In the months before he abruptly stopped work on the Lighthouse proposal last fall, Charles Wang had badgered the Town of Hempstead with one demand: Tell me what you want.

Now it seems he's about to find out.

At a morning news conference, Town Supervisor Kate Murray said Monday she'd had a "very positive" phone conversation with Wang and is hopeful he and partner Scott Rechler will still wind up developing the 77 acres of county-owned property encompassing the Coliseum area - albeit on a smaller scale to be determined by the town.

Murray's announcement that she will pay consultants to craft an alternative to the planned development district proposed by the Lighthouse Development Group drew criticism Monday from Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick), who noted the town had rebuffed early invitations to shape a vision for the county-owned parcel.

Meanwhile, others, like Association for a Better Long Island director Desmond Ryan, say Murray's move creates an opening for rival Long Island developers such as Ed Blumenfeld, Jan Burman and Vincent Polimeni to claim the plum project. "Kate Murray has opened the door to a comprehensive bidding process," Ryan said.

Wang did not return calls for comment.

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County Executive Edward Mangano, who attended the news conference, said the county's existing agreements with Wang, including the designated developer agreement and memorandum of understanding, are still in force. That means unless Wang or the county chooses to nullify those agreements, the land is still Wang's to build on.

"Nassau County is not altering its contractual obligations at all," Mangano said. "Rather, we are supporting this because it moves the ball forward."

A source familiar with the process said, that while both Mangano and Murray are keeping their options open, they understand Wang still has considerable leverage as owner of the Islanders hockey team, which plays its home games at the Coliseum.

And though Hempstead Town board member Dorothy Goosby, whose district includes the land around Nassau Coliseum, portrayed the town Monday as taking the reins of the project, Murray said Wang would be involved in shaping the plans and said she expected them to include many of the elements he has already proposed.

Those include retail, commercial, residential and hotel space, and the sports technology complex that has been a prized centerpiece of Wang's vision for the refurbished arena site. But by creating its own plan, the town retains greater control, planners said. With Sandra Peddie

Highlights of Kate Murray's news conference

Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray announced that the town would, through its consultant, study what kind of development should be built around the Nassau Coliseum site. Here are highlights from her news conference:

  • Hempstead will hire Frederick P. Clark Associates, a planning firm, to establish a scaled-back plan for zoning the 77 acres of the county-owned property around the Coliseum.
  • Murray said she hoped that Charles Wang and his partner Scott Rechler would ultimately be the developers of whatever is built on the property.
  • Town board member Dorothy Goosby described the town's new plans as trying to take the reins of a "stalled" project.
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  • The new zone, called a Planned Development District, would be likely to include a vision for the property that is far less dense and much smaller than Wang's and Rechler's Lighthouse Project.
  • Murray said she hoped the review process would be completed by summer.