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Islanders’ arena at Belmont Park set to start on schedule, state agency says

Empire State Development timeline indicates construction could begin in early spring of 2019.

Renderings of the planned arena at Belmont Park.

Renderings of the planned arena at Belmont Park. The 43 acres of state-owned land at the Belmont Park race course will be developed into an 18,000 seat hockey arena by the New York Islanders. Photo Credit: Sterling Project Development

Construction on the Islanders’ new arena and surrounding retail development project at Belmont Park remains on schedule to start as early as next spring, according to an Empire State Development timeline presented at a board meeting Monday.

The environmental review process at Belmont, which began this year, is “working toward completing” a draft environmental impact statement by the end of the year, said Thomas Conoscenti, ESD vice president for real estate and development.

Conoscenti added that he expects the final environmental impact statement to be done “by the second quarter 2019,” which begins April 1.

ESD, the state agency responsible for economic growth, provided the Belmont update at a meeting of the state’s Franchise Oversight Board, which monitors the New York Racing Association.

Technically, FOB owns the land at Belmont and, after the environmental review process, must approve the plan so ESD can lease the land to the Islanders’ group. FOB consists of five members appointed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

ESD’s update on the status of the Belmont project comes a week after hundreds of residents appeared at the Elmont Memorial Library for a question-and-answer session with officials from ESD and New York Arena Partners, the Islanders’ development team. The group includes Sterling Project Development, a real estate firm run by the Mets’ Wilpon family, and Oak View Group, an arena development company backed financially by Madison Square Garden.

At the Elmont Library Q&A meeting, the developers unveiled their “preferred plan” that places the retail portion of the project on the south side of Hempstead Turnpike and includes a new 150-foot cap on the height of the project’s hotel, cutting it by about 10 stories.

Developers also said they support finding a new location for a power substation that had been planned behind Bellerose Elementary School.

Residents expressed concern over traffic on local streets and the Cross Island Parkway and wanted more details about the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s stated intention to increase train service to the Belmont LIRR station.

The Islanders’ project calls for an 18,000-seat arena, 435,000 square feet of retail space, restaurants, a movie theater and a 250-room hotel. It also includes 30,000 square feet of office space, 10,000 square feet of community space and 8.5 acres of public open space.

National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman also said two weeks ago that he expects the Islanders’ group to break ground in early 2019, “based on everything I’ve been told.”

New York Sports