Long Island has faced many challenges in recent years.
Sandy hit our seashore communities hard and to this day, we have not fully recovered. But during the next six months, the Island will be confronted with other issues that may well decide whether this region can stay economically alive and well.
It’s hard to pick which challenge should be at the top of the list,but I will start with the future of the Islanders hockey team.
The move to Brooklyn away from the Nassau Coliseum was the result of a lot of political bungling.
The county lost the opportunity to keep the team here by dragging its feet on development of the Coliseum site.
Developer Charles Wang may have been asking for too much when he proposed his massive development of the site, but Hempstead town officials resisted doing anything and in the end, they chased the Islanders away.
Regardless of whether you are a fan of Wang he was dedicated to keeping the team here but faced with empty seats in an aging arena, is not a good business deal and it was only a matter of team before Wang gave up and moved the team to Brooklyn. Brooklyn has turned out to be a horror show for hockey seating and now the Islander’s new owners want out.
The new Islander owners are successful people in the world of finance and they don’t believe in losing a lot of money on their team.
As a last resort, they have set their sights on Belmont Race Track, which is run by the Racing Association. There is ample room at the track to erect a brand new arena which could accommodate upwards of 18,000 fans or more.
The team owners will be making a proposal to build an arena at Belmont and if that proposal is turned down, they have options.
The first and worst option is to move the team to another city where the local governments would do anything possible to bring professional hockey to their town.
New York State has never treated the Belmont track with any respect.
As far back as the 1960s there were proposals to put a dome over the track for year round racing and events.
The Racing Association has not given Belmont much love either.
Racing at Saratoga in upstate New York is very lucrative for the state and Belmont comes in third with the Aqueduct track in second place.
Any user of the Queens track will tell you it is a dump, but it adjoins the casino in Queens and big money for the state clouds the vision of the politicians.
So if the state plays too much politics and tells the current owners of the Islanders to go away there is a good chance that the Islanders could wind up in some far away city.
The next issue the island faces is whether companies like Uber and Lyft should be allowed to operate in Nassau and Suffolk counties.
To start with, both counties would gain enormous financial benefits if these ride-sharing companies were allowed to operate here.
From my perspective, there are more reasons for them to operate here then there are arguments against it.
Local taxi companies are vehemently against having them here but what about the consumer?
Nassau County’s bus system doesn’t reach every important area of the county and an Uber or a Lyft would be a big break for people who need to get to work or keep a doctor’s appointment.
Drunk driving accidents dominate the local news because there needs to be a service that will keep young drivers off the road.
As the father of four daughters, I would feel a lot better if they could take a ride sharing company, rather than getting a ride with some young untested friend.
The last and most potent issue the region faces is the proposed Third Track project for the Long Island Rail Road.
The island desperately needs to have better service and access to Penn Station and Grand Central.
Our young people are fleeing this area for a lot of reasons, but easy access to the city is their No. 1 need.
Plus, the new scaled down version of the Third Track proposal will bring millions of dollars in local improvements to villages from Queens to Hicksville.
Local and state officials will have a chance to show their courage in the months ahead and move forward on all of these challenges.
Not everyone will be happy but progress helps more people than it hurts.