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Residents air concerns in meeting with Belmont Park developers

Residents said they were concerned about the traffic pattern created by the project, as well as its economic viability and use of mass transit.

Developers in charge of the New York Islanders arena in Belmont Park answered questions from residents and civic groups regarding the $1 billion proposal on Wednesday. (Credit: Newsday / Raychel Brightman)

Developers of the proposed $1 billion Belmont Park project to build a new New York Islanders arena shared changes to their plans Tuesday, but local residents and community groups still had questions.

In the first question-and-answer session with developers of the project — which includes a retail and entertainment complex — hundreds of residents turned out at the Elmont Memorial Library. Developers put forth a current “preferred plan” that includes a new 150-feet cap on the height of the project’s hotel, cutting it by about 10 stories from initially proposed.

Developers also said there is an effort to find a new location for a power substation that had been planned behind Bellerose Elementary School, as well as a new site for retail that would put it south of Hempstead Turnpike.

The power substation was initially planned for north of the Belmont racetrack, next to the school, to address an increase in energy needs.

Residents said they worried about congestion on local streets and the Cross Island Parkway and whether the development would be viable in the long term and have a positive economic impact on surrounding communities.

Among the unanswered questions residents had was whether the Metropolitan Transportation Authority would increase its service to Belmont to mitigate traffic and parking volume.

“We are in very active discussions with the LIRR — meeting with them once a week — and those talks are ramping up,” said Holly Leicht, executive vice president of Real Estate Development and Planning at Empire State Development, the agency responsible for economic growth in New York.

ESD, along with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, announced in January that the proposal would create a new home for the Islanders in Nassau County.

Under the plan, the sports and entertainment complex would be completed by 2021 on state-owned land along the turnpike and the Cross Island Parkway.

The project calls for an 18,000-seat arena, 435,000 square feet of retail space, restaurants, a movie theater and a 250-room hotel.

It includes 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.

New York Arena Partners, the Islanders’ development team, 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.

Richard Browne, a partner at Sterling, said: “One thing is for sure, the team is not viable in Brooklyn. Our fan base — and we know them by zip code — is largely from Nassau and Suffolk as well as Queens . . . this is the best location and the team is convinced of that.”

Brown and ESD officials touted an increased tax base and job creation from the project. Some residents, like Lauren Fiorentino, of Bellerose, Queens, disagreed, saying “This is our community and if we want our children to stay, they will not be able to afford to live here on retail and arena jobs.”

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