Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks during a news conference at...

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks during a news conference at Nassau Coliseum on Jan. 29, 2018. He announced the site will host a portion of Islanders home games over the next three seasons as the team's new arena at Belmont is being constructed. Credit: James Escher

After Barclays Center chief executive Brett Yormark cast doubt in a TV interview about whether a New York Islanders arena will ever be built at Belmont Park, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office was quick to push back Monday.

Tina Cervasio of WNYW/5’s “Sports Xtra” asked Yormark on Sunday night what happened to change the Islanders’ arrangement at the Barclays Center.

“Obviously, they’re looking to build their own venue,” he said. “Not sure that ever happens, but if it does, I wish them well.”

In an interview with The Point, Yormark clarified his comments by pointing to his own experience building the Barclays Center, which took eight years.

“It’s very challenging to get something done in this market,” Yormark said. “I lived through it with respect to Barclays Center.”

But state officials assured The Point Monday that Belmont is on track to open after the Islanders spend another three seasons playing in both Brooklyn and Uniondale.

In perhaps his most controversial comments, which caught the ire of Islanders’ fans on social media, Yormark told Cervasio that the Islanders “were like a rent-a-team.”

“From the get-go, this was a challenging move,” Yormark said Monday. “Embracing the core fan and trying to grow a new fan base at the same time is fundamentally challenging. That being said, I feel had the Islanders truly embraced the move to Brooklyn in every respect, it might have been different.”

That might have included open practices and programs in the community, Yormark said.

An Islanders spokesman wasn’t immediately available for comment. But other factors have made Barclays a difficult fit for the Islanders, including the fact that the arena wasn’t built for hockey.

Meanwhile, the deal between the Islanders, Barclays and the state to have the Islanders play some games at the Coliseum over the next three years came only after the Islanders and their partners won the bid to build at Belmont, and Cuomo agreed to pay for $6 million in upgrades to the Coliseum.

“We asked that the Islanders play some games at Nassau Coliseum while the new site at Belmont is completed, and we are 100 percent committed to getting it done,” Cuomo spokeswoman Dani Lever told The Point Monday.

An Empire State Development official told The Point that the environmental review of the redevelopment at Belmont will begin “shortly.” Construction is expected to start in 2019.

State officials said they expect the team to play its first regular season game at Belmont in the 2021-2022 season.

This post originally appeared in The Point, a daily look at New York State politics from the Newsday editorial board. Enter your email above to subscribe.


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