State approves New York Islanders Belmont arena

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The $1.3 billion arena to house the New York Islanders in Belmont Park was approved last Thursday by the key state agency amid strong calls of support and disapproval. 

“Today, the Empire State Development board voted to approve a major project which will turn underutilized parking lots at Belmont Park into a world-class destination and the new home of the New York Islanders,” ESD Chairman Howard Zemsky said. 

He continued, “We are proud of the open, public process this project has gone through over the last two years, strengthened by the input and support of community members who made their voices heard and helped improve the plan, resulting in today’s positive outcome.”

The six members of the state board voted to approve the project at 5 p.m. Aug. 8 after hosting two hours of public comments in Manhattan. 

The New York Arena Partners’ proposal includes a 19,000-square-foot arena, 350,000 square feet of shops and restaurants, a hotel containing 250 rooms and parking on 43 acres of vacant state-owned property at Belmont Park.

ESD spokesman Jack Sterne said that while the project is approved, the state’s Franchise Oversight Board still needs to accept the project’s environmental review for construction this Tuesday. The state’s Public Authorities Control Board approved the state’s acquisition of the property from the Franchise Oversight board July 31.

“We are committed to continuing to work with New York Arena Partners, community members, and local leaders to deliver on the thousands of jobs and billions in economic activity this project will create,” Zemsky said.

Many of the speakers, representing the New York Islanders or Elmont were very positive about the opportunities the project will bring to their community, except for the two speakers representing Floral Park. Floral Park Deputy Mayor Kevin Fitzgerald and Trustee Lynn Pombonyo reiterated Floral Park’s call for more time to review the project. 

Just before the deadline for the public comment section for the project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement, the village of Floral Park appealed for a supplemental impact statement to address new additions to the project, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcement of a train station in the north parking lot of Belmont Park to support the project. The board does not plan on issuing a supplemental environmental impact statement at the moment. 

The village has been ambiguous in the past about legal actions, with Mayor Dominick Longobardi saying at an Aug. 5 news conference that the village has “options” that it is pursuing if the project moves forward, which could include legal action. In a Newsday interview, Fitzgerald said “all options are still on the table.”

 

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