Belmont Arena developers move comment deadline

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The Floral Park village board has more time to submit comments for the Belmont project. (Photo by Tom McCarthy)

The due date for public comments concerning the environmental impact statement for the Belmont Arena project has been postponed after a slight error on the part of the state agency overseeing the project, Floral Park Mayor Dominic Longobardi said.

While the deadline to review the over 8,000-page document was originally set for Tuesday, July 23, at noon, it is now set for Aug. 1 at noon. Longobardi said he received an email from the Empire State Development team at 4:30 p.m. Monday that it had left a public comment section out of the report, so the developers have delayed the due date.

“The ESD is saying they left a section out,” Longobardi said.

Jack Sterne, Press Secretary for Empire State Development, said in a statement, “On Monday, ESD issued a notice re-certifying the completion of the project’s FEIS after identifying two minor clerical errors over the weekend. The corrected documents have been posted and hard copies distributed, and we are extending the public feedback period through August 1st to provide New Yorkers with further opportunity to comment.”

Sterne said that this action will have no impact on the milestones of the project such as opening the arena.

The public comment periods for both the project’s Draft Scope and Draft Environmental Impact Statement and General Project Plan were extended in the past, Sterne said. Sterne also said that during the Belmont Redevelopment project, Empire State Development has held 11 public meetings and hearings for public comments.

Sterne said that the minor errors were that a copy of a public hearing transcript was inadvertently omitted from an appendix and that an incorrect version of a computer rendering was included in Chapter 6.

Originally, the Floral Park Board of Trustees was slated to submit its final comments on the proposed project Tuesday, but now it will continue to review the document until the due date. The village board has been critical of the time between the publication of the statement on July 8 and the original comment deadline of July 23.

“The FEIS is north of 8,000 pages long and the time allotted to review it is extremely short,” Deputy Mayor Kevin Fitzgerald said about the impact statement at the July 16 board meeting.

“We’re not going to submit comments until the last minute,” Longobardi said.

At last week’s village board meeting, the board said it was exploring its legal options over safety and traffic concerns and drafting its own comments. The members also asked Floral Park residents to submit comments if they have strong opinions on the Belmont Arena.

“There are options for us. We are exploring those options. We have not made any decisions on what legal options we are going to move towards yet,” Longobardi said.

In an interview, Longobardi said he still has concerns but noted “these are all generalities.” He said the traffic management plan for the project would involve the use of GPS programs such as Waze to predict and regulate traffic, which Longobardi said he was skeptical about relying on.

On July 8, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a new LIRR station that will be located between the Queens Village and Bellerose stations just east of the Cross Island Parkway to accompany the Belmont Arena.  Longobardi said, “The train station may help alleviate parking, but it is not studied.”

He said the state’s plan is that the train station will help relieve traffic concerns, but Longobardi said the village is reviewing this.

He is also worried about the effects that a 24-hour train station may have on the Floral Park-Bellerose school district, specifically concerning a traffic tunnel near the schools. As far as research on the positives and negatives of the train station, Longobardi said, “that would have to be done.”

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