Lighthouse project is about more than hockey

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Are the Islanders moving?

Is the team's agreement to play an exhibition game in Kansas City in September a sign they'll be leaving their Uniondale home?

Representatives for team owner Charles Wang said yesterday there's no plan to move the team, which reportedly loses more than $20 million a year.

And the developers who, along with Wang, have proposed a massive project around a renovated Nassau Coliseum said yesterday that whether the team stays or goes isn't their concern. They're forging ahead with the Lighthouse Project, which proposes 300 hotel rooms, 200,000 square feet of convention space, 1 million square feet of office space and 2,300 luxury apartments.

Hempstead Town officials said the Lighthouse Project is much bigger than hockey.

"We met with the [Lighthouse group] as recently as last week," Hempstead supervisor Kate Murray said yesterday, and "they've expressed no interest in relocating.

"If the Lighthouse Project were only about hockey and the Coliseum," she said, "the process would move much more quickly because you'd be talking about a renovation project instead of an enormous new development project - probably the largest in decades."

The president of the Lighthouse Development Group, Michael Picker, said he anticipates that state-required environmental studies of the project will be completed in the next 30 to 60 days.

It was in February 2003 that Wang first discussed plans to renovate the Coliseum with Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi, Lighthouse officials said. But it wasn't until November 2007 that Wang and real estate mogul Scott Rechler submitted a detailed plan to the Town of Hempstead to build the 150-acre project.

In April, the team submitted an eight-page draft report outlining environmental studies under way. Two public hearings were held in May and, since then, Lighthouse officials have been meeting regularly with town officials and a town engineering consultant to develop ways to mitigate effects on the environment.

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Traffic has been one of the biggest issues, both sides say. Based on requests by the town and the state department of transportation, the developers have conducted traffic studies at 279 locations near Nassau Coliseum.

Developers said they will have spent more than $7 million on consultants to study the various areas of impact.

Said Lighthouse spokesman Paul Lancey, "When you're building the next generation of suburbia, it's extensive."

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