Belmont Arena environmental impact study approved

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An artist's rendering of the Belmont Arena development. (Photo courtesy of New York Arena Partners)

Despite traffic congestion concerns, the Belmont Arena draft environmental impact study was approved last week by the Empire State Development Corp. Board of Directors.

One of the most discussed issues regarding the proposed development is transportation in the area.

“Does anyone at ESD with a straight face really believe that the pollution, traffic, dirt caused by 90,000 visitors on Belmont Stakes day is not relevant to whether 20,000 people for 150 nights a year or mega-mall won’t have a local impact?” Tammie Williams, a Belmont Park Community Coalition board member, said. 

A number of local intersections will experience significant adverse impacts, said Tom Conoscenti, real estate development and planning vice president for Empire State Development, the state’s economic development agency.

Of the 38 intersections that were studied, 29 are at risk of experiencing adverse impacts at different times in the week, according to the project’s draft environmental impact statement.

The development seeks to erect a 19,000-seat arena home for the New York Islanders, a retail space, a 150-foot-tall hotel that has been shrunk from the initial proposed 250 feet after community concerns, 7,000 parking spaces in three lots and a power substation. Community groups have voiced concerns over the growth of the scope of the development.

The study also found that there are unavoidable adverse impacts on the Cross Island Parkway, a major highway bordering the development, that cannot be mitigated, Conoscenti said.

Highway segments on the parkway were analyzed northbound and southbound between the Southern State Parkway and Jamaica Avenue. Thirty-seven segments were studied, and it was determined that up to 88 different adverse impacts are likely during weekday morning and evening peak hours as well as Saturday mid-day, evening and night, according to the environmental study.

The parkway already operates at congested or near-congested capacity at peak hours and would be the designated route for approximately 85 percent of those visiting the proposed project, the environmental study states. Widening the parkway is neither practical nor feasible, according to the study.

“The Cross Island Parkway is a bit more of a challenge,” Rachel Shatz, vice president of planning and environmental review for the development agency, said. The agency will pursue less conventional measures and strategies to influence traffic in the area, Shatz said.

Empire State Development plans to continue developing a transportation management plan “to influence the behavior of event-goers” involving staggering arrival times, carpooling and public transportation, among others to try and alleviate the strain that would be placed on parkway.

The 205-page board materials document, which outlines the environmental impact statement, was published online last Wednesday night ahead of the vote.

The Long Island Rail Road is expected to provide two trains operating from  Jamaica Station before and after each hockey game, Conoscenti said. Empire State Development also expects that the MTA and LIRR will cooperate with the New York Belmont Development Partners to automate track switches for improved service to the Belmont station. The partners will also contribute funding for the automation of the switches and train service.

The development agency will work with the LIRR to explore opportunities for a full-time station with east and westbound access to address the needs of commuters and local residents, particularly those concerned with the 3,000 permanent jobs the development would provide and the expected 45,000 daily visitors, Conoscenti said.

The construction would also create 10,000 temporary jobs, he said.

Belmont Park Community Coalition representative Norman Siegel addressed the board over the lack of a concrete solution to the traffic issue.

“What we’ve requested for over a year has not been addressed,” Siegel said. Another concern Siegel and Williams shared was the lack of information provided by Empire State Development about how the erection of stadiums and retail spaces has affected the surrounding communities.

The agency has failed to study the effects of arena developments in other areas of the country and whether or not they turned out to be economic generators, Williams said.

Williams said she has also been disappointed by Islanders owner Jon Ledecky, who has not been present at community meetings involving the development, according to the coalition.

“Shame on Jon Ledecky,” Williams said.

“The scope of this project has significantly changed since it was first proposed,” Village of Floral Park Deputy Mayor Kevin Fitzgerald said. In a community meeting this fall, Fitzgerald used the term “scope creep,” to describe what was occurring.

Fitzgerald expressed concern over the size of the development and particularly the potential of tailgating in the parking lots in the vicinity of the village’s schools and residential neighborhoods.

Traffic is already a significant problem in the village as a result of LIRR work that has recently begun for the third track expansion.

“To add another significant project would cripple our economics, traffic and the livelihood of our residents,” Fitzgerald said.

Kevin Flood, representing the West End Civic Association in Floral Park, said all of the village’s civic associations felt that the project is “incompatible with the character of Floral Park and share the belief that the proposed development will have a significant detrimental impact.”

