Additions to the Belmont arena development plan are beginning to get out of hand, according to Floral Park’s elected officials.
“I know a lot of us probably think this is about the arena, the Islanders,” Deputy Mayor Kevin Fitzgerald said, “that’s how it started, but it has since morphed into something a lot bigger.”
Fitzgerald stood in front of more than 100 hundred people crowded into a room at the Floral Park recreation center last week, gathered for an information session to address the proposed redevelopment of Belmont Park into an arena.
The arena, which would serve as a home venue for the New York Islanders hockey team starting in the 2021-2022 NHL season, was the initial proposal.
“It’s called scope creep,” Fitzgerald explained. “When you start a project, you start with one idea and start putting more and more little ideas on top of it and when you get to the end you realize the project is a lot bigger than what you envisioned to start with.”
Since the 18,000 square foot arena was proposed, additions to the agenda include a 435,000 square foot mall, a 40,000 square foot power substation and a 250 room hotel, all of which were never mentioned in the initial plans.
A flier from the Belmont Task Force claims the development project is “ten pounds of development in a five-pound space,” and that “there is such a thing as too much.”
When Fitzgerald asked the Empire State Development team and members who would run the proposed mall at an earlier meeting date how many people they expected on a daily basis at Belmont, they said 18,000 to 20,000.
The arena and racetrack could see at least 100 nights a year with maximum capacity, according to information from the same meeting.
“How will Floral Park survive when the traffic that could be anticipated could be the same as that we see on a Belmont Stakes day?” Fitzgerald said.
A significant issue Fitzgerald brought up in presenting to residents was traffic congestion. The north lot of Belmont Park race track, which was also not originally intended for development, will only have an access point to the west, preventing it from being routed through Floral Park streets to the east.
“The only way out will be through and onto the Cross Island Parkway,” Fitzgerald said. “To get 3,000 cars out of that lot in a timely manner is a very narrow exit, and the on-ramps to the Cross Island from those lots only run about one to two hundred feet, a very short distance.”
Fitzgerald raised points of concern in his presentation over long-term construction disruption up to 28 months once the project breaks ground, the unknown impacts like an expansion project by NYRA, the New York Racing Association, and the effect it will have on concurrent projects in the area.
Floral Park Mayor Dominick Longobardi fielded questions from concerned residents over the changes to the village that could come with the full scope of the Belmont development.
“How much would it cost to build a wall,” Ken Guidice, of Elm Avenue, said, half-jokingly.
“The reality is, if push came to shove, I have a vision of these beautiful brick walls with flowers on top,” Longobardi said of the traffic on the west end. “If we had to, because this keeps evolving and changing we have got to make sure that we’re protected.”
Floral Park Village Justice Douglas Hayden voiced concerns of security, safety and health over the development.
“I think about the Long Island Rail Road, we still don’t have an answer on the third track in regards to the third track and the chemicals used to kill off the brush,” Hayden said. “And then this underground parking, is there a health concern there as well.”
“What can our local officials do to stop this,” James McGovern, of Crocus Street, said. “I think that’s a huge part of it.”
“If they know of our concerns, they can certainly express them,” Longobardi said. New York State Assemblyman Ed Ra was in attendance at the event, as well as representatives from Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages and Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen’s office, among others.
The 33-page Belmont Park Redevelopment Project Final Scope plan is available online on the Floral Park village website, and the Draft Environmental Impact Statement will be available in the coming weeks for study and comment.