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Nassau Legislature gives development rights to Coliseum operator

Under terms approved Monday, the developer is required to provide quarterly project updates to the legislature and to hold public forums to share ideas. 

Presiding Officer Richard J. Nicolello on Monday called

Presiding Officer Richard J. Nicolello on Monday called the agreement a "win for the county." Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Nassau County Legislature approved a plan and a lease amendment Monday giving the operator of the NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum and the project's master developer exclusive rights to propose building on the 72 acres of vacant blacktop surrounding the arena.

The lawmakers' 19-0 vote represented a critical first step in the process of realizing a $1.5 billion proposed vision for a "new suburbia" known as the Nassau Hub in Uniondale.

"Today’s unanimous vote on the HUB Development signifies Nassau County is ready for the land around the Nassau Coliseum to become a destination," said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran in a statement after the vote. "The Legislature and I can celebrate this historic vote as we work together to make live-work-play development a reality in this County."   

BSE Global, the Coliseum’s operator, and RXR Realty, the project’s master developer, have pitched building 500 units of housing and 600,000 square feet of biotech research and office space on the property, the county's last major tract of public land. The plan also involves construction of two hotels and 200,000 square feet of entertainment options, along with “experiential retail."

Evlyn Tsimis, deputy county executive for economic development, said the legislative approvals would "kickstart the first phase of Hub development."

Under terms approved Monday, the developer is required to enter into a project labor agreement with local building trades councils, Tsimis said. The legislature also required developers to submit quarterly project updates and hold meetings with the public to provide updates about the project and status of discussions regarding the community benefits plan and labor agreements.

The agreement empowers legislators to reject or adopt various project-related agreements and establishes an advisory committee to consult on the community benefits package.

“This is a win, win, win for the county and we are looking for a successful conclusion in this process," Nassau Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said.

Curran, a Democrat, said that with the legislature's authority, "it appears very clear that all parties are ready to move forward, and I think it's fair to say we have great partners in government on the county legislature, and in the Town of Hempstead."

Next, negotiations will continue on financial terms, including the fiscal details for Northwell Health's proposed 225,000-square-foot Innovation Center on the southwest corner of the property. Developers must secure $85 million in state funding to build additional parking on the property.

Also Monday, the legislature voted to hire Jodi Franzese of Massapequa as the county’s first inspector general, to monitor Nassau's contracting process. Franzese, a senior inspector general in the New York City Department of Investigation, will be paid $150,000. The office would have $550,000 for staff.

Franzese was hired after a nationwide search, Nicolello said. Her office will have power to conduct investigations and review and research contracts between Nassau and its vendors. Franzese will be independent of the county executive and have subpoena powers.

"She has all the abilities and skills to be an excellent investigator, proactively attack issues and save this county money. The law gives her incredible powers, full powers, to do what she has to do in terms of investigations," Nicolello said.

Democratic lawmakers had lobbied for the office’s establishment and declined to vote on most borrowing projects for nearly two years until Republicans agreed to hire an inspector general. The legislature in December 2017 voted unanimously to hire a new inspector general, and the search took place this year.

Democrats’ push for an inspector general followed the arrest of former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and son Adam, of Rockville Centre, on federal corruption charges. Dean Skelos was convicted of using his official power to corruptly secure work for Adam, who was convicted of conspiring with his father to shake down a real estate company, a malpractice insurer and a Nassau County contractor for more than $300,000.

Also Monday, the legislature approved a bill requiring signage informing motorists about the presence of red light cameras at intersections, and a bill to require county employees to receive mental health first-aid training.

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