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OpinionColumnistsRandi F. Marshall

Belmont Park RFP cancellation opens door to New York Islanders

An aerial view of Belmont.

An aerial view of Belmont. Credit: File

Could the New York Islanders really come back to Long Island?

The answer seems far closer to their fans’ favorite cheer of “Yes! Yes! Yes!” than it was a week ago. But there’s still a long way to go.

The state’s decision to cancel the request for proposals on land at Belmont Park came four years after that RFP was announced. Ending it might have opened the door to the Islanders, who have been looking for alternatives to their home at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

The Point has learned that even before the state’s decision to cancel the RFP, the talk of building an arena for the Islanders at Belmont Park had become visual as well. Renderings have been drawn depicting a potential arena at some available spots. And there have been discussions about timetables, construction, financing and what else might be built.

Belmont Park and the surrounding land is owned by New York State, and some of it is leased by the New York Racing Authority. No town or village zoning or approval process is required to build on the property. An Empire State Development spokesman said the state is now looking “beyond the scope of the original request.”

The withdrawn RFP had brought in four bidders, including the New York Cosmos soccer team. And while ending the earlier approach removes a huge roadblock to the Islanders returning to Long Island, this is by no means a done deal. The team is still considering a move to an arena that would be built near Citi Field, though the protracted legal wrangling and NYC bureaucratic complications are pretty significant.

And, of course, the Islanders could choose to stay in Brooklyn.

At least one source tells The Point that a decision might not be far away — perhaps as soon as a few months. Complicating that, perhaps, is a clause in the Islanders’ agreement with the Barclays Center that requires “good-faith discussions” with representatives from the Barclays Center before the team can trigger its opt-out clause. It’s unclear, however, what “good faith” discussions would have to include.