The Lightouse Project Outreach Event: Recap and Thoughts

Eddie O'MalleyContributor IMarch 26, 2009

UNIONDALE, NY - OCTOBER 11: Pregame cermenoies before the St. Louis Blues took on the New York Islanders included youth hockey players holding an American flag during the national anthem on October 11, 2008 at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

On Thursday night, the Lighthouse Project developers held the 180th Lighthouse Project outreach event at the Marriott in Uniondale.  These events have been designed to educate everyone on the plan itself.

There seemed to be more emphasis on this particular meeting though, as the Islanders sent out emails and promotions about the event.

Several bloggers, including myself, wrote blogs about the event telling people to show up if they can to support both the team and the project.

Several people spoke during the event.  Islanders owner, Charles Wang, started everything off.  He walked up to the podium to a standing ovation from the packed ballroom, which had to have 1,000 people in attendance.

Wang said not to bet against Long Island, and that he believes this project will get done.

After RXR executive Scott Rechler and Nassau County executive Tom Suozzi were both introduced and spoke, a six minute video about the Lighthouse Project was played.

Then the floor was opened to questions from people in attendance. 

A 92-year-old man, who has lived on Long Island his entire life, kicked things off.  He said he is shocked that this project has yet to begin and that Long Island needs to get this done. 

Next up was a young middle school student who brought a petition from his school supporting the Lighthouse.  He presented the petition to Wang.

There were many others who spoke.

One man read an excerpt from the Declaration of Independence, then demanded Kate Murray's resignation.  Suozzi and Wang quickly got behind her and said the forum is not about Democrats and Republicans and that everyone has to work together to accomplish the goals.

Former Isles greats Bob Nystrom and Mike Bossy were both in attendance and spoke to the crowd as well.

President of Building and Construction Trades Jim Castellane also spoke.  He got the crowd worked up by getting everyone behind the project to stand—95 percent of the room stood up in response.

One couple did say they were against the project. The woman said she does not want it in her backyard.  A few tense seconds followed this comment before things moved on to the next speaker.

A man asked what would happen if this project does not get done.  Suozzi answered by saying a refurbished Coliseum alone would not generate enough revenue, and it would be almost impossible for the Islanders to remain on Long Island.

Bishop Harris from Uniondale also spoke.  He said God is in favor of the Lighthouse.

Finally, many politicians also spoke in support of the Lighthouse.  However, no one from the Town of Hempstead spoke.

I left the meeting somewhat disappointed.  I went there tonight hoping that, at the very least, a new lease on the arena and the surrounding land was going to be announced between Isles owner Charles Wang and Nassau County executive Tom Suozzi.  There was no such announcement made on the lease.

There are also questions about what happens if Oct. 2009 rolls around and there is still no agreement between Wang and the Town of Hempstead. 

Does this mean that next season would be the last for the Islanders on Long Island?  Probably not. 

I think at that juncture, if it comes to that, is when Wang will start to look at other options, such as building an arena in Queens near the newly-constructed Citi Field in the Willets Point redevelopment. 

What I was happy about was the amount of people who showed up.  The room was packed, and almost everyone was in support of the project.

There were some rumors that the Town of Hempstead was trying to get people not in support to show up and voice their opinion.

Either this was a false rumor, or there are fewer people in opposition of the project than Kate Murray thinks.

There were also a lot of worker union reps in attendance who backed the project.

Suozzi also said that we will know in a couple of weeks if the project is on course, when they are supposed to answer the 6,000-page report that was submitted by Wang and Scott Rechler at the environmental scope hearing.

All of this will keep the pressure on the Town of Hempstead to get this project approved.

And even though there are still a lot of questions left unanswered, I have to give Charles Wang a ton of credit.  He has shown an amount of patience over the last seven years that few people would be able to show—maybe too much patience.

Wang is also very passionate about Long Island and the Islanders.  He saved them nine years ago when he bought the team, and has lost the shirt off his back, losing $20 to $30 million a year on the team.

If in the end this team moves, I cannot put any blame on Wang.  Nor would it be fair to. Anyone who would blame him is a fool, because he has done everything he can to try and keep this team on Long Island.

The blame will fall solely on the shoulders of Kate Murray and the Town of Hempstead.

For now, all we can do is sit back and wait to see if the Town of Hempstead responds to the report in a couple of weeks.  Hopefully they do, and then the project will continue to make the necessary progress by Oct. 2009.