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In Hempstead, Paterson boosts Lighthouse project

Gov. David A. Paterson came home to Hempstead Monday to herald Charles Wang's massive Lighthouse project as the key to Long Island's economic stability and its future.

The governor stood in front of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the center of Wang's proposed community around a renovated arena. He told a bipartisan crowd filled with county, state and federal elected officials that he would ensure the project is not held up in the state by "regulatory obstacles."

"Our state and nation are still enduring a great recession," Paterson said. "My number one priority is to bring job opportunities here. . . . We've got to take bold initiatives. I assure you, you'll have every opportunity to have the state right there with you."

Paterson said the state agencies involved in reviewing the Lighthouse proposal - including the departments of Transportation and Environmental Conservation - will be accountable directly to his office, which should help expedite the approvals for the project first proposed seven years ago. And he said there are so far no major obstacles cited by either state agency that should prevent this project from moving forward - a major coup for the Lighthouse principals as they prepare for the Aug. 4 public hearing.

Of the state agency reviews, he said, "They have an obligation to protect the communities, yes. But they also have an obligation to make sure this thing gets done" without delay.

Paterson said the $4-billion project would create 75,000 construction jobs and 19,000 permanent jobs - numbers that project advocates have touted.

When asked about whether he thought Wang's Oct. 3 deadline to know what can be built at the site is realistic, Paterson replied, "Wang, like any great owner, negotiates. Hopefully, by October 3, he'll be a happy owner."

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola), who said it's a "terrific project," said the Lighthouse developers will get federal money to mitigate traffic concerns by making infrastructure improvements to local roads.

"This plan has been a long time coming," McCarthy said. "All New Yorkers are going to want to come here. Of course, we have to take into consideration the communities. In the long run, the communities win because the tax base will help every community."

Paterson, who attended Hofstra Law School, spoke about the significance of Wang's New York Islanders hockey team for the county and called the Lighthouse project the "most significant economic development initiative" Long Island has seen in a long time. "If the Islanders leave, we'll never see this opportunity again," Paterson said. Wang has threatened to move the Islanders if the project, including the new arena, is not built.

A man in an Islanders' jersey who stood behind the crowd carried a sign that read: "The time is now. Build the Lighthouse."

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