filing an appropriate zoning application with the town, which has exclusive zoning authority, we moved the application at a pace unsurpassed by any other large-scale project proposed for Long Island.
I know how, when this project became stalled in a fit of the developer's pique, the town took the unprecedented step of investing a substantial amount of money and hundreds hours to complete the mandated environmental review and to come up with a zoning plan that not only allowed for a redeveloped Coliseum but also provided for many of the ancillary profit-enhancing attributes sought by the developer while, at the same time, addressing most of the concerns of the surrounding communities.
While we were making these investments, what were Bettman, the NHL and its wealthy owners doing? Seemingly, nothing except casting the occasional stone our way. Well, it's time for them to put their money where their mouth is. Why can't the league and its owners put together a financing package for Wang so that he can build his new Coliseum with private funds, in much the same way that former Red Sox owner John I. Taylor did with Fenway Park?
The time for gamesmanship is "long past its due date." I propose that all of the parties who have a vested interest in seeing the Coliseum turned into an iconic sports venue -- the NHL, the developer, the county, the town and the labor unions -- sit down at the bargaining table and bring their investments to a fruitful resolution. What do you say, Mr. Bettman?
James Darcy, Hempstead
Editor's note: The writer serves on the Hempstead Town Council.