Construction of an 11-acre retail and entertainment complex next to the Nassau Coliseum is on hold as Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and arena developers consider a new plan for the site that could include housing.
Mangano said last week in an interview that Nassau began examining housing after the Empire State Development Corp. approved an $85 million grant in October for construction of two parking garages on the Nassau Hub site. The garages would have 3,400 spots and free up 19 acres of blacktop, originally designated for surface parking, to be used for housing.
Town of Hempstead zoning for the 77-acre Hub allows for up to 500 housing units, including affordable units, although Mangano has released no details of what he is studying.
The delays mean that until at least mid-2018 there will probably be no restaurants, stores or entertainment options around the arena, which is scheduled to reopen in April after a $130 million renovation.
The developments come as Nassau struggles with operating deficits. The Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state watchdog in control of the county’s finances, projects Nassau will end 2017 with a $106 million deficit.
Developers said the entertainment complex would generate $64 million a year in new sales tax revenues for Nassau, although the county has not budgeted the money.
Mangano said he gave Nassau Events Center Plaza — the company with a lease to build the entertainment complex that is controlled by Brooklyn developer Bruce Ratner — an extension on construction because the new garages will free up so much property.
“These opportunities have given rise to...[consideration of] a housing component to the property transformation,” Mangano said in a statement. “When this planning process is complete, it will be forwarded to the [county] legislature for consideration.”
Mangano said he has not asked NEC to change the scope or cost of the $130 million retail complex, which he described as a “small” and “supportive” part of the larger Hub overhaul.
Mangano has previously described the retail complex as a critical element in transforming the Hub into a “first-class destination.”
The county’s 2013 lease with Ratner called for a 188,000-square-foot plaza with restaurants, a 10-screen movie theater, a 2,500-seat indoor theater, outdoor theater, skating rink and retail space.
Mangano called the delay in construction of the entertainment plaza a temporary “pause” to allow the county and NEC to take a more comprehensive look at the project.
He declined to say definitively that the complex would be built as originally planned but added “it’s possible nothing may change.”
A clause in the lease allows Mangano to change the site plan without legislative approval.
NEC spokesman Robert Leonard said the developer is “in the process of revising plans for the site to assure the garages provide a maximum benefit to the project.”
Legislative Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) said delaying the entertainment plaza allows Nassau “to maximize the value of this development to county taxpayers.”
Democratic Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said residents “deserve better than to have the redevelopment that has been promised be kicked to the curb unilaterally by one man without public input or a legislative hearing.”
Town of Hempstead spokesman Michael Deery said officials would consider a housing proposal if it were submitted to the town board.
The last effort to build housing at the Hub — the $3.8 billion Lighthouse Project — was killed in 2010 after the Town of Hempstead determined the development was too dense and declined to approve the necessary zoning. The project would have included a renovated Coliseum, 2,300 housing units, 1 billion square feet of office space, 500,000 square feet of retail, a sports technology center and a luxury hotel.
Last year, Ratner requested $6.2 million in tax breaks from Nassau’s Industrial Development Agency to build the retail plaza.
Ratner’s lease requires him to pay the county at least 8 percent of the gross revenue from the new entertainment facilities surrounding the arena or a minimum of $400,000 per year — whichever is greater — and a minimum of $4 million a year of from the Coliseum. In the interim, the developer has paid $5,000 in monthly rent on the retail plaza land.
The lease did not include a mandatory start date for the retail plaza and the county was not expecting to receive revenue from the project in 2017.
Complicating efforts to build the retail complex is Ratner’s lawsuit with Syosset-based Blumenfeld Development Group. The firms worked together to plan the commercial development for 18 months but had a falling out over the direction and control of the project.
Blumenfeld attorney Ronald Rosenberg said the lawsuit played no role in the decision to put the entertainment complex on hold.
Rosenberg called the idea of putting housing at the Hub a “sham” because residential development was not part of the county’s original request for proposals to redevelop the site. Blumenfeld, he said, would consider a new lawsuit if Mangano permits Ratner to build homes at the Hub without putting the new housing work out to bid.
Mangano says housing would complement efforts by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to build a five-acre, $140 million research and treatment facility at the Hub.
The county is negotiating a new $350 million Center for Bioelectronic Medicine, to be operated by Feinstein Institute for Medical Research and located on top of one of the garages.
Newsday reported last week that Nassau Events Center was no longer pursuing a minor league hockey team to play at the renovated arena, despite agreeing to do so in its lease.
Mangano says he does not want to lock the county into a long-term deal with an American Hockey League team as he works to bring the New York Islanders back to the Coliseum.