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Long IslandNassau

Business group rips Coliseum site plan

An aerial view of the Nassau Coliseum. In

An aerial view of the Nassau Coliseum. In the foreground is the Long Island Marriott Hotel. (May 11, 2011) Photo Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano's plan for the county-owned land around the Coliseum was dealt a blow Thursday after Long Island's largest developers group objected over the issue of who has the right to develop the property.

According to members who were there, the Association for a Better Long Island told Mangano Thursday it was unhappy because Islanders' owner Charles Wang was negotiating with him for the right to develop not just a new sports arena and a ballfield, but the rest of the property around the arena, which amounts to about 40 acres.

The association is one of the Island's most powerful business groups, representing $25 billion in land and buildings.

Executive director Desmond Ryan said the county should put that taxpayer-owned land up for bid.

Deputy County Executive Rob Walker told the members at the closed-door meeting in Syosset that Wang won similar rights in a 2005 request-for-proposals, according to a county spokeswoman, Katie Grilli-Robles. Some of the group's members had also submitted bids, but lost to Wang.

In an interview later, Mangano said, "We are in negotiations [with Wang], and we can't comment on blow-by-blow negotiations."

Mangano said he would take the group's complaints to county negotiators, and that there would be a public hearing on the proposal Tuesday and a referendum at a later date.

Wang, whose 2005 bid failed several years later, after the Town of Hempstead failed to act on his Lighthouse development plan, did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Mangano's proposal has the support of the Nassau-Suffolk Building Trades Council. Council president James Castellane said a new coliseum and ballfield would create "several thousand" construction jobs at a time when unemployment in the building trades on the Island is about 30 percent.

The Association for a Better Long Island's expressions of displeasure come a week after a state fiscal watchdog, the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, said it was "deeply concerned" about Mangano's proposal, which calls for borrowing $400 million to replace the aging Coliseum and to build the minor league ballpark.

Mangano appeared before about 30 members of the association to appeal for support for his plan, which would help keep the Islanders in East Garden City through at least 2045.

Ryan called the hourlong meeting "an aggressively spirited discussion." He said, "Given that this is public land and taxpayers have a lot riding on it, there needs to be a new competition that brings out the most effective use of the property."

Some group members said Wang's victory in 2005 does not give him the right to all of the property now, because then Wang was willing to put up the money to pay for his Lighthouse project, not depend on $400 million in county-issued bonds.

Member Vince Polimini, a Garden City developer who was among those who bid on that RFP, said: "No one in that room was happy with it."

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