Following the vote of approval, Empire State Development will move forward with the project, adopting the Proposed General Project Plan.

The agency scheduled three public hearings as a part of the next phase of the project.

Elmont Memorial Library will host all three public hearings, the first on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., the second Jan. 9 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and the last Jan. 10 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.. Written comments can be submitted until Feb. 11. Copies of the DEIS are available for public review at the library, as well as Floral Park Public Library and Queens libraries in Bellerose, Queens Village and Cambria Heights.

 

6 COMMENTS

  1. Fact check: The original plan included retail and a hotel (mixed-use) when it was announced last December and those did not grow in size. Fake news.

  2. I See, the island now should be called the Island Lie !! This Article Is Full Of inaccuracies. Its clear this is what you get when You report One Side of An Argument…
    I remember the days when Journalist Seeked the truth before going to print.
    Don’t believe Everything you read people, this is all about getting Views and Internet traffic. Not the Truth.

  3. My home is directly adjacent to the Cross Island Parkway. Every weekday the Parkway is very congested already with southbound traffic starting around 3:30pm and lasting unitl about 7:30pm. Since the Islander games usually begin around 7pm, the increased traffic will make the Cross Island Parkway and surrounding areas, a traffic nightmare. For years, the Islanders played at the Nassau Coliseum which has easier access and ample parking. Why spend our tax dollars on an unnecessary project.

    • Jerry, as nice as it’s been to have the Islanders play some games at the Coliseum, the renovations done to the building are relatively minor. Nothing was done to address the crush of people generated in the concourses. Even with the smaller capacity of the building trying to get through the throngs of people exiting the building at the end of a sold out event, whether it’s hockey or a concert, is still an ordeal that frankly worries me in the event of a catastrophe inside the building. There are fewer bathrooms and concessions, meaning it takes a great deal of time away from an event to attend to biological needs. It seems all the County got for that bidding process is a coat of black paint and some aluminum fins on the outside. Bringing the Coliseum up to the level of acceptability required to be the long-term home of a major professional sports team will require another large infusion of cash and another two years of work. And who pays for that? Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment manages the building, but if they were interested in putting that kind of effort into the building they would’ve done so five years ago. RXR has control of the development of the rest of the property, but not the Coliseum itself. The Islanders would be a tenant at the Coliseum, and only because BSE is essentially evicting them from Barclays Center, so there’s little incentive for ownership to pay that kind of money for a building they neither own nor control. And you’re certainly not going to get the taxpayers of Nassau County to accept the burden – the 2011 referendum vote to do just that is proof.

      This project will revitalize Belmont Park, which has long been in decline. Construction is 100% privately funded. Infrastructure improvements will be paid for out of a percentage of sales made at the development site over its lifetime. The infrastructure improvements required for the project would be required for any project on the site, and any project that brings more people to the Park will increase traffic. This is a project that has been necessary for a very long time – this was the fourth round of RFPs for the property – and will be a net benefit to the surrounding community, moreso than the current $300K in taxes generated by letting car dealers park their overflow inventory on a dilapidated parking lot.

    • Last time I checked, it was private money, the coliseum configuration isn’t up to full-time NHL standards, and this project has many benefits for Elmont such as a commitment to improve the neighborhood park with amenities the Town alone couldn’t offer. Any development would bring traffic regardless of whatever you’d want there. Traffic issues can always be handled, especially over time with any endeavor, the mindset for negativity and close-mindedness from the older generation needs to stop, especially if the positive entities outweigh the negatives.

    • Stop spreading misinformation, the project is privately funded, traffic would happen with any new development, and it is not unnecessary, Nassau does not have a full-scale entertainment venue that is also up to NHL league standards. If you educate yourself on the project, this brings many amenities to Elmont. They will completely upgrade the neighborhood Park with amenities the Town alone could not offer, it will provide a place of gathering with open spaces, restaurants, community center, and a place to hold functions and other activities that neighboring communities already have. So don’t be against a plan that you clearly are not fully aware of. Traffic issues can be worked out with transportation officials, and overtime will improve. The LIRR station is right there which will be built to a full-time one at some time too. Positives outweigh the negatives and that’s what the older generation needs to realize on Long Island when it comes to introducing new ideas.

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