Las Vegas Sands' 99-year lease of the Nassau Coliseum for a $4 billion casino resort remained in place Friday as a judge put a temporary hold on a lower court's ruling that blocked it.
Justice Lourdes M. Ventura of the state Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department set a Nov. 21 hearing on the county's appeal of a Thursday ruling that voided the lease. State Supreme Court Justice Sarika Kapoor ruled the county didn't properly notify the public or review the development before approving it.
Her decision was the result of a lawsuit filed in April by Hostra University that alleged the county Planning Commission had violated the state’s Open Meetings Law as it met this year to consider the lease. Kapoor also said the county legislature was wrong to forgo an extensive environmental review and ordered the process to start over.
County lawyers in their appeal argued the ruling would cost the county "a substantial economic development opportunity" and hurt Sands' bid for one of three highly competitive gaming licenses available from the state. Sands officials told Newsday last month they hoped to apply by the end of the year.
WHAT TO KNOW
- A judge put a temporary hold on a lower court's ruling that blocked Las Vegas Sands' 99-year lease of the Nassau Coliseum for a $4 billion casino resort.
- A hearing is set Nov. 21 on the county's appeal of the ruling.
- Hempstead officials said they have suspended their review of Sands' proposal while the legal issues play out.
They said Friday the legal wrangling would not keep their proposal from moving forward. But Robert Giuffra of Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, hired by the county to appeal the ruling, wrote: "The Sands’ plans are contingent on the Sands securing a casino license in the on-going competitive application process, as well as on securing zoning permission and other approvals, all of which will be more difficult if not impossible if the Sands does not have a valid lease."
County Executive Bruce Blakeman said in a statement: “For far too long the Coliseum site known as The Hub has been languishing in a twilight zone of inaction. We are grateful that the Appellate Division granted a stay of the lower court’s decision, and we’re confident the lower court’s ruling will be overturned."
Sands spokesman Ron Reese said the company is "proceeding proudly and enthusiastically with our proposal."
Hofstra President Susan Poser, who has urged a development other than a casino, declined to comment.
Thursday's ruling threw a significant hurdle into a project that had faced little resistance thus far. The Planning Commission signed off on the lease in April, a day after Blakeman announced it. The county legislature voted 17-1 for it the following month. A smaller county parks committee was the only entity to vote against it, "because of a lack of specificity to the project," according to the ruling.
On Friday, Hempstead officials said they had suspended their review, which included a state-required environmental study and zoning changes requested by Sands.
"The process will temporarily be on hold while we sort out the legal implications of the decision. The process was moving along according to schedule before [Thursday's] decision," Jack Libert, chief of staff to Town of Hempstead Supervisor Don Clavin, said.
Nassau Legis. Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove), the only lawmaker to vote against the lease, said the legislature should've taken a closer look.
"At what cost is it for us to speed through everything?" she said. "I understand that we want it clean, to qualify for the license, but I believe we owe it to our residents before we go into a 99-year lease that the environmental [impact] and all other topics, including public safety and traffic, are at least examined and addressed."
As part of the lease agreement, Sands paid the county more than $54 million. Sands also paid the former lease holder, Nassau Live Center LLC, $241 million, according to SEC filings.
Richard Kessel, chairman of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, said he would ask the Blakeman administration what will happen to the $54 million payment if the ruling that blocked the lease is upheld.
"Is the county going to keep it? Are they going to return it? How does it impact their finances? Not so much now, but in their future," Kessel said. "We are going to closely monitor the situation."
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that the Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department put a temporary hold on a lower court's ruling that blocked Sands' lease. A previous version of this story misstated the name of the court.