Dear Fellow Resident,
As a response to the Village’s challenge under Article 78 to the development project at Belmont, the Empire State Development Corp (“ESD”) and New York Arena Partners (“NYAP”) filed papers with the court to request a dismissal of our challenge. Mr. Michael Murphy, Esq., counsel for the Village at Beveridge & Diamond, was correctly quoted in Newsday as saying the Village “will respond in due course and vigorously defend the Village’s claims and its right to protect its residents and community from the severe impacts this project poses.”
I would like to call to our residents’ attention a quote from the aforementioned filings where ESD and NYAP stated that the Village is “an unalterable and steadfast foe of the Belmont Park Redevelopment Project.” This comment is patently not true and extremely disingenuous. Neither I, the Village Board, the Belmont Task Force or our residents, from when the request for proposal was first issued to today have ever stated that we were against development at Belmont Park. We have worked to segregate the New York Islanders from this development project and welcome them to our community. And we have attempted to work with ESD, NYAP and the Governor’s Office to point out the detrimental effects the current plan has on our Village and our neighbors in surrounding communities. Do not be fooled by the massive public relations machine touting jobs and creating a new home for the Islanders. This is a development project to build an Arena for many events (as many as 200 or more large events per year), not just the Islander games, a full-scale outlet mall, a 250-key hotel, as well as restaurants and other activities. With all of this being said, we still did not oppose development. We simply asked that if you are going to develop, do not harm the surrounding communities and preserve the quality of life that earmarks our communities. This is the exact same stance we have maintained to this day. I would also add, as is our practice, we never discuss problems or issues without having thought out possible solutions which we continually sought to present to ESD and the development team.
The following highlights various efforts the Village has undertaken to ensure that development was positive for all involved.
- When the project was first “conditionally” approved by the ESD in 2017, Deputy Mayor Fitzgerald spoke at the ESD Board meeting. At that meeting, the ESD Chairman mentioned directly that the ESD was looking to bring a “very collaborative successful project to fruition that would benefit the Island and the contiguous communities”. Trustee Fitzgerald stated that the Village looked forward to working the NYAP and ESD to ensure that the project keeps Floral Park “the same if not improved” by the project.
- In early 2018, Village Administrator Bambrick, Police Commissioner McAllister, Deputy Mayor Fitzgerald and I took various senior members of ESD, Mr. John Ledecky, owner of the New York Islanders, and members of the New York Islanders community relations team on a tour of the Village. During our meeting and tour we showed them first hand our concerns. However, never once at this meeting did we state we opposed the project. In fact, it was a very positive meeting to provide perspective to those involved as to issues and problems that could be caused by the project.
- Right after the tour, Village Administrator Bambrick, Police Commissioner McAllister, Deputy Mayor Fitzgerald, members of the Belmont Task Force and I met with various senior members of ESD. Also in attendance was Richard Browne, a managing partner of Sterling Equities (majority shareholder of NYAP). A frank and open discussion was had regarding issues and concerns and it included ideas on how to help alleviate the issues and concerns raised. At no time was any opposition to the project discussed. Again another positive meeting with the hope that our concerns and issues would actually be addressed.
- At every public event, community meeting and every time I spoke to the press, I specifically mentioned that, “We are not against the New York Islanders and we are not against development at Belmont Park as long as it did not cause harm to Floral Park or our neighbors.”We have been very cautious to ensure that we do not create a situation where we lose focus that this is a development project for land owned by you, the taxpayers of NY State. Since this land belongs to all of us, any development project should not hurt our quality of life in any way.
- All of you, our great residents and business owners, submitted thousands of letters to ESD in response to the DEIS stating three major concerns. Each of these letters ended with a request to “reduce the scale of the project so that the significant harmful impacts to our community can be avoided.” This was important because each and every issue that has been raised about this development project relates to the size and expansion of this project from the original plan discussed by ESD.
- Attempts were made to schedule a meeting with the Governor’s office during August and even into September. Media outlets would have you believe that we didn’t want to meet with the Governor or his staff. This is absolutely untrue. A meeting was scheduled for mid-September with high-ranking members of the Governor’s staff. When construction activities started, our attempts to move that meeting to an earlier date were met with serious resistance from all related parties. There was absolutely no reason we could not have met earlier. Our negotiations regarding the 3rd track project enabled us to put many protections in for our Village while providing for a speedier and more cohesive project as well. It has been said that these negotiations actually improved the 3rd track project. With this model, we attempted to work towards protecting our Village and creating a better project for the Belmont redevelopment. Unfortunately, we had to protect our community and, as the development project progressed at a rapid rate, we had to ensure that our community had some protections against the anticipated detrimental effects. Thus, we filed the Article 78 proceeding/action with the court. I urge you not to be fooled by the media and others that we did not want to meet. We are still willing to meet and work towards a common goal of protecting our quality and way of life while creating a development at Belmont Park beneficial to all.
Every one of us should take exception to being called an “unalterable and steadfast foe” when what we are clearly doing is simply following the laws and processes (e.g. SEQRA) of our great State of NY that were put in place to allow impacted residents and communities to express their concerns and expect reasonable solutions to mitigate those concerns. As we have always said, we are not against development. But that development should never sacrifice the safety, security and quality of life we all work so hard for and have chosen for our families. Thank you to everyone for your continued efforts and support as we work to keep Floral Park that “Great Place to Live, Work and Raise a Family!!”
Dominick A. Longobardi