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Gov. Andrew Cuomo: Lawsuits against Belmont Park plan lack 'credibility'

Aerial view of Belmont Park on July 1.

Aerial view of Belmont Park on July 1. A new arena for the New York Islanders will be built in the parking lot behind the racetrack grandstand. Credit: Newsday/John Keating

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Tuesday he did not believe lawsuits against the $1.3 billion Belmont Park project have "any credibility" as he defended New York's approval process for a new arena and entertainment complex for the New York Islanders. 

In a radio interview on Tuesday, Cuomo said there's always "negativity" associated with large-scale projects. But he dismissed two lawsuits against the Belmont development as NIMBYism similar to opposition to the Long Island Rail Road's Third Track project.  

"We went through a whole environmental process. We consulted with everyone. We had hearings. We talked to everyone. Everyone's concerns were considered. If there is any issue that needs to be fixed as we go along, we'll fix it," Cuomo told Jay Oliver of Long Island News Radio.

Cuomo's remarks followed a ceremonial groundbreaking Monday attended by hundreds of project supporters, including state and local lawmakers and Islanders owners, players and fans. 

Cuomo, a Democrat, joined Islanders' co-owner Jon Ledecky in putting golden shovels into the ground on the 43-acre state-owned site where construction began last month after a 22-month state approval process.  

However, lawsuits filed in state Supreme Court in Mineola over the last two weeks seek to stop constructionof the project. 

The Village of Floral Park on Sept. 9 challenged the state's environmental review process.

Court documents say the public bidding process for the development rights at Belmont Park was flawed and tipped in favor of the developers due to a "secret plan" conceived before the state issued a request for proposals.

Civic leaders in Elmont also filed suit Saturday challenging the legitimacy of the state’s approval process.

They contend the state does not have the authority to designate its own land at Belmont for private development. The suit claims the property is parkland that had served as a disaster evacuation site for nearby residents.

Floral Park Mayor Dominick Longobardi said NIMBYISM played no role in the village's lawsuit. 

"Our Village residents have worked tirelessly to provide feedback and ideas on how to create a project at Belmont Park that would not cause harm or detrimental effects to our friends and neighbors in Floral Park and surrounding communities," Longobardi said.

"You can have all the meetings and hearings you want but when nothing to help negative issues and situations comes from those meetings then they mean just that — nothing," Longobardi said.

New York Arena Partners, a partnership among the owners of the Islanders, Mets and arena development company Oak View Group, have begun construction work on the project, which includes a 19,000-seat arena, 250-room hotel and 350,000 square feet of retail. A new full-time LIRR stop will be built as part of the project. 

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, a Democrat and supporter of the Belmont project, said she believed it was "very important to work with the surrounding communities" where there is opposition.

"I believe the new Elmont train station will alleviate a lot of the traffic concerns that have been expressed by the residents," Curran said at Monday's groundbreaking.

But "for a project to succeed we absolutely need to engage with the surrounding communities," Curran said.

Residents who live closest to Belmont Park have expressed concerns about vehicular traffic, noise and light pollution and water quality and usage. 

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