The loss of the Islanders highlights the serious implications poor land use planning has on the region. However, while an easy scapegoat, Nassau County is not solely to blame. Instead, a cocktail of different factors are the reason why Nassau County is no longer home to the New York Islanders.
First, Nassau County could not get out of their own way. The Lighthouse proposal was reliant upon density that on Manhattan-esque proportions because the commercial development had to offset the costs of the new coliseum. Simply put, Nassau made a promise to Wang it couldn’t keep because they never controlled the land to begin with.
On Long Island, zoning and land use restrictions are controlled by local government, not the County. The Town of Hempstead, regardless if they were in on the conversations or not, rejected the proposal on the typical Long Island grounds: Traffic concerns and density. The County’s failed referendum was a gross misstep, especially concerning the economic conditions and the high tax burden Nassau’s residents already have. It is unrealistic to expect residents to use their tax dollars to pay for a quasi-public/private entity in a deep recession. While the County has had ample opportunity to redevelop the site, the Town of Hempstead proved to be oppositional, despite their claims of opening up the zoning.
If Long Island is to craft its own identity, separate from that of the “principal suburb of New York City”, our policymakers need to craft comprehensive redevelopment plans that are outside of the box, and most importantly, realistic to implement. As with any comprehensive planning process, stakeholders and residents must be brought in early on, and the process must be completely transparent. Only then will things get done, and redevelopment can happen.
The Barclays Center is a stunning redevelopment in the heart of Brooklyn. The site is easily accessible by mass transit, and anchors new development in the area. The smaller setting will provide a more intimate experience for fans. In the end, the fans of the Isles win, and Nassau County and the Town of Hempstead lose.