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More ice time for Isles at the Coliseum?

A general view outside NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum

A general view outside NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum prior to a game between the Islanders and the Flyers on Sept. 16, 2018. Credit: Steven Ryan

Daily Point

A dream realized?

The dream of every New York Islanders fan is to win another Stanley Cup.

Second to that, though, most of those fans would like to see their team return to Nassau Coliseum — at least until the team’s new arena at Belmont Park is ready.

Now that Belmont’s redevelopment has been approved, and pre-construction efforts already are underway there, could the Islanders’ return to Long Island include a pre-Belmont effort to have the team play more games, or even a full season, at the Coliseum? 

Brett Yormark, who has overseen the Coliseum since its renovation in 2015, wouldn’t say anything about that during an interview with The Point Wednesday. But he did express a more general sentiment, that he had goals for the Coliseum that remain unfinished.

“There are still some things I need to accomplish here,” Yormark said.

Yormark’s comments came just days after the announcement that Taiwanese businessman Joe Tsai would buy Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Nets. Yormark told The Point that, for now, he’ll be staying with the Onexim Sports and Entertainment entity that will continue to oversee the Coliseum and the Nassau Hub’s redevelopment.

“When I think about the Coliseum, we’re doing really well there,” he said. “There’s an opportunity to do even better … I think we’re starting to hit our sweet spot and I want to see that grow.”

Yormark also noted that the “strategic alliance” between the Coliseum and Barclays will continue even with the Barclays sale, adding that the Long Island Nets will continue to play at the Coliseum, and that the two arenas will continue to share acts and events.

But it’s likely that at some point, Yormark will move on to new opportunities. Even then, he said, the Coliseum, and the Nassau Hub, will be in good hands.

“If and when I leave, there will be identifiable people and personalities who will take over in a very seamless fashion,” Yormark said. “I have no concerns whatsoever.”

The new arena at Belmont is expected to be ready for the 2021-2022 hockey season. While the Coliseum has long been a fan favorite, Barclays has more suites, restaurants and other perks, which generate more revenue. For now, the Islanders’ upcoming season features the team splitting its games between the Barclays Center and the Coliseum. And it’s important to note that the National Hockey League will have a say in where the Islanders play home games, too.

But could Yormark make negotiating more games for the Islanders at the Coliseum one of his “things I need to accomplish?”

Time will tell.

- Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Talking Point

Suffolk increases its lead

New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia released Thursday the results of 2019’s standardized tests for grades three through eight in math and English, and there were no huge surprises. Elia, who will leave next week after four years in the post, laid out some modest statewide gains. On Long Island, 51 percent of students who took the English test scored proficient or better, up from 49.7 percent last year. And 54.2 percent scored proficient in math, up from 52.1 percent last year.

What does that mean? It’s impossible to say, because even as the state continued to make real progress in reducing the percentage of students opting out of the tests, Long Island has not improved nearly as much, thanks mostly to Suffolk County.

Statewide, opt-outs dropped to 16 percent, down from 18 percent last year, 19 percent in 2017 and 21 percent in 2016. 

But in Suffolk County in 2019, according to surveys of districts compiled by Newsday, 55.2 percent of students opted out of math tests, a tally virtually unchanged from 2016, and 55.9 percent opted out of the English tests, also practically the same as three years ago. 

In Nassau, though, opt-outs have significantly declined from 49.6 percent in 2016 to 39.8 percent this year in math, and 44.2 percent in 2016 to 37.6 percent this year in English.

Mathematically, that means that Suffolk County represents a far higher percentage of the state’s total opt-outs than it did in 2016, and its percentage of the total is increasing annually.

The majority of opt-outs, about 51 percent, come from average-needs districts, and about 28 percent come from wealthier districts. In districts that qualify for more state aid, whether they are rural, suburban or urban, participation rates are much higher. 

A release from the state said: “As in prior years, the proficiency rates in 2019 represent the more than 1.09 million students who took the State assessments. There is no statewide measure of knowledge and skill for those students who refused the test.”

Nor for the schools and districts where so many kids refused the tests.

- Lane Filler @lanefiller

Pencil Point

Bone spurs

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Final Point

Learning the ropes

When Eric Gertler takes the helm of Empire State Development next month, he’s prepared to spend 90 days traveling the state, learning about the communities he doesn’t know well, and evaluating ESD’s successes and the things the state agency could do better.

He told The Point on Thursday that when Day 91 arrives, he’ll have a better sense of what works and what doesn’t -- and where his priorities will lie.

Gertler, who worked for New York City’s Economic Development Corp., said a visit to Long Island would be part of that three-month tour. He noted that in his capacity as an ESD board member for more than a year, he was familiar with plans to redevelop Belmont Park, an effort he has supported.

Among his broader goals: to develop better partnerships among government, businesses and area universities. 

Gertler, who is executive chairman of U.S. News & World Report and who was co-publisher of the Daily News, said he fought for the deal that would’ve brought Amazon to Long Island City, calling it a “lost opportunity.”

“Part of my role has to be, when looking at big deals like that, making the time to develop and open up my own bridges with local leaders, really understanding the community and … thinking about what is on people’s minds,” Gertler said, noting that he’d pursue smaller deals that could have significant impact, too.

Gertler said outgoing ESD chief executive Howard Zemsky, who will remain on as chairman, is a “really tough act to follow.” But one of Zemsky’s traits he hopes to emulate is Zemsky’s sense of humor.

“I do believe you take your job seriously, you take your work seriously, you take respect for your fellow workers seriously, but you can’t always take yourself seriously,” Gertler said. “I’m going to try to have some fun.”

- Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

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