The Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale is the center of the Hub...

The Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale is the center of the Hub redevelopment. Credit: Jeffrey Basinger

Daily Point

Gambling on the Hub

Casino operators have been courting Nassau County to potentially bring a casino, along with hundreds if not thousands of new hotel rooms, to the Nassau Hub or nearby property, sources tell The Point.

Both Las Vegas Sands and Hard Rock have expressed interest in the Hub, the sources said.

But a separate source said the discussions about a casino in the area actually are focused on the Long Island Marriott property — which is apart from the Nassau Hub, defined as the 77 acres surrounding Nassau Coliseum.

NYU Langone is also considering building a large-scale health care facility at the Hub, either in place of or to expand upon its Mineola hospital previously known as Winthrop University Hospital, the sources said.

The talk of possible new ideas for the Hub comes as the Town of Hempstead is due to evaluate and approve the new comprehensive master plan for the site, produced by RXR Realty, which currently has development rights at the Hub.

RXR Realty chief executive Scott Rechler, who has been planning to build a mix of uses at the site, says a casino is not in his plans.

“We are not contemplating gaming or a casino at the Nassau Hub,” Rechler said in a statement. “We’re solely focused on moving forward with the conceptual master plan with the Town of Hempstead. Our conceptual master plan includes all of the elements that we’ve been presenting to the County, the Town and the broader community since we started this process over two years ago …”

That, Rechler said, includes research and development, health care, experiential retail and housing.

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman would not comment on the potential for a casino at the Hub or the neighboring Marriott site.

“The county is in negotiations right now regarding the Hub, and because of the sensitive nature of those discussions, we will not comment until they are completed,” Blakeman said in a statement to The Point.

Said Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin: “Development of the Hub is a priority for the Town and we are looking forward to it being a successful addition to our community.”

This isn’t the first time that gambling has been contemplated at the Hub. Former County Executive Edward Mangano proposed a casino to be opened by the Shinnecock Indian Nation at the Hub more than a decade ago, but those plans stalled and died.

One of the biggest naysayers to a casino at the time was Hub neighbor Hofstra University and former president Stuart Rabinowitz. Current Hofstra president Susan Poser seems to have a similar position.

“Hofstra University supports mixed-use development at the Hub that creates jobs and economic opportunities for the region,” Poser said in a statement to The Point. “There are many ways to do this, however, we are opposed to including a casino as part of that development.”

— Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Talking Point

Mack the Knife

An intense, ugly confrontation between Metropolitan Transportation Authority chief executive Janno Lieber and Nassau County MTA board member David Mack just before last month’s board meeting has exploded into a political back-and-forth involving Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, The Point has learned.

Moments before the June 29 board meeting, Mack went to Lieber’s office, bursting in on a meeting and demanding to talk to Lieber. In a confrontation shortly after, outside Lieber’s office, witnessed by multiple people, Mack demanded an MTA police placard for his car. Mack previously had such a placard, but after a recent controversy involving an MTA executive using an expired placard, the authority reviewed its policies and discontinued the use of placards among board members.

Mack objected to being denied a placard, showing his own police identification cards. And then he raised additional issues, including the notion that Lieber passed over his choice for a new MTA police chief — and that Lieber chose Suffolk County representative Sammy Chu as the new co-chairman of the board’s committee that oversees the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad. Then, Mack gave Lieber “a warning,” raised his middle finger, and “stormed out,” one witness said.

“I would describe him as being unhinged and the demands inappropriate,” the witness said of Mack.

In the board meeting that followed, Mack challenged Lieber or pushed back several times, on issues ranging from how the board responds to public comments at the start of the meeting to Lieber’s decision to appoint Catherine Rinaldi as president of both the LIRR and Metro-North, to a report about how the MTA can respond to the threat of flash flooding.

Days later, Blakeman entered the story.

Last week, Blakeman sent a letter to Lieber, questioning Lieber for choosing Chu as committee co-chairman, expressing concern over service changes on the Port Washington line, and echoing Mack’s complaints about the LIRR presidency.

“We are now left without the appropriate representation on your Board, and we feel utterly discounted,” Blakeman wrote. “Mr. Mack has served as the lone courageous voice of our residents and our county as a whole in all matters relating to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.”

On Monday, Lieber issued a detailed, three-page response, outlining recent improvements to the LIRR and discussing Mack, noting that Mack remained a member of the LIRR/Metro-North committee and chair of the Bridges and Tunnels committee, and hadn’t served as chair of the railroads’ committee prior to Chu taking the spot.

In the letter, Lieber noted that Chu took over the co-chairmanship from former MTA board member Kevin Law, who also represented Suffolk County. Lieber described the meeting with Mack, saying he “pushed by my assistant and, in an agitated state, burst into my office where I was behind closed doors meeting with two staff members.”

Lieber also noted that Mack’s comments about MTA resiliency, which Blakeman highlighted, came after a report by a committee Mack was assigned to but did not attend.

Mack, however, told The Point that Lieber was “hurting” Long Island by not appointing a separate LIRR president and by not appointing Mack as co-chair.

“The loser is Long Island,” Mack said. “You’re losing experience, all the knowledge I have. The most important thing is experience and access to friends in government to help accomplish what we need for the Long Island Rail Road.”

Mack argued that Lieber “did an injustice to Long Island because he personally does not like me.”    

As for the conversation with Lieber, Mack said: “I had strong words. I tell it the way it is.”

Blakeman told The Point he hoped to meet with Lieber to talk about the Port Washington schedule issues and to “further discuss why I feel Commissioner Mack’s wealth of experience is best situated to chair the Railroad Committee …”

This isn’t Mack’s first entry into political, police or MTA-related controversy. In 2009, Mack resigned from the MTA board after he didn’t cooperate with an investigation by then-Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo into the state police.

This time, controversy stemmed from placards. Mack told The Point he drives to MTA board meetings and used the placards for that, along with random stops at LIRR stations.

Even though he won’t have a placard anymore, the MTA does give board members a pass to use on the LIRR — which could be used to get to MTA board meetings.

— Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Pencil Point

The trigger

Credit: Politicalcartoons.com/Dave Whamond, Canada

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

Quick Points

No end to questions

  • The latest news regarding Nassau University Medical Center is that it lost $135.6 million last year. But when you think about it, is the fact that NUMC lost money, even big money, really earthshaking news?
  • After former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated by a gunman who approached him from behind at a campaign rally, a top prefectural police chief acknowledged there were possible security lapses. Ya think?
  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson resigned last week, and though he is out of power, the corrosive divisions he stoked are very much alive. Sound familiar?
  • A pregnant Texas woman ticketed for driving in the HOV lane by herself is arguing that the Roe v. Wade reversal means her fetus should have been counted as a passenger. Does that mean she’ll be buying two tickets for movies, concerts and ballgames?
  • A consultant hired by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics to report on former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s book deal concluded that JCOPE failed to assert itself as a watchdog agency against the governor’s controversial book deal — in a report JCOPE accepted just before its dissolution for being an ineffective watchdog agency. You can’t make this up.
  • House Jan. 6 committee members say excerpts from former White House counsel Pat Cipollone’s eight-hour deposition Friday will be featured during Tuesday’s hearing. Now there’s a ratings play.
  • As of Sunday, average gas prices in the U.S. had declined for 26 straight days. Here’s guessing you missed that.

— Michael Dobie @mwdobie

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