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A change in plans

The NYCB Live / Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum

The NYCB Live / Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on the afternoon of June 16, 2020. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

Daily Point

What will become of Nassau Coliseum?

The changes Nassau County officials hope to make to the Nassau Coliseum lease, and to the agreement on development at the Nassau Hub, are good news for developer Scott Rechler. He’s been rethinking some of his own plans for the property post-pandemic.

Rechler isn’t starting from scratch – but he told The Point some of the initial ideas for the Hub could very well change.

"It’s a critical moment to reimagine the future of Long Island in a post-COVID world, to be able to build something that is consistent with that and that helps spark the growth," Rechler said. "We want to use this as something that ignites the recovery for Nassau County."

Rechler said he hopes to produce a revised vision of the Hub within the first half of 2021. Those plans could include a greater role for health care and life sciences facilities at the site and a different look for the housing. He’s considering, for instance, housing models with "enough room for generational sharing or home offices." Experiential retail will continue to be part of the mix, he said.

Then there’s another question: How will the Coliseum be used? Among some of the possibilities: convention space, smaller concerts, experience-based entertainment.

All of that is hard to know for sure, Rechler says, as so much remains unknown in terms of how the pandemic will play out.

It’s unclear, at this point, when the Coliseum will reopen — and for what. Still, county officials do say that under their revised lease agreement, the arena could open for the New York Islanders and Long Island Nets to play there in 2021 — if allowed by the state. The county’s proposed lease changes, which must be approved by the county legislature, allow for Coliseum rent payments to be suspended until six months after the COVID-19 restrictions that shut it are lifted, or as late as Dec. 31, 2022.

The legislature is likely to vote on the lease amendments by January, a spokesman for the legislature’s majority said.

The proposed lease changes also extend the deadlines for the development itself, putting it on a similar timetable with the arena. But Rechler said the new timetable is helpful, because it gives him time to figure out what’s next for the Hub.

"We’re not going to have a date that turns out to be a false date," Rechler said. "It gives us enough runway to get things resolved without having politics get in the way."

The future of the Hub has been further complicated by the changes of leadership at the Coliseum and the need to negotiate with Nick Mastroianni II, who heads the new leaseholder entity, called Nassau Live Center LLC. Mastroianni has become a critical player in the Hub, because his company, U.S. Immigration Fund, is responsible for facilitating the $100 million in debt the Coliseum took on during its renovation. That money was raised through a controversial program that allows Chinese investors to seek visas for themselves and family members in exchange for job creation.

Rechler said developing a partnership with Mastroianni and resolving the issues around the debt have been key, as he said that "avoided a major quagmire."

And now, Mastroianni is part of the discussions to move the Hub forward, too, meeting with Rechler as recently as Wednesday, when the two spent about an hour and a half talking about plans for the site.

—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Talking Point

Nassau sticks to five-year plan, but ...

Taxpayers befuddled by Nassau County Executive Laura Curran’s on-again, off-again plan to create an assessment roll that’s accurate in real time were thrown another curveball this week. Curran, the Democrat who ran on establishing an accurate roll, has announced that the annual adjustments the county used for the 2021-2022 roll and planned to use each year going forward will not be implemented for the 2022-2023 roll.

Curran says the roll will once again be frozen because 2020’s real estate market has been so erratic, going from a total halt of transactions early in the pandemic to an avalanche of sales at record-setting prices in the past several months, that Nassau can’t easily reflect what has happened with new values yet.

And county officials say the change will not affect their five-year phase-in of new values, which will continue unimpeded.

Briefly:

  • Curran’s predecessor, Edward Mangano, froze the roll and stopped updating values in 2011, and began settling all property-tax appeals quickly and generously to prevent appeals being settled after the roll is set. That’s because when the county loses or settles appeals after the roll is set to generate a refund, the county must pay that refund, even though most of the money goes to school districts and other taxing bodies.
  • The widespread success of people who appealed annually to get their taxes reduced each year created a growing gap between the tax burden of annual appealers and non-appealers, unfairly shifting at least $1.7 billion in property-tax burden and creating high profits for tax-appeal firms.
  • Curran ran promising to change this, and the eventual plan she implemented after a lot of stops and starts assigned new values, meant to be accurate, for the 2020-2021 tax year.
  • Because some of the increases in valuation and taxes owed would have been so huge for people who appealed every year, the county implemented the changes over five years. The decision also meant that those who have been overpaying would take five years to get to paying the fair burden, too.
  • The plan was to update the new values each year by school district and house type, based on sales trends and changes in the market. That was done to update the 2020-2021 roll for 2021-2022, and increases in values averaged 3%.
  • That will not be done for the 2022-2023 roll set to be released Jan. 4, thanks to the chaos, but these valuation updates should begin with the 2023-2024 roll and county officials say the roll will get a full review that looks closely at individual parcels about once every five years.
  • The five-year phase-in, which worked by immediately raising undervalued houses to their appropriate assessments but giving exemptions to slow the effect, will continue as planned.

Curran told The Point Thursday, "My focus right now is on an economic recovery plan for Nassau County. This is one component of that effort. We need to focus on helping our residents through the economic fallout of the pandemic. Pausing assessment will help our homeowners and businesses during these rough times."

Now the big question is how Curran’s move will play politically, with Nassau’s elections coming in November. Curran’s GOP opponents, who control the legislature, are certain to call her out for the freeze. But since they have pushed her to adopt a freeze, it’s not clear how the public will see the latest change.

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

Pencil Point

An uneventful holiday newsletter

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/cartoons

Final Point

Checking in with small business owners

How has the pandemic impacted businesses in our villages and downtown communities?

The Rauch Foundation and nextLI are partnering to conduct a study on the future of Long Island’s downtowns and how to best support the region throughout the recovery period.

We would like to hear from local business owners among Point readers and those you know who understand COVID-19’s impact and what actions are needed for businesses to recover, adapt and innovate. For elected and government officials, please forward this link to store owners in your towns, villages and districts. Click here to read a Newsday article about the survey.

Below is a link to the survey, which takes no more than 5-10 minutes to complete. All responses are confidential. The survey is available in English and Spanish.

https://www.research.net/r/lidowntown

—Amanda Fiscina @adfiscina

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