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Nassau Coliseum renovation plan passes unanimously

After a generation of setbacks and debate, county

After a generation of setbacks and debate, county lawmakers voted Sept. 23 on an ambitious proposal to renovate the Nassau Coliseum. (Sept. 21, 2013) Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

The Nassau County Legislature voted unanimously Monday to approve developer Bruce Ratner's $229-million plan to renovate the 41-year-old Nassau Coliseum and create a surrounding entertainment district with shops and restaurants.

Applause broke out in the legislative chamber in Mineola after the 19-0 vote, which came after legislators questioned Ratner, chairman of Brooklyn based Forest City Ratner Cos., for more than two hours about issues including the hiring of minority- and women-owned businesses for the project and the future of the New York Islanders hockey team at the arena.

"I cannot wait to get started," Ratner said at a news conference after the vote. "It was a long, hard journey."

Mangano praised Republicans and Democrats for the vote, which came after the failure of past projects to revitalize the Coliseum and the 77-acre Hub site in central Nassau.

"It ends a decade of Long Island 'no's' and now we stand here with a resounding Long Island 'yes,' " Mangano said.

Forest City Ratner, which developed the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, plans to revamp the Coliseum's facade with swooping metal panels and steel lattice, reduce the number of fixed seats to 13,000 from the current 16,234, renovate the bathrooms and concourses, and create an adjacent plaza with shopping, restaurants and an outdoor green for entertainment events. The project will be financed privately.

Ratner was chosen last month by Mangano to revitalize the arena following a bidding process that drew three other companies, including the Madison Square Garden Co., Bayville-based New York Sports Entertainment LLC and Syosset-based Blumenfeld Development Group. Ratner added Blumenfeld to his partners on the Coliseum project after Blumenfeld was eliminated in the vetting process.

Work on the project will begin once the Nassau Events Center LLC, a subsidiary of Forest City Ratner, enters into the county lease, which starts on Aug. 1, 2015. It is likely to take 15 to 18 months to complete both the Coliseum and surrounding venues, Ratner said. The lease allows either Ratner or the county to terminate the agreement if Ratner is unable to line up financing, a minor league hockey team, zoning approvals or labor agreements within two years.

Mangano said he and Forest City Ratner officials plan to meet Tuesday with the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, the county's financial control board to discuss the lease agreement. NIFA must approve the contract.

While legislators largely praised Forest City Ratner's plans, Legis. Robert Troiano (D-Westbury) raised concerns that the lease agreement did not require Ratner to hire women- and minority-owed businesses.

Chief Deputy County Executive Rob Walker said that, while the county doesn't typically specify the hiring of women and minorities in county lease agreements, "it should have been in there, and we will work on it."

Ratner said he planned to submit a plan to the Legislature within 30 days, detailing plans to award a minimum of 20 percent of contracts to minority- and women-owned businesses.

Legis. Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove) asked whether the New York Islanders could play more than the six games Ratner plans for them to play each year at the new Coliseum. Ratner said additional games are unlikely because they would not be "economical." The Islanders' lease at the Coliseum expires in July 2015. With Sid Cassese


The Dolan family has a controlling interest in Madison Square Garden Co. and in Cablevision Systems Corp., Newsday's parent company.

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