Right this very minute, Nassau County residents are voting on whether to let the county borrow up to $400 million to build a new arena for the Islanders, as well as a new Minor League baseball stadium. Newsday has a Q&A about the referendum, in case you haven't been following along, but in short, if the measure fails, it could well mean the end of the Islanders on Long Island. (Their lease in the rundown Nassau Coliseum expires in 2015.) Proponents say the project will create 3,000 permanent jobs; opponents, meanwhile, warn of property-tax hikes.
The measure has received support from the area's other hockey teams: Lou Lamoriello issused a statement last week urging Nassau County residents to vote "yes," and Madison Square Garden owner and Long Island resident Jim Dolan appeared in a commercial with other well-known figures to show his support. (Sadly, to the best of our knowledge, JD and the Straight Shot was not involved in last week's pro-arena concert.)
From a Newsday editorial encourging readers to vote "yes":
Building the arena gets something started, creates hundreds of construction jobs and gives the Hub a vibrant new anchor. Doing more there will take a better economy and a partnership with the Town of Hempstead, which controls the zoning for it. The lack of those things is what killed [Islanders owner Charles] Wang's privately financed Lighthouse Project, which this editorial page enthusiastically supported. The economy will improve and the arena must be in place to capture that upside.
The loudest arguments against the deal contradict each other. Opponents portray this as both a boondoggle that will cost the county its shirt and a windfall that will make Wang a fortune. It can't be both, and it isn't either. The Islanders' fortunes are tied to the arena in this deal: They will suffer or prosper together.
The Daily News, meanwhile, encourages readers to vote "no" in an editorial today:
At a time when Nassau's books are so out of balance that it's under the supervision of a state control board, Mangano wants permission to borrow as much as $400 million.
At a time when Gov. Cuomo has capped property tax increases at 2% a year, this one bond issue alone could trigger a 3% hike.
Mangano claims the project will pay for itself, based on rosy projections of profit-sharing from Wang and an if-you-build-it-they-will-come anticipated surge in business development nearby.
But if this deal were such an obvious money-maker, Wang could raise cash the old-fashioned way - from investors and bankers - instead of trying to shake down beleaguered Nassau taxpayers.
We don't live in Nassau County, so we'll leave it to voters to decide which side they agree with. But the hockey fan in us can't help but call attention to this, from the Times, about the team's projections for the new arena: "The team and outside experts project attendance at the Coliseum to rise by about a third even as tickets prices increase. The Islanders make the assumption that they will host six playoff games a year, though the team has made the playoffs just four times since 1994." Seems a little optimistic, no?