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OpinionEditorial

Nassau needs Hub of activity

Aerial of Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, the center

Aerial of Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, the center of the Hub redevelopment. Credit: Jeffrey Basinger

It's only a year away.

How many times have we said that about the Nassau Hub?

This time, there's no room for failure. The COVID-19 pandemic has left the region economically hobbled and Hub development is critical not only to any comeback but as a model for Nassau County's future.

That's why developer RXR Realty's plan to break ground on the Hub by next March is welcome. If anything, RXR and its county and Hempstead Town partners could aim for an even more ambitious timetable.

Much of the onus falls on the town. Supervisor Don Clavin says he's fully supportive of the effort to develop the land around Nassau Coliseum. Clavin's consistent and vocal support will be necessary throughout the town's public process to approve the Hub's conceptual master plan. The need for town approvals has long stopped Hub proposals in their tracks. That can't happen now.

There are two clear differences that bode well: First, RXR's plans conform with the Hub's existing zoning. Second, town officials and RXR executives have been meeting and talking. It sounds simple, but it's a step that hasn't happened in the past.

RXR has work to do, too. That starts with adding meat on the plan's bones. RXR chief executive Scott Rechler has indicated there will be changes to account for a post-pandemic world. That's good, as the way we think about housing, entertainment and work/life balance has changed in fundamental ways. Housing at the Hub likely will include work spaces, the entertainment and retail might be different, and health care could play a larger role. In the next few months, Rechler should outline those specifics, so residents of nearby communities know what a developed Hub might look like.

Details and support from RXR's partners, including Hub anchor tenant Northwell Health, also will be necessary. The concept of an innovation district at the site is even more important now, as the delivery of health care, and the research and development behind it, have become essential.

Also key: the community benefits RXR hopes to provide to neighborhoods surrounding the Hub, many of which were devastated by the pandemic and need new resources quickly.

Then there's the Coliseum, which, in a matter of months, will lose its anchor tenant, as the New York Islanders head a few miles west to the new arena at Belmont Park. A clear game plan for the Coliseum that fits with the broader Hub effort will help to distinguish the site, as long as the partnership between Nassau County, RXR and the arena's lender remains solid.

In recent years, as the Hub has stood empty, that Belmont arena has risen quickly. Both projects are key to Nassau's renaissance. But Belmont's success makes perfectly clear the desperate need for action at the Hub.

A year from now, as the sounds of hockey games and concerts rise from Belmont, we hope to hear the sounds of jackhammers and construction vehicles ringing from the Hub.

— The editorial board

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