Last time it was “Just Build It.” This time it was “Just Zone It.”
Islanders’ Owner and Lighthouse Principal Charles B. Wang was welcomed by the thousands in attendance with a standing ovation as he addressed the Town of Hempstead Board at the Hofstra University Adams Playhouse Tuesday morning.
“We are at a defining moment, one that will determine Long Island’s future,” Wang said as he introduced an inspiring video presentation that showed highlights of the project and was filled with testimonials from Islander legend Mike Bossy, local business owners and children. “Our project can be a catalyst for tax generation and job opportunities,” he added.
At the last meeting on August 4, those in attendance were given to the opportunity to voice their thoughts on the environmental impact of the project. Tuesday’s meeting focused on the zoning of the entire project, including building height, traffic, and the benefits of multi-use developments and smart growth. Supporters filled the theater to have their voices heard in regards to the necessity and urgency for approval of the project.
The proposed Lighthouse Project will generate 19,000 permanent jobs and 75,000 construction jobs.
“We are facing the worst economic times that Long Island has ever seen. I personally have 35 percent unemployment,” said labor leader Jim Castellane. “We need to show the rest of the world what Nassau County can do, this is the time to shine.”
As Castellane concluded, close to a hundred labor men and women chanted “Just Build It.”
“If we had the Lighthouse built today, you would be able to attract companies that are going elsewhere - and make Long Island strong for the future," said Lighthouse Project Principal Scott Rechler.
Among the issues raised, traffic was one of the biggest concerns.
“We have 2,000 pages of traffic studies,” said Rechler. “If there is traffic, we’re not going to get our customers to our businesses and to our games. We are fully aligned with the community as an existing neighbor and are fully sensitive to it.”
The developers guaranteed the board and the community that they have invested numerous hours into traffic studies and finding ways for improvement. The developers spoke to the importance of a mixed-use development in terms of traffic; retail, restaurants, and bars would allow for people to arrive at events and games earlier and stay after.
While many raised concerns about competition with local businesses and changes to the suburban landscape, the developers assured them that the project would revitalize Long Island.
“We’re losing our companies and we’re not even in competition for attracting companies regionally. This is not meant to be competitive. It is meant to enhance the lives of the people who come here,” said Rechler. “Yes, this is going to change the complexion of the Town of Hempstead and that is our objective.”
Speaking of the existing site, he added, “It is not a park, it is not a beautiful community, it is a parking lot.”
“What we’re hoping to get approval on is a new vision of what we can do. We love our houses and the green grass and sitting in our backyards,” added Wang. “However, we need to keep our children on Long Island…we’re not giving them the opportunity to create the jobs and careers that they want.”
The Board challenged Wang’s October 3 certainty deadline, asking him if he believed that was enough time to thoroughly review the scope of the project.
“Absolutely,” he responded. “If you have to work 24/7, we will work with you.”
While Wang has designated the start of the hockey season as his deadline for certainty, he made it clear that Long Island is where the Islanders and the Lighthouse belong.
“I’ve had many opportunities to explore other options but we have not done that. I’m a Long Islander.”