Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky told Newsday on Thursday he remains optimistic about beginning construction soon on the team’s planned new arena at Belmont Park.
“We're looking forward to breaking ground this summer,” he said. “That's the best way to put it.''
Ledecky’s comments come as Empire State Development, the state agency coordinating the project, acknowledged Thursday that the next step in the timeline — the release of the final environmental impact statement — will not take place on schedule. ESD has long said the environmental report would be produced by the end of the second quarter, which is Sunday.
ESD spokesman Jack Sterne said in a statement that the environmental report will be released in July, which won’t affect the construction timeline. The release of the final environmental report is the final step before the project begins the approval stage and construction can begin.
“We know that Long Islanders feel passionately about this project, and we are in the process of scheduling a board meeting in July specifically to release the Final Environmental Impact Statement,” Sterne said. “Fans, community members and local leaders can rest assured that at this time, we do not expect any major effect on the arena’s scheduled opening.”
The arena is projected to be open for the Islanders’ 2021-22 season. Ledecky has previously said that recently built hockey arenas have been constructed in 20-to-24 month windows.
Ledecky, who was attending the Tom Seaver ceremony at Citi Field Thursday, said he didn’t have a target date for the groundbreaking and insisted there was no significant holdup in the timeline.
“No hitches,” Ledecky said. “Full steam ahead.”
The final environmental report of the project, which also includes a 250-room hotel and 435,000-square feet of retail, is expected to address additional efforts to mitigate the concerns raised by residents of surrounding communities during three days of public hearings in January.
Most of the concerns were about added traffic in an already congested area, and most of the public attention since then has been focused on expanding the Long Island Rail Road service there.
Sources told Newsday in April that ESD is studying the possibility of building a full-time Long Island Rail Road station to the main line, which runs just north of Belmont.
That development came in response to public outcry regarding the limitations of the current part-time LIRR station at Belmont, which is located on a spur off the main line and requires riders from the east to transfer at Jamaica.
A potential new LIRR station at Belmont on the main line would be in addition to the two additional trains the LIRR has already committed to run from Jamaica to the existing Belmont Park part-time station before and after arena events, sources said.
State Sens. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck) and Leroy Comrie (D-Queens), who represent areas surrounding Belmont, expressed their support for the Islanders’ project in a statement last week, citing how “discussions of a full-service LIRR station to serve the community are progressing."