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New push begins for agreement on Nassau Hub development

A month after it seemed Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray couldn’t get further apart, the two Republican leaders are now trying to find common ground.

Mangano and Murray have been in talks in recent weeks, Mangano spokesman Michael Martino confirmed.

While Mangano previously cricitized Murray’s development for the land surrounding Nassau Coliseum as “economically unviable,” the goal of the talks, sources said, is to find a solution that would work for the town, county and New York Islanders owner Charles Wang.

And, according to Long Island Regional Planning Council chairman John Cameron, Murray now appears more flexible on issues of density and building height.

High level county officials, meanwhile, continue to meet with Wang, too, holding a two-hour meeting late last month, a source with knowledge of the talks said. Wang’s initial proposal for the land, a $3.8 billion mixed-use development known as the Lighthouse Project, is now nearly six years old and he has said he is entertaining other offers for the Islanders, whose lease at the Coliseum expires in 2015.

“It’s definitely on the county’s shoulders,” Cameron said. “They’re doing everything in their power to find a solution that will hold on to the Islanders ... But the County and Wang are still tied at the hip, so if the County wants to hold on to the Islanders and the Coliseum, they’re not doing this in a vacuum.”

The Council, which discussed the issue at a meeting Tuesda at Molloy College, had invited Mangano, Murray and Wang to the gathering. And Murray held a briefing for Cameron and Council executive director Michael White last week, at which she indicated she was willing to make changes to some of the town’s zoning proposals, which were unveiled last month at a press conference.

Murray told Newsday in an interview last month that the town was “open for discussion” to changes in density if new money became available, and noted that adding a few extra stories could be part of a “tweaking process.”

White noted that even the town’s suggestion of a 500 housing units maximum might be open for discussion, depending on how other parts of the development could change.
“There’s the potential for hope,” Cameron said.

But White and Cameron were quick to note that such hope was tempered by the current economic climate, which could make any development — from the initial Lighthouse proposal to Hempstead’s much smaller zoning plan — virtually impossible to finance.

“We believe very strongly that the economic realities today would preclude the Coliseum from being funded solely from the development yield that would be approved no matter what it is,” Cameron said. “At the end of the day, they’re going to eventually look across the table and say, ‘We still can’t finance this.’”

Mangano has previously proposed turning some of the land over to the Shinnecock Indian Nation to build a casino. Economists and other experts have noted that the county could also play a role in financing the construction of a new Coliseum, through a bond or other methods.

Wang was out of the country and unavailable for comment. Murray did not return calls for comment.

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