The renovated Elmont Road Park opened last year. Since then, ongoing...

The renovated Elmont Road Park opened last year. Since then, ongoing drainage issues led to flooding in the multipurpose field. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Monday marks two years since the New York Islanders played their first game at the $1.1 billion UBS Arena at Belmont Park. Since then, the world-class facility has hosted hockey games, concerts, and more. Belmont's retail village is expected to open next summer. 

But promised community benefits haven't risen to the same world-class standard or level of urgency.

Part of the problem: New York Arena Partners — the Belmont development's partnership that initially included the Islanders, Oak View Group and Sterling Project Development — has changed shape, leaving questions as to who's responsible. Sterling is no longer part of the partnership; it's focused on the retail. That seems to leave Oak View and the arena to fulfill the partnership's community benefits promises.

That starts with Elmont Road Park. The renovated park's reopening last year came after Hempstead Town expressed concerns about safety, quality and cosmetic issues. Since then, some of those worries — particularly regarding the park's multipurpose field — have been validated. Ongoing drainage issues led to flooding such that the town determined that in addition to necessary fixes, the natural grass field should be replaced with turf.

The town allocated about $900,000 of taxpayer funds for the new field. New York Arena Partners has agreed to pay … nothing. The renovation price tag amounts to less than a tenth of 1% of the arena's cost. Town officials asked the partnership for help. It refused. A partnership official says the partnership has already "fulfilled our obligation" by completing the $3 million renovation.

That's absurd. Clearly, the obligation wasn't fulfilled if repair or replacement already is needed. New York Arena Partners needs to do the people of Elmont better, by paying for repairs and a new field, or at least, meeting the town halfway. The partnership official said they'd take another look. Taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for the partnership's mistakes. 

The partnership also promised a community center for Elmont, but there has been no progress on that. According to the partnership official, the sites they've seen are in "pretty bad shape." That seems like a thin excuse. Let's help them out. New York Arena Partners wants an Elmont site that's safe and pedestrian-friendly, has good parking and at least 10,000 square feet of space, and works within its budget. And they want building infrastructure no more than 40 years old.

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New York Arena Partners points to other neighborly efforts, like the new Long Island Rail Road station, donated tickets, and hiring, 45% of which has been local. That's all good. But it's not enough, not when you're breaking your word on other agreements. If the partnership can't do better, Empire State Development officials should get involved.

"We want to be community partners," the partnership official told the editorial board.

All they have to do is start acting like it.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.


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