A 24-story hotel that would be one of the tallest buildings in Nassau County and a planned 40,000-square-foot power substation located next to a Floral Park elementary school were among residents’ chief concerns Thursday over the $1 billion proposed development of Belmont Park.
Hundreds of community stakeholders attended the first public hearing since the plan to build the New York Islanders hockey arena, retail and entertainment complex was announced in December.
“There are a heck of a lot of questions we still have and I hope we get honest answers,” said Carol O’Neil, a 52-year resident of Floral Park.
Dozens of residents — mostly from Floral Park — took the microphone to oppose the hotel and express concerns about traffic, parking and safety. Many were against the project’s overall footprint and worried that it would be out of scale with the community.
“You are pushing the limits of development here,” said Kristin Flood, 37, a lifelong resident of Floral Park, who attended with her two small children. “A power station in the backyard of my child’s school?”
The project, which would primarily occupy two state-owned parcels on Hempstead Turnpike and the Cross Island Parkway, calls for an 18,000-seat arena and 435,000 square feet of retail stores, restaurants, a movie theater and a 250-room hotel. It would also include 30,000 square feet of office space, 10,000 square feet of community and innovation space, 8.5 acres of public open space and more than 3,700 parking spots.
The power substation is currently planned for north of the Belmont racetrack next to an elementary school to address an increase in energy needs.
Town of Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen, one of several local lawmakers who offered remarks during the public period, called the proposal “an exciting opportunity.” Safety and minimizing the impact on the environment were critical, she said, and an electrical substation should not be located in proximity to any schools or homes.
She and other elected officials also expressed concern over the financial impact of road maintenance, additional police personnel and any delays in construction.
At least one speaker, Jon Johnson, 50, of Elmont, urged fellow residents to see the positive elements of the plan, such as the job creation and the possibility for a community center.
“There’s no perfect plan,” Johnson said. “It’s about vision. It’s not just about an arena. It’s also about jobs and a community center.”
The project is expected to create 12,300 construction jobs and 3,100 permanent jobs, according to the Empire State Development officials.
Rudy Marinacci, business agent with Local 176, a union representing licensed ushers and ticket takers, said he supported the plan because he “sees opportunity” for his members, many of whom live in Nassau and Queens.
When asked about the plans for the substation, PSEG spokesman Jeremy Walsh said: “We are exploring options for powering the Belmont project, as we are required to do by law. We look forward to working with the ESD, local officials and area residents to come up with the best solution for the project.”
The Islanders’ development team, New York Arena Partners, includes Sterling Project Development, a real estate firm run by the Mets’ Wilpon family, and Oak View Group, an arena development company backed financially by Madison Square Garden.
A spokesman for the Islanders’ partnership declined to comment on the size of the proposed hotel.
The meeting formally launched the public review process and was designed to allow for community feedback only. The public can submit comments through April 12.
Richard Browne, managing partner of Sterling Project Development, spent a few minutes explaining the plan to attendees at the meeting. Another meeting is scheduled for April 24 that will include the development team to answer questions.
“The Islanders, as you know, are very anxious to leave Brooklyn and be closer to their roots here on Long Island,” Brown said.
The plans remain subject to contractual negotiations, ESD board of directors review, Franchise Oversight Board review, and all public approval requirements.
Construction would being in 2019 and be completed by 2021, according to state officials.