The developers of the Nassau Hub and UBS Arena at Belmont Park projects say the coronavirus pandemic has spurred a renewed interest in the suburbs and Long Island.
Speaking on a video discussion livestreamed on the internet, the developers predicted that their projects, including a hotel, retail and an arena, would be economically beneficial for the region.
“A crisis can also be an opportunity, and I think I view where we are right now for the Hub as an opportunity for us to take a step back and look in the post-pandemic world, consider where we are as a county, where we want to go in the future,” Scott Rechler, chairman and chief executive of RXR Realty LLC, which is behind the Hub, a 72-acre site around NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum being eyed for residential housing, business and entertainment.
He added: “You also have a new round of demand-drivers that we may not have had before, because as we’ve come through this pandemic, there is more of a part of our regional population that are looking to be in the suburban marketplace, and more of the downtown suburbia.”
Rechler said the pandemic has led to some rethinking of priorities on the project — likely jettisoning hotels in the first phase as well as co-living housing with density, in favor of generational housing and homes with offices.
The online discussion, “The Future of Long Island’s Arenas: The Nassau Hub, Belmont Arena & LI Development,” was open to the public, lasted 57 minutes and was moderated by Newsday columnist and editorial writer Randi Marshall.
Tim Leiweke, chief executive of the Oak View Group, an arena development company, said there are 10 million people in Nassau and surrounding communities who would be closer to the arena than any other in the metro area.
Leiweke, who has expressed interest in managing the Coliseum, says he envisions the arena as a Long Island version of Manhattan’s Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall or the Beacon Theatre.
“People are moving back into Long Island — companies, individuals, new housing, new development, new commercial development, so we sense that there is this amazing demand and opportunity,” he said.
Richard Browne, managing partner of the Sterling Project Development, which is leading the effort at Belmont Park, said of the project: “I think many people will be taking the train. It will be a 25-minute ride from Grand Central Station on the train, because of East Side Access. It will be 28 minutes from Penn Station. It will be under 30 minutes from Atlantic Terminal.”
East Side Access is the long promised and long delayed project to connect the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central.
County Executive Laura Curran, who was also on the discussion, said: “Success breeds success. If you have an economic engine that does well, others will say, ‘Huh! maybe we can do something around here too.’”
Said Leiweke: “I understand how deadly this disease is, and how contagious this disease is. Let us never forget, optimism is the most contagious disease in the world.”