The following comments were submitted on May 30, 2018 to the members of the Suffolk County Legislature’s Economic Development Committee. Interested in supporting The Foggiest Idea’s award-winning reporting and analysis? Click here.
To members of the Suffolk County Legislature’s Economic Development Committee –
My name is Richard Murdocco, and I writing regarding the development of the 40-acre site between Long Island MacArthur Airport and the LIRR’s Ronkonkoma station.
As part of the research process for its award-winning body of analytical and reported work on Long Island’s land use issues, The Foggiest Idea regularly reviews proposals for the various development projects that are being considered by policymakers across the Nassau/Suffolk region. I’ve written on this particular proposal extensively, with one of my recent op-eds on the subject being featured in the April 30th edition of Newsday.
Ronkonkoma Vision Project’s concept raises significant planning concerns. These issues must be factored into the decision-making process as this legislative committee weighs whether or not to grant a memorandum of agreement to Jones Lang LaSalle and the development group.
Most pressing is the question of whether or not there was true public involvement and community input with not only the formulation of the arena concept itself, but the county’s selection process. The RFQ was formally chosen on the county’s behalf by a group of unelected officials late on a Sunday evening – and many, including some of your legislative colleagues reading Newsday the next day, were surprised to learn that a final decision had been made.
Second is the economic viability of an arena that seems to lack a cohesive business plan. Given the site’s close proximity to Madison Square Garden, the Barclays Center, the newly renovated Nassau Coliseum, and a soon-to-be-constructed venue at Belmont Park, the notion of market saturation on Long Island is a significant concern. This issue is further amplified by the low likelihood of a franchise team, who would serve as the venue’s anchor tenant, calling an arena at Ronkonkoma home.
Third is the question of how such an arena would fit within the larger fabric of the Nassau/Suffolk region. Questions that must be answered include – Does the project complement the transit-oriented development currently already underway at Ronkonkoma? How does the arena concept fit in with the other large regional projects in the developmental pipeline, including the proposed Heartland Town Square in the Town of Islip, Syosset Park in the Town of Oyster Bay, and New York State’s vision for Belmont Park?
It is critical that the members of this committee not only think regionally about the merits of this particular concept and the qualifications of the developer who would build it, but also think locally about the process in which Ronkonkoma Vision Project’s proposal was selected.
Any proposal for this unique site should be the genesis of true community-based planning efforts – not the pursuit of a legacy project that left many Long Islanders in the dark.
The Foggiest Idea Inc.