Board members of the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency on Wednesday night approved the transfer of tax benefits tied to NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum from billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov's Onexim Sports and Entertainment to the lender who financed the arena's $180 million renovation.
The IDA approval to Nick Mastroianni II and his company, U.S. Immigration Fund, of Jupiter, Florida, represents an initial step toward securing a new tenant for the county-owned arena in Uniondale.
The board voted 6 to 1 to transfer to Mastroianni the 2015 agreement that gave Onexim a 50-year property tax exemption through a PILOT agreement. Board member John Coumatos cast the only no vote after expressing concerns about the long-term financial viability of the Coliseum.
IDA chairman Richard Kessel called the reassignment of the tax breaks an important step in turning over the lease to Mastroianni and reopening the Coliseum in time for the Islanders to play at the arena next season.
"This is a step as part of a process to help get the Coliseum up and running during very challenging times," Kessel said at the meeting. "Without the IDA transferring these benefits to the new leaseholder, this would not go forward ...
"This is a step in the direction of ultimately of having the Coliseum reopen, be successful, have the Islanders play their next season, God-willing, at the Coliseum, and for the county and the taxpayers to get revenues and rent that hasn't been paid for a number of months," Kessel said.
But Coumatos expressed a different view. "I just don't get how financially the Coliseum can last another 15 years under our IDA grants," he said at the meeting. "Going forward, we're in a cloudy area right now, and to say if we give up and not do this and it's going to be our fault, cannot be our fault. It has to be what we feel going forward to our residents."
Onexim is at risk of defaulting on its lease agreement with the county. The company owes Nassau County more than $2 million in unpaid rent since January.
Prokhorov announced in June that he was walking away from the lease to operate the Coliseum and seeking investors to assume the $100 million in debt to Mastroianni on the Coliseum's renovation, completed in 2017.
Officials in the administration of Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said last month that negotiations were taking place between the county, Mastroianni and Onexim Sports and Entertainment after the county had issued the notice of default to Onexim.
The plan was for Mastroianni’s company to take over the lease so a new company could be hired to operate the Coliseum in time for the Islanders to play their final NHL season in Uniondale before moving to the new UBS Arena at Belmont Park, Curran officials said.
The $100 million loan was orchestrated by Mastroianni’s company from 200 Chinese investors through a federal program that provides visas in exchange for financing job-creating projects. Mastroianni’s company is not affiliated with the federal government.