The property surrounding Nassau Coliseum, now largely blacktop, would become home to a multiacre biotech park built atop an underground parking garage and linked to nearby communities by bus rapid transit and new pedestrian bridges, according to a plan by Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano.
The proposal seeks $225 million from the state to transform 25 acres of blacktop parking around the Uniondale arena into a "green" economic center that would attract companies to build facilities there.
"This unlocks the Hub's potential," Mangano said in an interview. "It's creating jobs and taking empty space and making it an economic engine."
Mangano's proposal marks the latest in a long line of plans aimed at revitalizing the largely empty 77 acres around the Coliseum.
The largest proposal was Islanders owner Charles Wang's 2006 Lighthouse Project. The privately funded $3.8 billion proposal would have renovated the arena and built 8.8 million square feet of retail, hotel space, and housing. The Town of Hempstead rejected the proposal, citing density, traffic and environmental concerns.
Mangano's proposal must clear several hurdles.
He must persuade the state to provide him with the funds. He also needs to attract biotech firms willing to pay for the construction of their office space.
Mangano said he expected to succeed, calling the development "necessary to strengthen our economy and provide jobs to graduating college students."
The 2016 state budget includes $400 million for "transformative" projects on Long Island and downstate. The funds were added after local lawmakers complained that Long Island had received only $150 million from a $5.4 billion windfall from national banking settlements.
Competing with Suffolk
Nassau is competing for the money with Suffolk County, which wants a yet-undisclosed amount for rapid bus transit and a new airport terminal on the north side of Long Island MacArthur Airport, along with railroad and sewer improvements.
Suffolk spokesman Justin Meyers declined to comment on Nassau's funding request.
Kevin Law, president of the Long Island Association, the region's largest business group, chaired a group of local officials who will help identify projects that would qualify for the funds.
Law said he was "optimistic the state will approve some of the Nassau County projects at the Hub." He described Mangano's proposal as "exciting."
"Of all the recent plans and proposals for the Hub, this sounds the most realistic," Law said.
Law said he expects to submit the proposal to the Empire State Development, the state's primary economic development agency, this month. Law said he expects the agency to make a decision this fall.
Cuomo and State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) are expected to play roles in the funding decision.
Flanagan spokesman Scott Reif said, "While we welcome input from local officials across Long Island on the use of these funds, ultimately our decisions will be guided by the Long Island State Senate delegation."
Cuomo's office referred questions to the state development agency. Spokesman Jason Conwall said, "We will support projects that attract private investment, generate economic opportunities and deliver jobs, in a big way, for both Nassau and Suffolk counties."
Mangano's proposal comes as Brooklyn developer Bruce Ratner is beginning a $260 million project to renovate the Coliseum and build an adjacent retail and entertainment complex. Ratner spokeswoman Ashley Cotton called Mangano's new plan "an ideal complement to our plans."
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center also is planning to build a $140 million outpatient treatment and research facility and parking garage on the southwest portion of the Coliseum property.
After allocating space at the Hub for roadways, Mangano said there are 51 acres, or 1.4 million square feet, remaining for development.
Mangano said the key to opening the land to development is to replace the sprawling surface parking lots with garages.
Mangano's request to the state includes $121.9 million to build a 2,700-spot parking garage on the western portion of the Hub property. Two floors of parking would be built underground, and another would be at ground level, shielded by berms, he said.
Mangano envisions two floors of new biotech office space on top of the parking structure, which would also feature "green" infrastructure such as a landscaped rooftop and a stormwater-runoff reduction system.
Mangano said he's in "discussions" with several companies about building at the Hub, but declined to identify them.
A planned second phase, not included in Nassau's funding request to the state, calls for $103.9 million for a 2,300-spot parking structure. Nassau has not identified a funding source for this structure.
A lure for families
Mangano's plan also calls for the state to spend an additional $34.9 million to build an outdoor plaza, located south of the arena, to attract families to the Hub area. The 4-acre park would feature playgrounds, a skate park, rock climbing wall, a water play area and fountains.
Mangano's plan also would connect the Hub to surrounding institutions via a new bus route.
Nassau plans to extend the contract of Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE), which runs the county's municipal bus service, to also operate a new rapid bus transit route. Nassau is seeking $50 million from the state for the bus route.
The battery-powered buses would depart from the Mineola Long Island Rail Road station, with stops at Roosevelt Field mall, county offices, Merchants Concourse, Museum Row, Nassau Community College, Hofstra University and the Hub. The 8.5-mile route would end at the Hempstead LIRR station.
The system, with an operating budget of $4.2 million a year, would operate from 5:30 a.m. to midnight, NICE chief executive Michael Setzer said.
Nassau also is asking the state for $18.4 million to construct three pedestrian bridges from the Hub: one over Hempstead Turnpike would link to RXR Plaza and Kellenberg Memorial High School; another at Earle Ovington Boulevard would link to Hofstra; and a third across Charles Lindbergh Boulevard would connect with Nassau Community College.
Hofstra University president Stuart Rabinowitz said the state should approve Mangano's entire funding request. "A vibrant Hub that attracts businesses, residents and students, and has numerous transportation options available would be a center of economic and recreational activity and would reinvigorate central Nassau," Rabinowitz said.
Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray said she has not been briefed on the project "but at first glance it looks good" and appears to comply with the town's zoning.