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Suozzi unveils his own Coliseum proposal

Tom Suozzi, candidate for Nassau County Executive, unveils

Tom Suozzi, candidate for Nassau County Executive, unveils his early economic vision for Nassau County in Uniondale. (July 1, 2013) Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau County executive candidate Thomas Suozzi Monday called the four proposals to revitalize the Nassau Coliseum "a step in the right direction," but said they were not sweeping enough as he unveiled his own redevelopment plans for the area.

At a news conference in Uniondale, Suozzi -- a former two-term Nassau County executive who lost to Republican Edward Mangano in 2010 -- said Mangano's plan to select a big-name developer to revamp the Coliseum did little to maximize development on the arena's surrounding 77 acres.

Suozzi proposes building a mix of commercial and residential properties that meet the 5.4 million square feet of new construction capacity allotted by the Town of Hempstead's zoning code. He said he would also require the developers to build walkways and bike paths to connect the Coliseum to the Hub's other attractions, such as Eisenhower Park or Museum Row.

Mangano is currently weighing proposals from Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner Cos., the Madison Square Garden Co., Syosset-based Blumenfeld Development Group and Bayville-based New York Sports LLC to redevelop the aging Coliseum. He plans to make a decision by July 15.

While three of the proposals call for some form of commercial or residential development, Suozzi said the proposals appear to fall short of 5.4 million square feet allowed under Hempstead's zoning code.

"We want to try and make the Coliseum a much more important central piece of the long-term sustainable growth of Long Island," Suozzi said. "The current proposals are not going to do that. They're a step in the right direction certainly, but they're not what we need. We need a much grander, a much more visionary approach of taking advantage of the existing zoning."

Ed Ward, Mangano's deputy county executive, said Suozzi's plan was no different from his support of the failed $3.8 billion Lighthouse project pushed by Islanders owner Charles Wang, which called for 8.8 million square feet of new construction.

"These are the same old multimillion-dollar plans to build high-density public housing that the residents rejected years ago." Ward said. "He had eight years, spent millions in taxpayer money and never built a single thing.

Galen Alexander, spokesman for Adam Haber, a retired East Hills businessman seeking to run against Suozzi in the Democratic primary, said the former county executive "had an opportunity to push economic growth, but instead he lost thousands of jobs, laid the groundwork for the loss of the Lighthouse project and set the stage for the loss of the Islanders."

Part of Suozzi's economic growth plan calls for the creation of a $10 million grant program to aid Nassau communities in creating "cool downtowns" featuring mixed-used commercial and residential buildings that are near transit lines.

Villages and towns would compete for 10 grants over the course of four years, which would be funded through a mix of county, state and federal dollars, Suozzi said.

"Young people are not moving back to our traditional suburban environment," Suozzi said. "We need to create new environments in our suburbia to attract them."

Suozzi said he would create a county liaison to help guide the selected municipalities to additional state and federal grant dollars and would try to recruit new "high-skilled, high-technology" businesses to these downtown areas.

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