When Town Politics Cost The Taxpayers Money

My daughter and son-in-law are in Massachusetts this weekend for a junior hockey tournament. It is a real junior tournament–my grandson in seven years old. They live in New York and are avid New York Islanders fans. My daughter has not forgotten her New England roots–she supports the Patriots and the Red Sox, but she has defected to the Islanders in hockey.

Needless to say, they were not happy with the recent announcement that the Islanders will be moving from Long Island to Brooklyn. Yes, I know Brooklyn is on Long Island, but it is a very different world. My son-in-law directed me to an article in the bleacherreport which explains the history of the Islanders and the reason they are moving. Unfortunately, it comes down to county politics and bad reporting by local news sources.

The quest for a new arena for the Islanders began in the 1990’s under owners Gluckstern and Milstien.

The article reports:

The Gluckstern-Milstien disaster can basically be seen as the Islanders ownership group trying to have the Nassau Coliseum condemned, so they could break the lease with Nassau County and try to strong-arm the construction of a new arena.

As we all know, you cannot strong-arm your way through Nassau County red tape and Town of Hempstead politics.

They moved the Islanders offices out of the building, claiming it was unsafe to inhabit, and said the Islanders would not play any games in the arena. They even went so far as to say that the scoreboard was in danger of falling from the ceiling.

Needless to say, that was not a good beginning to the story. Charles Wang become a part owner of the Islanders in 2000. He bought out his partner, Sanjay Kumar , in 2004. Mr. Wang’s first attempt to improve the area around the arena was the Lighthouse project–a privately funded project that would have provided jobs for construction workers and much needed lower-to-mid-cost housing. He would have created an area similar to Patriot Place in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

The article reports:

Ultimately, the project was given Nassau County approval. It was given New York State approval. Then it fell to the governing body known as the Town of Hempstead. Surely this would not be an issue, right? Surely they could see the benefits of such a project? Surely they would work with Mr. Wang to get this deal done?

Wrong. Instead of trying to work with Mr. Wang and his Lighthouse project, the Town of Hempstead had the audacity to come up with their own vision of what they thought should be built there, going so far as to present an artist’s rendering. 

Excuse me? Since when does a publicly-elected governing body tell a private developer what he can build? They presented a zoning plan that cut down the project to such a level that not only did Charles Wang not see the value in it, no one else has seen the value in it either.

The next suggestion–a taxpayer-funded arena–was voted down by voters last year. That was the final nail in the coffin. The vote was the result of news reporting that told frightened voters that their taxes would greatly increase if they voted for the new arena. The reports failed to mention the possibility that if there was no new arena, the Islanders might find a more friendly environment, and taxes would go up anyway.

I don’t particularly like to idea of the public funding sports arenas, but I a can see that Charles Wang had no reason to rebuild an arena he did not own. This could have been totally avoided had the lighthouse project been approved.

Something to think about–votes have consequences.

Enhanced by Zemanta