Coliseum-Belmont plan draws mixed reviews

A proposal to build a new Nassau Coliseum at Belmont Raceway drew support and some skepticism Wednesday from a variety of Nassau officials and civic leaders with a stake in the development plans.

The idea, floated Tuesday by Hofstra University president Stuart Rabinowitz at a meeting of the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council, could spur creation of a sports-entertainment complex in western Nassau and a research and development center in the Hub area in Uniondale.

At Belmont, such a move could bring together the raceway, an arena and a casino proposed by the Shinnecock Indian Nation.

Legis. John Ciotti (R-North Valley Stream), whose district includes Belmont Park, said pairing an arena with the racetrack and a proposed casino would create a wealth of new jobs. "This would be a grand slam for the residents of Elmont," Ciotti said.

Unlike the Hub, Ciotti said, Belmont is accessible by public transportation through a Long Island Rail Road station.

But Legis. Kevan Abrahams (D-Hempstead), who represents the area surrounding the Hub, expressed skepticism. Nassau owns the Coliseum land and collects annual revenue from the New York Islanders, whose lease at the Coliseum expires in 2015. Abrahams said it's unclear if that arrangement would continue at Belmont.

"There are just so many unanswered questions," Abrahams said.

Patrick Nicolosi, president of the Elmont East End Civic Association, said locating the Coliseum at Belmont "is a good idea but we just need to see the details."

Islanders' senior vice president Michael Picker did not return calls for comment.

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Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said Wednesday that he will submit a "job creation" plan to the Council by Oct. 14 that will include Belmont and the Hub. Ten councils across the state will evaluate proposals for economic development that will compete for $200 million in state aid.

"We can truly jump-start job creation at Belmont Park in the west, at Nassau's Hub in the center of our county, and at the former U.S. Navy-Grumman property," in Bethpage, Mangano said in a statement. "Residents should stay tuned for our exciting announcement."

County officials declined to comment on whether the plan would include an arena at Belmont. But Rabinowitz, the council's vice chairman, said that by submitting a plan by the Oct. 14 deadline, Mangano is "going to show his hand."

"We'll look at the merits of the plan, consider its impact on the surrounding community and on other facilities in the area, and determine if there is any benefit to the state of New York," said Michael Whyland, spokesman for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan). Building a new arena at Belmont would allow the county to redevelop the Hub as a research and development park, said Hempstead Town Board member and Mangano special counsel Ed Ambrosino.

"This type of creative reinvention of Belmont . . . allows Mitchel Field to be reconsidered as an economic engine that works even closer with Hofstra," said Desmond Ryan, executive director of the Association for a Better Long island, a real estate group.

Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray said a research and development would "fit in beautifully" with the town's zoning for the Hub. She added that a carefully crafted plan would likely require no approval from the town.

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