Readers Write: Residents should be concerned about Belmont Park Arena

People have good reason to be concerned about the proposed Islander’s Belmont Park Arena. 

The Belmont Park Community Coalition with Civil Rights Attorney Norman Siegel serving as facilitator hosted a roundtable discussion with the state Empire Development Corporation on Wednesday, July 18 at the Elmont Park Library. 

When it came to transportation issues,  the ESD left the audience with a number of unanswered questions.  They had plenty of time to prepare answers, as the questions were forwarded to them three weeks prior to the meeting. 

MTA Chairman Joe Lhota said earlier this year that “there is no available rush hour capacity from Penn Station to support initiation of any new services to the proposed Islanders Belmont Arena.” 

He went on to say that “the first step would be for the MTA to perform a feasibility study.”  All the ESD could report is that they have held several meetings with the MTA and LIRR is conducting a study dealing with transportation issues that is supposed to be completed by the end of September. 

This was the only response to these questions. 

It should also be noted that ESD failed to bring along any representatives from the MTA, LIRR, NYCT Bus, MTA Bus or Nassau Inter-County Express Bus who could have assisted in providing many of the answers.      

There was no response to the balance of over a dozen other transportation questions.  

You have to wonder if basic transportation planning between ESD , the MTA, LIRR, NYC Transit bus, MTA bus, NICE bus and Nassau County is really underway. 

ESD is following the state SEQUA environmental and not the federal National Environmental Protection Act process for this project. 

You have to follow NEPA if you want to access Federal Transit Administration funding for any transportation improvements.  Has the MTA and LIRR promised state funding to pay for any transportation improvements?  If so, how much?

At the end of this meeting, I pointed out to all present that Gov. Cuomo promised to be the most open and transparent administration in history. 

This was suppose to also include all of his independent state authorities such as ESD .  In my conversation with Mr. Siegel, he informed me that the ESD also insisted that the Belmont Park Community Coalition not invite any media before agreeing to participate in this forum. 

I also pointed out that there was nothing sensitive presented by ESD that would have been jeopardized in their ongoing negotiations with developers if the media were allowed to cover this meeting.  There were representatives from over a dozen civic associations representing thousands of neighbors who have an interest in the project.  

I and many others were not afforded an opportunity to ask ESD representatives any questions upon completion of their presentation. 

Their presentation failed to respond to virtually all of the transportation questions was unsatisfactory.  After completing their 45-minute presentation ESD representatives claimed they needed to leave for another meeting and quickly left the room. 

My response was shame, shame, shame.  So much for open, honest transparency.  

Anyone interested about having adequate public transportation for hundreds of employees who will work at the proposed Islanders Arena, hotel, retail, movie theater and conference center along with 18,000 fans attending Islanders games and other events will have concerns. 

ESD promised the Islanders Arena would be open by fourth quarter 2021, this leaves a little over three years left to plan, design, engineer, construct and complete accompanying transportation improvements. 

This may not be enough time for adequate public transportation to be in place coinciding with Islanders Arena opening.  

There is no line item to provide the MTA LIRR with additional funding for this project contained within Gov. Cuomo’s $168 billion April 1, 2018 – March 31, 2019 budget. 

These non existent dollars would have to be amended into the current MTA $32 billion 2014 – 2019 Five Year Capital Plan for supporting design and engineering, let alone construction of any future Belmont Park LIRR Intermodal Terminal.  

Most likely these funds to appear within the proposed next MTA 2020-2024 Five Year Capital Plan.  MTA HQ, Planning, Operating and Finance along with LIRR staff, are already working behind the scene to develop this document. 

Based upon past history, this new plan may not be adopted until 2021.  This might be too late for funding completion of any transportation improvements prior to the promised October – December 2021 Islands Belmont Arena opening date.  

Diogenes is still waiting for some brave elected official to hold State Economic Development Corporation accountable to the legitimate concerns expressed by the Belmont Park Community Coalition for this potential catastrophe. 

Larry Penner

Great Neck

(Larry Penner is a transportation historian, advocate and writer who previously worked 31 years for the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office.)

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