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Driving a hard bargain

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Daily Point

Islanders saga skates on

When developer Bruce Ratner and his team won the bid to renovate Nassau Coliseum, Ratner’s pledge to have the New York Islanders play six games at the arena was one of several promises that tipped the scales in his favor. The promised games were codified in the final lease approved by Nassau County, with a caveat that if the team didn’t play the games, Ratner would have to pay at least $1 million annually.

But now there’s news that the Islanders won’t play any regular-season games at the Coliseum in 2017-18.

That’s not a surprise — the Islanders weren’t part of the original deal, and never promised to play at the Coliseum. And both the team and the Coliseum’s developer, Nassau Events Center, have changed ownership since the 2013 deal was made.

But if the team doesn’t play, Nassau Events Center, a subsidiary of Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, which manages the Barclays Center, will have to pay.

“If they don’t provide the games, the county will enforce the penalty,” Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said in a statement Wednesday.

But the county has a rocky history of collecting owed payments. When the Islanders occupied the Coliseum, the team and its lease partner, SMG, for years owed the county millions of dollars in utility, revenue and rent payments. In late 2014, records show, the county was owed $4.9 million. The Islanders and SMG began to pay the bills only after Newsday filed requests for financial records related to the arena. At the time, officials from the team, SMG, and the county were negotiating to determine whether the county was responsible for maintenance costs that could offset the money owed.

But now, there are no such excuses. Nassau Events Center is responsible for all maintenance at the arena. And Nassau County will be responsible for collecting what it’s owed — despite the fact the lease says nothing about when such payments will be due.

Randi F. Marshall

Talking Point

Driving into the future

In their drive to persuade Nassau County officials to opt out of the statewide legalization of ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, taxi operators are saying the new state law doesn’t adequately screen drivers.

The operators, who often donate to political campaigns in the county, have highlighted accusations of rape and assault against ride-hailing drivers elsewhere in the nation to make their point. Under a new state law, counties can refuse to allow the services, but they cannot set up their own rules for licensing them or screening drivers. Those will be controlled by the state.

But if dangerous human drivers are the concern of taxi companies and drivers, those worries might someday go away. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Wednesday afternoon that the state has given Audi approval to conduct the first autonomous vehicle tests in New York. They’ll take place in Albany on June 13 — less than a month before the enabling legislation for Uber and Lyft is slated to take effect statewide on July 9.

But it’s clear that driverless car services are still way off. Once the technology for driverless cars is ready, taxi and ride-hail drivers likely won’t be enemies. They’ll probably band together to fight the adoption of technology that would make both obsolete.

Lane Filler

Pencil Point

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Pointing Out

Help is on the way, commuters

Even as Long Island Rail Road trains experience delay after delay, the task force formed to address problems at Penn Station is already on the move.

The group held its first conference call on Thursday night — two days after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced the creation of the task force.

Cuomo tasked the group to find short-term answers during Amtrak’s extensive track repairs at Penn Station this summer, and for long-term solutions to the management of Penn and its tracks. He has suggested looking at ferries, buses, and park-and-ride options to ease the pain of reduced train service.

The task force includes Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) and Kevin Law, who heads the Long Island Association, the region’s largest business group, along with state transportation officials, real estate executives and others. Law told The Point that in its first conversation, the group focused on the summer track work and the need to come up with short-term alternatives for commuters.

“The whole focus was on how do we protect Long Island commuters during the summer?” Law said.

Randi F. Marshall

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