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2 remaining Coliseum bidders tout resumes

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano pushed back the

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano pushed back the deadline for a final decision on Nassau Coliseum until mid-August from July 15, giving the firms time to negotiate and execute contracts that will contain their final offers for the project. (Oct. 25, 2011) Credit: Jim McIsaac

The field of developers competing to revitalize the Nassau Coliseum is down to two and each is touting its track record as proof it can deliver on the project.

Forest City Ratner Companies, developers of Brooklyn's Barclays Center, and Madison Square Garden Co., operators of the namesake arena and venues including Radio City Music Hall, were named finalists for the project by Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, who narrowed the choices from four bidders.

Developers have to navigate through often complex thickets of regulations, financing, political headwinds, community consensus, shifts in the economy and myriad other challenges to complete projects on time and on budget.

Success takes a lot of skill and a lot of will.

In that context, the companies' performance on past projects will be key, said Kevin Law, president of the Long Island Association, the region's largest business group. Law is a member of a panel of local business executives that is advising Mangano about choosing a Coliseum developer.

"Experience and track record are very important," Law said. "Ultimately we're looking for the proposal that provides the greatest return on investment."

MSG and Forest City Ratner say they created thousands of jobs for projects in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Louisville, Ky., and other locales. Although government officials couldn't confirm the jobs numbers, they said generally that the companies followed through with successful new facilities and renovations that were completed on time.

Mangano is to make a decision on the Coliseum by mid-August. Syosset developer Ed Blumenfeld Development Group and Bayville-based New York Sports, LLC were not named finalists. But Blumenfeld and Forest City Ratner chairman Bruce Ratner have joined forces on the Coliseum project. Developer Donald Monti, selected by Mangano as "master developer" for 77-acre site, has endorsed the MSG proposal.

Neither MSG nor Forest City Ratner has disclosed in their proposals how much revenue Nassau County would receive.

Here is a look at some of the finalists' previous projects:





Forest City Ratner is best known as the developer of the Barclays Center -- a 17,000-seat arena that opened last year in the heart of Brooklyn.

But the company's portfolio includes 41 other projects in the New York City area.

"If there's a word about what we've done, it is 'placemaking,' " Ratner said in an interview. "It's not just 'you build it and they will come.' You want content. You want buzz. You want it to feel like an exciting place."

Forest City Ratner played a role in revitalizing Times Square from a seedy adult-entertainment district to family-friendly tourist destination. Ratner signed a deal with state officials in 1995 to redevelop a portion of 42nd Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues.

The company refurbished three historic theaters and built 310,000 square feet of commercial space that drew tenants such as Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum and a 30-screen AMC movie theater. Ratner also negotiated with state officials to change the area's zoning code to build the 44-story Hilton Times Square Hotel.

"Obviously they're developers, they drive a hard bargain," said Rebecca Robertson, former president of the 42nd Street Development Project, a state agency that oversaw the revitalization, without citing specifics. "But they were a delight to work with."

"Their plans for the hotel fit in with what we were going for in creating a 24/7 honky-tonk kind of destination," Robertson said. "That was the point, to bring people into the center of the action, to bring people to the street."

Ratner projects also have been met with criticism. Opponents of the Barclays Center said the company repeatedly changed its plans and pressured property owners to sell their buildings and businesses to make way for the arena.

The original proposal was unveiled in December 2003 -- part of a $4.6 billion redevelopment project called Atlantic Yards -- designed by architect Frank Gehry. The plan initially had a $2.5 billion price tag and called for an arena surrounded by 17 mixed-use commercial and residential towers with some 4,500 residential units. The design was scrapped in 2008 after the economic downturn, and two other designs emerged.

Plans for Atlantic Yards now call for 16 towers with up to 6,430 housing units, according to the website of the Empire State Development Corp., a state agency overseeing the project. While Ratner is sticking to his original plan for 2,250 units for affordable housing, critics say that with the increased number of units overall, Ratner should increase the proportion for low-income people.

"The project that was eventually approved is not what was first announced," said Daniel Goldstein, who leads Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, a grassroots organization that opposes Atlantic Yards. "It was the job creation and the affordable housing that kind of got the politicians to support the project in the first place, and that's been terribly lacking."

Ratner said the Barclays Center has created 2,000 permanent jobs in the area, with 80 percent of its employees coming from Brooklyn.

Ratner added that the community opposition to Barclays is not comparable to the Nassau Coliseum because that arena has long existed and has been earmarked for redevelopment by the county.

"We're very conscious of community issues and concerns," he said.

Ratner's other projects include the 52-story New York Times building in midtown, which opened in 2007, and Westchester's Ridge Hill, a 160,000-square-foot outdoor shopping plaza that employs some 1,600 people, according to company officials.

Ridge Hill, which has not completely been built out, is expected to generate $24 million in sales tax revenue for Westchester County, the officials said.

Anthony Bianco, author of "Ghosts of 42nd Street: A History of America's Most Famous Block" said Ratner, a former New York City commissioner of consumer affairs under the late Mayor Edward I. Koch, has shown "political sophistication" in his deals because of his knowledge of how government works.

"Part of these big projects is that things change along the way," Bianco said. "There is no question he made some enemies in Brooklyn. Any large-scale redevelopment creates political opposition, but Bruce Ratner . . . was investing big money and big plans before people saw the prospect of a city skyline in Brooklyn."

Ratner has proposed a $229 million overhaul of the Coliseum that includes a new facade, a refurbished interior that cuts seating capacity to 13,000, a 5,000-seat concert hall, restaurants, retail, and an outdoor ice-skating rink. Ratner said the proposal is expected to generate 1,300 construction jobs and 2,500 full-time, part-time and seasonal jobs.

