Nassau County officials on Thursday expressed cautious optimism about a new agreement to transfer the lease on the shuttered NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum to a Florida developer, but promised close oversight of the deal.
In June, leaseholder Onexim Sports and Entertainment, owned by Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, said it was closing the Coliseum indefinitely as the company coped with revenue losses stemming from the arena's closure during the coronavirus pandemic.
County officials on Wednesday said the new leaseholder would be Nick Mastroianni II, whose Jupiter, Florida-based company US Immigration Fund in 2015 orchestrated a $100 million loan from Chinese investors for the Coliseum's renovation.
Under the terms of the Coliseum lease, the lender — Mastroianni in this instance — steps in when the leaseholder defaults.
The county says the agreement with Mastroianni allows Nassau to recoup more than $2 million in unpaid rent owed by Prokhorov.
“We look forward to doing our due diligence in reviewing the lease assignment, but in this unprecented economic crisis we’re encouraged by any real progress toward recouping unpaid rent [and] advancing redevelopment plans that create jobs and fuel economic growth," said Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman, a Democrat.
Legis. Siela Bynoe (D-Westbury) said, "we need to go into there with our eyes wide open ... We need to make sure we're doing our due diligence basically, every step of the way."
In 2015, Bynoe and Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) were the only two county lawmakers to vote against amending the Coliseum lease with Brooklyn developer Bruce Ratner for redevelopment of the 77-acre Coliseum property. The legislative measure enabled Ratner's company to use a federal program that provides visas to overseas investors, primarily in China, who finance projects that create jobs in the United States.
Ratner sold an 85% stake in the company to Prokhorov in 2015. Prokhorov became sole owner in 2018.
With the new arrangement, Mastroianni gains partnership rights on the $1.5 billion plan to develop the Nassau Hub property — the vacant blacktop around the arena — with Scott Rechler’s RXR Realty.
"Nassau County's future viability depends on the success of the Hub," Bynoe said. "Because failure is not an option, it is essential for Nassau County to stringently monitor the execution of this agreement and ensure Mr. Mastroianni meets the terms he has agreed to."
Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said, "It's positive to see an interest in them coming in; however we want to see the details obviously; it looks like they are going to try to renegotiate some of the obligations under the lease, and we'll see ... we're mindful of the economic circumstances."
The county Legislature, which Republicans control, will perform its "due diligence to see if this is going to be in the best interests of the county or should we be concerned," Nicolello said.
However, Nicolello said it was difficult to envision the Coliseum succeeding as an entertainment venue because of plans to open a new arena next year for the NHL's New York Islanders at Belmont State Park.
"Long-term, the Colisuem has a questionable business model from my perspective ... ," Nicolello said. "You have a state of the art arena within 15 miles, I don't know what the plan is going forward, we'll have to see, I have my doubts about its viability."