Thursday, February 26, 2009

One Small Step for Wang

One giant leap for Wangkind?

The tricky part about following the progress of a project like the Lighthouse is that there are so few milestones that you can really sink your teeth into. That's why when months go by without discernible progress, it's easy to suspect the worst. Add a dash of Kansas City and a sprinkle of Saskatoon, and all hell breaks loose—even when there are assurances that everyone is taking care of their business.

It's also why days like yesterday seem like major victories, when in reality they are merely single, positive steps up the ladder to the lantern room. In all fairness, the Lighthouse Development Group made sure that yesterday's town meeting actually climbed two rungs.

For those of you that may not have the time to follow, or make sense of, this complicated process, the Town of Hempstead voted 6-0 yesterday to adopt the final scope of the Draft General Environmental Impact Study. In plain English, as I understand it, that means that the Town Board accepted the developers' proposal of the range of environmental issues that pertain to this land development project and need to be addressed.

Under typical circumstances, that would have been yesterday's big news. Once the final scope was adopted, the developers would then have to prepare the Environmental Impact Study to state how the project actually impacts the environment and how they propose to manage the environmental concerns. Having no interest in delaying any further, the Lighthouse Development Group, led by Islanders owner Charles Wang and real estate developer Scott Rechler, submitted the completed studies the very same day. You can read as much of the document, in all its thousands of pages, here, if you so choose.

So what's next? Here is the sequence of steps as reported by Nick Giglia of Let There Be Light(house), who spoke at yesterday's meeting in support of the Lighthouse Project:

  • Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Submitted (Lighthouse/Town of Hempstead) - DONE as of this afternoon
  • Review period and public comments (Town of Hempstead)
  • Final Environmental Impact Statement and Scope (Town of Hempstead)
  • Approval of Property Divisions (Nassau County Planning Commission)
  • Re-zoning Hearing (Town of Hempstead)
  • Lease Negotiations (Nassau County)
  • Building Permits Hearing (Town of Hempstead)
  • Shovels in the Ground

As you can see, there's still a lot of work to be done before the earth starts moving. But progress is progress. Now we enter another waiting period, so don't be surprised if the quiet time leads to more speculation that the train has gone off the rails. That began today with a focus on the fact that Wang and Rechler will not be footing the bill for the Lighthouse on their own, and there's debate about how easy it will be to round up investors in the current economic climate.

In the meantime, Wang was feeling good enough about the day's events to go on the record with Newsday's Eden Laikin about a number of issues that have occupied Islanders fans and watchers over the last couple of months. Wang admitted that scheduling an exhibition game in Kansas City was a purposeful tactic in what has been a mostly amicable tug of war with the Town of Hempstead. He also expressed his right to keep his options for locating the team open should the deal sour (including an out in the lease), but spoke even more forcefully of his desire to see the Lighthouse through.

(This post was originally published at on February 25, 2009.)

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