By Tom Liodice
|Islanders owner Charles B. Wang |
More than 1,000 people jammed into the Grand Ballroom at the Long Island Marriott in Uniondale for the Lighthouse Development Group’s 180th Community Outreach Meeting.
Islanders owner Charles B. Wang was greeted by the audience with a standing ovation.
“Don’t leave us!” a fan shouted.
“No, I’m not going to leave you,” Wang replied. “I’m running for office,” he joked.
The room erupted in laughter and the meeting was underway.
“We’re reaching out to the community to educate, to communicate, and to listen to see what input we can gather,” Wang said in his opening statement. “I’m not one to give up on Long Island. Don’t bet against us on Long Island. We can make it happen.”
The turnout was so large, that the retractable walls in the Ballroom had to be opened to allow for more people to fit into the room. Even with the expansion of the room, dozens of fans had to stand in the back, as the Ballroom could not seat everyone.
Among those in attendance were RXR Reality CEO and Chairman Scott Rechler, President of the Lighthouse Development Group Michael Picker and Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, as well as Islanders greats Mike Bossy and Bobby Nystrom.
Wang stressed how the previous 179 meetings have been crucial to the development of the Lighthouse project.
“It’s unprecedented that you would have 180 meetings,” Wang said. “We’ve listened to them very carefully. We’ve listened to a lot of input and some of you have seen some of the changes in terms of the design and things like that. This is all part of the process of listening to you and doing something about it.”
Later, Rechler talked about how important the Lighthouse Project is to Long Island.
|From left: Tom Suozzi, Scott Rechler and Michael Picker |
“The Lighthouse Project is the future of Long Island,” Rechler said. “What we do from this point forward, whether we’re successful or not successful—getting the approvals and moving forward—in our opinion is the defining moment for our community. We’re going to look back and say this is the moment when Long Island’s future was decided.”
Suozzi is a longtime proponent of the Project.
“This is the best sports deal in America,” he said, adding that Nassau County needs to grow, much like Suffolk County has. “We have to expand our tax base in a creative way. That’s what this project is all about.”
Before opening the room to questions from Long Island residents, Wang mentioned that patience is key for everyone. He then introduced a six and a half minute video that showed off highlights of the Project, in addition to getting across the sense of urgency to move forward.
“It will take time and it will take patience,” Wang said. “And it will take an understanding that when we all work together, when each of us looks beyond all of our short-term interests for the widest set of obligations we have towards each other, that’s when we succeed. That’s what’s needed right now.”
The question and answer period included Islanders fans, labor leaders, local politicians and concerned citizens. There was everything from passion for Long Island, outrage that it has taken so long to move the Project forward, appreciation over Wang’s patience with the process and excitement over the future that the Project promises.
“This is not just for the Islanders,” one speaker exclaimed. “This is for the Island!”
The final speaker of the night was Islanders legend Mike Bossy, who received a standing ovation.
“In 1977 I was drafted by the New York Islanders, and they drove me to the Nassau Coliseum and it was a big, beautiful place,” Bossy said. “I was fortunate enough to play for a hockey team that won four Stanley Cups. But ladies and gentleman, it’s time to let it go. It’s overdue for a transformation. The memories of the Stanley Cups in that particular building I will always have in my heart. The next time that we’re holding a Stanley Cup together, it would be in a transformed Nassau Coliseum.”