“Just build it! Just build it! Just build it!” The chant echoed throughout the parking lot of Nassau Coliseum and onto the Hempstead Turnpike as a crowd of Lighthouse supporters rallied together early Tuesday morning.
It was the morning of the long-awaited Lighthouse Project public hearing at the Adams Playhouse on the campus of Hofstra University. Hundreds of Islander fans, laborers, and Lighthouse supporters gathered in the parking lot of the Nassau Coliseum to rally in support of the project and march to the public hearing.
New York Islanders Owner Charles Wang spoke at the rally and thanked everyone for coming out and showing their support for the project, urging the crowd to not let up in their support.
“We’re not there yet,” Wang said. “Don’t let up the pressure. We have to keep it going until we get that shovel in the ground.”
The Lighthouse is expected to create 75,000 construction jobs and 19,000 permanent jobs upon its completion, and laborers and union members were out in full force in hopes that the creation of these jobs will come for Long Islanders. Labor leaders John Durso and Jim Castellane emotionally addressed the crowd to convey just how necessary these construction jobs are.
“On Long Island, the building and construction trade council is facing 35 percent unemployment,” Castellane said. “One of the reasons we’re here today and you’re here today is because you’re not working. It’s very serious that in your heart you believe that you should stay on Long Island, work on Long Island, and these jobs should come to Long Island. We must get behind them, we must support them, we must help them and we must go to work on the Lighthouse project.”
Howie Rose-- the MC of the event-- rallied the numerous fans and talked about the Islander pride that has existed on Long Island for years and that should stay on Long Island for years to come.
“You know what I feel here?” Rose asked. “The same thing you have to feel, do you feel the energy here? Do you feel momentum building? We’ve all had some special times at the Coliseum, but it’s time. It’s time for a state of the art building. There’s something in the Islander organization that every young player learns about when he becomes an Islander--and that’s Islander pride.”
One of the founders of that Islander pride is Bob Nystrom, and he spoke at the rally to show his support.
“We’ve got to get this done,” Nystrom said. “We cannot afford to lose the Islanders because they are a symbol of Long Island and a symbol of pride.”
When the rally was over, the crowd of supporters began their march down Hempstead Turnpike over to the Adams Playhouse for the hearing. People who drove by honked their horns to show their support, and were met by cheers from the crowd. Amongst them were young Islander forwards Josh Bailey
and Joel Rechlicz, who were both thrilled by the turnout for the rally.
“I think it’s awesome,” Rechlicz said. “It means a lot to the organization and the community and I think its great to see all the fans out here early in the morning. I think the project in general is going to bring some serious excitement to the community, the fans, and the players as well.”
The rally ended and the hearing began as the crowd piled into the Adams Playhouse for the start of a very important step in what looks to become a bright future for the Lighthouse Project and the Islanders.