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Mayor: Floral Park wants meeting with Gov. Cuomo over Belmont plan concerns

An artist's rendering of the Islanders' planned Belmont

An artist's rendering of the Islanders' planned Belmont arena development.  Photo Credit: New York Arena Partners LLC

Floral Park officials want a meeting with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to discuss the Islanders $1.3 billion Belmont project before possibly going to court to stop the development, Mayor Dominick Longobardi said Tuesday night.

Longobardi, speaking at a regularly scheduled trustees meeting, said village officials have left voicemails and sent emails to Cuomo’s staff attempting to set up a meeting “about the detrimental effects” the Islanders’ proposal will have on Floral Park.

“It is in the governor’s court,” Longobardi said. “I’m going to hear from them tomorrow. If we do not, the village board will make a decision as to how to proceed.”

Longobardi said village trustees authorized filing a lawsuit to stop the development at an Aug. 21 meeting. Ever since, trustees have reached out to Cuomo, who has been a champion of the Islanders’ project since the group won development rights in December 2017.

A spokesman for Cuomo said late Tuesday night the governor's administration has for months been addressing village concerns.

Since 2015, Floral Park has used the Washington, D.C.-based law firm, Beveridge & Diamond, to represent it regarding development efforts at Belmont, which has been a possibility for more than a decade.

The Islanders’ plans call for a 19,000-seat arena, 250-room hotel and 350,000 square-feet of retail space on 43 acres of state land at Belmont. Empire State Development, the state agency coordinating the project, approved it last month. 

Jack Sterne, a spokesman for the ESD, said the agency does not comment on potential litigation before adding that the project's development "has adhered to all requirements under state law."

The window for lawsuits challenging the state’s environmental review closes in early December, but Longobardi said Tuesday night that “time is of the essence” because construction preparation at the site has already started. 

“A lot of work is going on at Belmont,” he said, noting that potential lawsuit papers have already been drafted.

Beveridge & Diamond, which has an office in Manhattan, specializes in environmental law. Attorney Michael Murphy, who has appeared on Floral Park’s behalf at several Empire State Development meetings about the village's environmental review of the Islanders' project, did not immediately return an email Tuesday night seeking comment.

Murphy, in a letter to Empire State Development last month, said the final environmental impact statement released in July regarding the effect of the Islanders group’s proposals on the neighborhoods “fundamentally failed to consider local community needs and desires as mandated” by state law.

“ESD has completely disregarded local needs and desires," Murphy wrote, "most notably local residents’ expressed concern over the project’s size and unified request that a smaller project be pursued."

A groundbreaking ceremony is expected this month, and the new Islanders arena is expected to open by fall 2021. The development group is a partnership between the owners of the Islanders, New York Mets and Oak View Group, a Los Angeles-based arena development company.

“It’s very simple,” Longobardi said. “We’ve never opposed development. We’ve never opposed the New York Islanders and we’ve never opposed something happening at Belmont. But whatever happens it should never, ever, ever affect the quality of life and the life we’ve chosen to live here on Long Island.”

Before Empire State Development approved the project Aug. 8, Floral Park officials joined with other elected leaders to ask the state agency to give surrounding communities more time to respond to the plans because they included additional facets such as a new Long Island Rail Road station attached to the north parking lot of Belmont that would shuttle passengers to the arena.

Empire State Development officials disagreed, citing their outreach efforts since 2017 and resulting project changes. Days later, the agency's board of directors approved the project at a Manhattan meeting attended mostly by supporters of the Belmont development.

Previous Empire State Development meetings were often packed with Floral Park residents expressing concerns over how the development could negatively affect their community. At the Manhattan meeting, only two Floral Park residents showed — Deputy Mayor Kevin Fitzgerald and Trustee Lynn Pombonyo.

Unlike other agency meetings where the Islanders’ project was discussed, village officials didn't ask residents to come to the one in Manhattan, Fitzgerald said, because their concerns had been raised multiple times to the Empire State Development but the project still moved forward.

After the August meeting, Fitzgerald answered: "All options are still on the table" when asked whether Floral Park officials were considering legal action to stop or delay the project.

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