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Possible first step toward securing Nassau Coliseum tenant

Photo of the NYCB Live / Nassau Veterans

Photo of the NYCB Live / Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on the afternoon of June 16, 2020. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

The Nassau Industrial Development Agency could take the first step Wednesday toward securing a new tenant to operate the shuttered NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum when it votes on whether to transfer tax benefits from billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov's Onexim Sports and Entertainment to a new leaseholder.

A deal to transfer the lease to Prokhorov's lender, Nick Mastroianni II, ultimately would need the backing of Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, a Democrat, and the Republican-controlled county Legislature.

But the IDA transfer of tax benefits could pave the way for an eventual reopening of the county-owned arena in time for the Islanders' next season, county officials said.

IDA Chairman Richard Kessel said the board on Wednesday night will consider whether to transfer the 2015 agreement that gave Onexim a 50-year property tax exemption through a PILOT agreement to Mastroianni’s company before it officially takes over the lease.

“I see this as an important step in the process of hopefully ultimately reopening the Coliseum and getting the Islanders to play their next season here,” Kessel said. “This is a step in that process.”

The scheduled vote comes as Nassau seeks back rent payments from Onexim, which will be in default of the lease by Monday, after Curran's administration granted the company two extensions on back payments. 

In a statement, Curran said, “constructive conversations" were taking place between Onexim and RXR Realty, the Nassau Hub developer, "on a viable plan for the arena’s operations and the future transformation of the surrounding Hub site – which would serve as a pivotal economic stimulus for Nassau County."

Curran also called the scheduled IDA vote,  "another positive procedural step towards locking in a location for the Islanders to drop the puck for their 2021 season.”

Prokhorov owes more than $2 million in unpaid rent since January. He announced in June 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 $180 million renovation completed in 2017.

Mastroianni and his company, U.S. Immigration Fund, based in Jupiter, Florida, has for weeks been in talks with the county to take over the Coliseum lease. A representative for Mastroianni is expected to attend the virtual IDA meeting to answer questions about the company's potential role in the Coliseum’s future.

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.

Mastroianni did not return messages seeking comment Tuesday.

Curran administration officials said last month negotiations were taking place between the county, Mastroianni and Coliseum operator Onexim Sports and Entertainment after the county had issued the notice of default to Onexim.

Curran said 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.

Mastroianni's involvement with the Coliseum predates the Curran administration.

The financing setup for the Coliseum renovation was coordinated through Mastroianni's company by developer Bruce Ratner, who won the county’s 2013 request for proposals to redevelop the Coliseum.

Ratner had sold the company that operated the Coliseum from 2015 until this spring to Prokhorov.

If Mastroianni's company takes over the lease, it would be in position to hire a new operator.

Oak View Group, which is involved in the Islanders’ UBS Arena project,has expressed interest in running the Coliseum and has been in contact with Mastroianni.

Jon Ledecky, a co-owner of the Islanders, told Newsday recently he was “1,000 percent” sure the Islanders will play at Coliseum next season, their last before moving to Belmont.

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