The Brooklyn developer who will overhaul Nassau Coliseum won approval Monday to help finance the project with $90 million in foreign investment.
However, the county legislature declined a request by Uniondale civic activists to require Forest City Ratner Companies, owned by developer Bruce Ratner, to pledge $10 million for improvements in surrounding communities.
Lawmakers voted 17-2 to amend the lease with Ratner for redeveloping the 77-acre Coliseum property. The amendment will allow the firm to use a federal program that provides visas to overseas investors, largely located in China, who finance job-creating projects in the United States.
In exchange for the lease amendment, which will lower Ratner's financing costs, the developer will increase its investment in the Coliseum from $229 million to $260.5 million, largely to provide higher-end amenities, the company said.
Uniondale community groups had pressed lawmakers to require Ratner to also sign a written agreement pledging $10 million for expansion of a community center, demolition of abandoned homes and some streetscape improvements.
Several dozen residents rallied before the meeting for the "community benefits agreement" to provide aid to Uniondale not related to the Coliseum development. Some held signs reading "It's only fair."
"This is your opportunity to hold Mr. Ratner accountable," Greg Maney, of the Greater Uniondale Area Action Coalition, told lawmakers. He urged them to "strike a reasonable balance between developer profit and social responsibility."
Ratner signed a community benefits agreement as part of its Barclays Center project in Brooklyn, funding a school and 2,240 units of affordable housing. Company officials said the scope of that $4 billion project was far larger than the new Coliseum redevelopment plan.
Ratner spokeswoman Ashley Cotton said the company has not agreed to fund any "off-site" projects. "We'll continue to talk about them, but I have no commitments here," she said.
However, Cotton said the company will provide benefits to the Uniondale community including discounted tickets, and jobs and internships at the Coliseum and its surrounding retail and entertainment complex.
Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport), who along with Legis. Siela Bynoe (D-Westbury), voted against the lease agreement, said the ticket and jobs benefits didn't go far enough. He noted that the commitments came in a nonbinding letter, not in the lease.
"We want to ensure the community is not left behind," Abrahams said of his vote against the Ratner lease amendment.
Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) said the Coliseum project in its current form will revitalize the local community.
"This is an economic engine not only for Nassau County, but also for the neighboring communities," Gonsalves said.
In other business, lawmakers yesterday confirmed the appointment of Gregory May as commissioner of the county's new taxi and limousine commission. May, previously County Executive Edward Mangano's legislative liaison, will earn $90,000 overseeing a department with seven or eight dedicated investigators.