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OpinionEditorial

Paving a future at Belmont

Fight over early plans is ill-advised.

Development plans at Belmont Park have led to

Development plans at Belmont Park have led to some local pushback. Photo Credit: Office of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo / Kevin P. Coughlin

It’s not a surprise that any effort to develop the land around Belmont Park would meet with some pushback. But the vehemence of some objections is ridiculous and counter-productive.

After all, it’s been just three months since Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the New York Islanders and their partners won the opportunity to create a new arena for the team, along with retail, a hotel, some open space, and more, at the Belmont site. The state’s environmental review is only at the starting gate. The initial hearings are scheduled for Thursday.

There are important questions that must be answered. The location of a potential electric substation, which may be necessary to meet the area’s power needs, must be changed, as the proposed spot next to a school is a non-starter for public officials. Concerns about construction and, once the project is built, traffic and noise remain. And is the retail best located on the north or south side of Hempstead Turnpike? It’s a question that matters particularly to residents who live to the south, right next to the Belmont land.

But this isn’t the time for over-the-top nonsense.

And yet, that’s what some area residents and particularly Floral Park Mayor Dominick Longobardi are engaging in. “It would appear that once again our way of life that we have enjoyed for over 109 years is under attack by outside forces and I ask all to become actively involved,” Longobardi wrote on the village’s website.

But no one is under attack. The source of Longobardi’s complaints — a document released last month by Empire State Development that details the issues that must be studied — is a start, not a finish.

It’s time for compromise and negotiation, to find a way to create the best development for all involved.

This is a replay of the tactics used in last summer’s dispute over the Long Island Rail Road’s third track, which involved some of the same communities and local leaders. There, too, battle lines were drawn, but eventually the affected villages received concessions, and officials said yes.

Luckily, it seems in Belmont’s case, the area’s state senators, Elaine Phillips and Todd Kaminsky, are not seeking a fight, or a way to stop the project altogether. Kaminsky said the project could be “transformational” for Long Island, but noted that the review process had to be taken seriously. Phillips said she sees the development as a “done deal” that could have a positive impact on the community. It’s just a matter of doing it right, she said, with community input and compromise. They’re both right and that’s the wise approach.

State officials now should begin to address the concerns, provide more details on the plan, seek community input and begin an environmental review. And area residents should take the opportunity to weigh in and provide ideas.

But starting a fight isn’t necessary — and won’t pave the way for a better future for Belmont, the nearby communities, the surrounding neighborhoods, and the region.

 

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