The company plans to team up with Live Nation, a Los Angeles-based entertainment management company, and rapper Jay-Z's Roc Nation entertainment firm, to attract acts to the arena.

Ratner, who made a deal with New York Islanders Owner Charles Wang to have the team play at Barclays starting in 2015, said he also would want to bring the Islanders back to the Coliseum to play six regular or preseason games a year. But there is a question about whether that could be done because of National Hockey League rules.

"What attracted us was the understanding that it was its own market, its own location," Ratner said. "That it had the opportunity to do what we did in Brooklyn, at the Barclays Center, which was to completely turn around 180 degrees of people's perception of a location."





MSG, the operator of three historic Manhattan entertainment venues, is teaming up with Baltimore-based Cordish Companies, developers of dozens of outdoor entertainment districts, in a bid to revitalize the Coliseum.

"This is not just building a shopping mall, this is not building condos or a mixed-use facility, this is our expertise," said Hank Ratner, president of MSG Companies, referring to MSG's record of refurbishing event venues such as Radio City Music Hall and the Beacon Theatre, as well as its $1 billion remodeling of the Garden, now in its final stages.

MSG signed a 25-year lease in 1990 to operate Radio City for $13 million a year and invested $70 million to restore the 6,000-seat concert venue to its 1928 state, including original artwork and architectural details. The project had 1,100 workers, MSG officials said. MSG also spent $19 million to refurbish the 2,900-seat Beacon Theatre in Manhattan in 2009. The company said it employed some 1,000 workers to restore the theater's original artwork and tapestries dating to 1929.

Elisabeth de Bourbon, spokeswoman for the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission, which administers permits for restoration projects, said no major issues arose with the Beacon Theatre remodel, which she called a "beautiful restoration." Records for Radio City weren't immediately available because the work was done more than 20 years ago.

MSG also is seeking a foothold on the West Coast. Last year, MSG purchased the Forum arena in Inglewood, Calif., which formerly housed the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team and the Kings hockey franchise. MSG promised city officials it would spend $50 million on renovations.

The arena, which is slated to reopen for concerts and family acts next spring, is forecast to generate a minimum of $650,000 annually in ticket, parking and concession taxes for the city. If sales dip below that figure, the company has agreed to pay Inglewood the difference.

Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts said the Forum renovation created 360 construction jobs and revived interest in a $2 billion development project that had been shelved since 2007.

"There was no development or housing interest in the area," Butts said. "It's just a whole different ballgame now, and a lot of that started when MSG made its commitment to the Forum."

Madison Square Garden, home of the New York Knicks basketball team and New York Rangers hockey team, is in the last leg of its remodel, which has been done in phases during the past three summer offseasons. Some 3,700 construction workers have outfitted the arena with all new seating, larger concourses and are building two pedestrian walkways suspended from the arena's ceiling, MSG said.

The City Council last week voted 47-1 to limit to 10 years a request by MSG officials to renew the arena's special operating permit in perpetuity. Some transit and civic advocates want to relocate the Garden to make way for the development of a new Penn Station, the nation's busiest rail terminal, which sits under the arena.

"This 50-year experiment of having this important arena and important transit hub on top of each other has shown it just doesn't work," said Wendy Pollack, spokeswoman for the Manhattan-based Regional Plan Association, an urban research and advocacy group.

MSG said in a statement: "Madison Square Garden has operated at its current site for generations, and has been proud to bring New Yorkers some of the greatest and most iconic moments in sports and entertainment. We now look forward to the reopening of the arena in fall 2013, following the completion of our historic three-year, nearly billion-dollar transformation."

MSG, in partnership with the Cordish Companies of Baltimore, would build a 150,000-square-foot entertainment complex dubbed "Long Island Live!" featuring restaurants, sports bars, bowling and billiards. The site would mirror other Cordish "entertainment districts" throughout the country including "Fourth Street Live!" in Louisville, Ky., and the "Power and Light District" on the outskirts of the Sprint Center arena in Kansas City, Mo.

MSG and Cordish officials say their Coliseum proposal would create 1,200 construction jobs and 2,500 permanent jobs once the project is completed.

An October 2012 University of Louisville study on Fourth Street Live found the site, a collection of bars and restaurants built in the shell of an abandoned mall, created 500 permanent jobs for the city and helped increase visitors to downtown Louisville from 3 million in 2002 to 10 million in 2010.

"It's been great for our city," said Chris Poynter, spokesman for the city. "It's helped generate attention for our convention bureau and it brings a lot of people into our downtown who may not have ever come."

Other Cordish venues have had similar results. A Philadelphia city report found that the company's Xfinity Live! site in South Philadelphia, which opened in March 2012, created 500 construction jobs and some 400 permanent jobs.

"There was clarity of where this project was headed and their commitment to meet hiring objectives was visible throughout the process," said Angela Dowd-Burton, executive director of Philadelphia's Office of Economic Opportunities.

Fourth Street Live and Kansas City's Power and Light District also have faced complaints and a lawsuit from community groups that have called dress code policies at the sites "discriminatory."

In August 2012, Cordish officials met with 200 Louisville residents to discuss concerns that Fourth Street Live's dress code, which at the time banned baggy pants and bandannas, was aimed at keeping minorities out of the venue. The company also met with the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky last December after the civil rights group voiced similar concerns.

Cordish Companies responded by modifying the dress code and creating a toll-free customer service line for patrons to report criticism.


The Dolan family owns controlling interest in MSG and owns Cablevision, Newsday's parent company.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the cost of Forest City Ratner's proposal to overhaul Nassau Coliseum.

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