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OpinionColumnistsMichael Dobie

Loss of Islanders is a moment to take stock

New York Islanders fans show their team pride

New York Islanders fans show their team pride as they tailgate prior to Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals between the the Islanders and the Washington Capitals at Nassau Coliseum on April 25, 2015. Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

So the Islanders are gone.

Like so many of our young people, they're off to Brooklyn. That's an angst we know well.

Eliminated from the playoffs, the team's long run at Nassau Coliseum is now history. Just like the kids, they're supposed to return a few times a year to visit the old place -- after, or if, it's refurbished. They'll play some games, remind us of how it used to be. But the Isles, our Isles, are over.

On an emotional level, it feels a bit like other iconic departures from Long Island. From Grumman to Entenmann's to the Bavarian Inn, from our local hardware store to the retiree next door -- saying goodbye can make us feel like the fabric of our life is fraying. We mourn . . . but then we adjust.

That's the nature of societies and cultures. If they remain static, they die. Remember the Islanders' heyday 30-plus years ago? Back then, there was no Splish Splash. There was no North Fork winery trail with dozens of vineyards and tasting rooms and concerts. There was no Long Island Ducks baseball team or Paramount in Huntington or Tanger Outlets.

The point is, change is constant. Everything is here forever, until it's not.

But it is worth remembering how we got here.

The departure of the Islanders was rooted in a land deal -- killed by lousy politics and one too many bluffs called.

Whether you liked the Lighthouse project pitched by Islanders majority owner Charles Wang -- its final iteration included a renovated Coliseum, a hotel, housing, offices, athletic facilities and restaurants -- it's likely Wang would not have moved the Isles had Hempstead Town and its supervisor, Kate Murray, not effectively kill the proposal by refusing to rezone to accommodate its size. Two years later, Nassau residents voted down a new taxpayer-funded arena. One year after that, the Islanders announced their trek west.

Now we have a too-little, too-late Coliseum renovation promised by Bruce Ratner, the same guy whose company built the Isles' new home, the Barclays Center. Two unarguable truths about Long Island: 1) We need more high-paying jobs; and 2) The Coliseum area is the last place in Nassau to do something truly significant. And we're getting a bunch of entertainment and retail options with all their lower-paying and part-time jobs. That's if the Coliseum reboot goes off as planned.

Part of Ratner's financing is to come from wealthy citizens of China via a controversial program that gives visas to foreigners who invest in U.S. projects. But it's already oversubscribed with Chinese investors and facing increasing criticism from regulators concerned about fraud, favoritism, a lack of oversight and questionable results in producing promised jobs. Makes you feel warm and cozy.

A similarly unsettling feeling afflicts many Long Islanders: that now we're second-class because we lack a major league sports team. First the Nets, then the Jets, now the Isles. I don't know. Virginia seems to be doing OK without one. And there's a lot about Long Island that's pretty darn good.

But it's also true we aren't close to reaching our potential, and there's a lot that contributes to that: narrow thinking, obscene amounts of patronage and corruption, potholes, a lack of good jobs, too few places for young people to live, traffic, high taxes, too many levels of government, lousy public transportation.

Fixing those would do more to make Long Island great than getting the Islanders back.

Michael Dobie is a member of the Newsday editorial board.

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