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Referendum to be held August 1st

by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
After much debate, the Nassau County Legislature voted 11-7 in favor of placing a $400 million dollar bond referendum on the ballot Aug. 1. The public referendum gives Nassau County residents the chance to invest in their future by expanding and improving the area surrounding Nassau Coliseum known as ‘the Hub.’ This includes a new arena and a minor league ballpark.

“It’s important that we take this step,” Islanders Owner Charles Wang said in a post-hearing press conference. “Today’s vote is to make sure that the tax payers, the citizens, have the opportunity to decide. That’s all it is. There are a lot of details and we’re working through (them)… but by the middle of June, we’ll have all the details. This is what we’re working towards. Today is a great first day.”

Legislator Denise Ford, who presides over the Fourth District and is also a Chair on the Economic & Community Development & Labor board, was one proponent for the passing of the referendum. She explained why she believes the referendum should be a stand-alone election and that the County can not delay the vote by three or four months, reinforcing her belief that time is of the essence.

Held at the Nassau County Legislature Building on Tuesday, May 31, 2011, members of the Nassau County Legislature preside over the hearing which placed the $400 million bond referendum on the ballot for Aug. 1, 2011.
“I think we’re going to rely on our unions and a lot of our young people and a lot of organizations to get the word out about this vote because it is an extremely important vote,” Legislator Ford said. “If it is that important to them, then they will make it a point to get to the polls on August 1st.”

Ford continued to site the importance of the vote by noting the quantity of young people in the audience and showing a pattern of local people, including the young, leaving Nassau County.

“We are going to count on a lot of our young people and I see a lot of them sitting out in the audience right now,” Legislator Ford said. “This is their future. We have seen time and time again, studies that have been done since I have been in this office, the flight of young people out of Nassau County.”

Many representatives from the local labor trades also spoke about how a new sports complex would help Long Islanders get jobs and decrease the unemployment in Nassau County. Kevin Connors, a business agent for Local Union No. 28 sheet metal workers and also the Chairman for the Nassau Board of Business Agents, was one of those representatives.

“Before you make a decision, I’d like to make you aware of a few facts,” Connors said. “These two projects will put a major dent in the unemployment in Nassau County by providing 3,500 building trades jobs to people living here on Long Island... What I’m talking about is local jobs for local people, voting and tax paying people.”

Prior to Tuesday afternoon’s hearing, and for the first time since County Executive Edward P. Mangano and Wang’s announcement earlier this month, an Islanders player spoke to the public about the need for a new Coliseum in Nassau County.

“It’s a great turnout, great crowd (and) great enthusiasm today. That’s what we need to get this thing done,” Mike Mottau said as he began speaking to Islanders fans, labor union workers and local business owners in the parking lot of Borrelli’s pizzeria across the street from Nassau Coliseum.

Mark O'Connell, the drummer from Taking Back Sunday, also spoke at the rally, saying that it was always his dream as a local artist, to perform at Nassau Coliseum and that one day he hopes his band will have that opportunity again.

Mottau, an Isles defenseman, is just one player who’s signed as a free agent in the last few seasons, inking a two-year deal last September.

Islanders defenseman Mike Mottau speaks to the public about the importance of the Nassau County Legislature's vote on the bond referendum, which will provide funds for a new arena, in the parking lot of Borrelli's pizzeria on Hempstead Turnpike on Tuesday, May 31, 2011.
He said, “The Coliseum, from a player’s point of view, from the locker rooms to the quality of the ice, the boards, the glass, the benches and from beyond that, the fans perspective of the seats, the concourses, the concessions, it just does not add up and it does not compare to any of the other arenas in the league. As Islanders fans and as players, we deserve more.”

And as one of just eight players in the National Hockey League to have played for all three metro-area teams, the six-year NHL veteran knows what it’s like to be an Islanders player, but also a player from the visiting team.

“As a visiting player coming in, I can tell you all you see is the Coliseum,” Mottau said. “With this young group of talented players we have and are building towards the future, it’s very important to be able to attract top tier free agents. Without a new building, you’re unable to do that. We have complete optimism towards next year… We will make the playoffs next year.”

He continued, “This is an exciting time to not only be a player, but also be a fan. Starting with this group of core young players, it’s a snowball effect. We build this new arena, we get some top-end free agents and we return this franchise back to where it belongs.”

Mottau explained his pride and passion for wearing the Islanders jersey, but that he sees a lot of the same attributes from the people within our community, who will be able to “put a stamp on Long Island” by building “something that they’re proud of” and ensuring “the future success of the franchise.”

He concluded, “That pride and that passion will be there forever, but the time is now. The time is now to pass this referendum, to put it in the hands of the voters and to ensure the future success of this franchise.”
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