Capellini: Youth Of Nassau County, Save Islanders And Part Of Next Gen’s Future

It's Time Someone Stand Up And Say Culture Of 'No' Is No Longer Acceptable

By Jeff Capellini, CBSNewYork/

NEW YORK (WFAN) — In less than a week the Nassau County arena referendum will be decided and how it will turn out is still anyone’s guess. This is not the best of news for Islanders fans.

Rather than spending the next 1,500-plus words explaining both sides of the referendum debate I would instead like to fire off a missive to those who may think their voice doesn’t matter or as of this moment don’t care enough to make themselves heard.

At this point, six days to go before next Monday’s vote, I think it’s safe to say people ready to vote know where they stand and odds are their minds will not be changed. It’s the people that have yet to really express themselves that can make sure the Islanders are playing in Nassau County for at least the next 34 years.

I’m talking to you, 18- to 30-year-olds. I have read all over that you keep leaving Nassau County because of the lack of opportunity. Many of you are disgruntled and have been brainwashed into believing you can’t take control of your lives. I’m not saying a “yes” vote will make you financially solvent for life or help you get a house in the Hamptons, but a vote in the affirmative certainly won’t do anything to hasten your departure or keep you from at least considering a spot near Dune Road.

On the other hand, just bowing down to the status quo certainly will.

If the Islanders do not get this arena a crime will have been committed. And the guilty parties will be the very people who could have easily made this upcoming vote be more like Secretariat down the stretch at Belmont rather than a photo finish that will reveal someone winning, in all likelihood, by a nose.

I don’t know how much stock to put into this past weekend’s Newsday poll that showed that slightly better than half the people asked the question about the arena were against the idea and 12 percent were still undecided. I’m not up in arms over this poll because only 600 some-odd registered voters were questioned and the majority of them were over the age of 50. This demographic is by and large not the group of people that goes to the Coliseum for hockey or concerts. These are the people who are thinking mainly with their wallets, when in actuality their financial nest egg wouldn’t even be impacted by a new arena.

Many of these people own stock in the NIMBY movement. Many think the notion of a reported $16 tax increase is actually reason enough to let the Islanders leave, that this is about principles in a tax-obliterated municipality. Never mind those independent reports suggesting Nassau will lose $243 million in economic activity per year and more than 2,660 jobs. None of that really matters, right?

Still others are buying into political rhetoric, hating what the other side is saying simply because they’ve either been told to hate or because they are still annoyed that their elected representatives didn’t come up with the idea in the first place. There’s another group out there that doesn’t believe economic projections that show the arena costing a maximum of $13.80 a year per household, even though the arena revenue estimates are 30 percent less than a study commissioned for the Lighthouse Project.

Lastly, some of these people still think financial welfare should not be given to a multimillionaire professional sports franchise owner, one they seem to always conveniently forget already tried to privately finance a project nearly 10 times the cost of the current one on the table only to be told “no,” and who will be paying for the proposed arena through revenue sharing if all goes according to plan.

These people are not going to budge. It’s mind-boggling, but I know it and you know it. But what’s even more odd is nearly two-thirds of the people polled by Newsday think the Islanders are worth saving. It’s just that many of them don’t want to stick their necks out to actually offer a lifeline, mainly because of the reasons I stated in the paragraphs above.

Let’s understand this. The franchise is worth keeping, the vast majority seems to think, but a good number of people are too afraid to back up their words with action? I got news for everyone. This is how a society stays in neutral. And the bigger problem is this vehicle is between gears on an upward slope. If you vote “no” or stay home saying you like the Islanders and all that an arena could offer but don’t want to be bothered that vehicle will almost certainly begin to roll backwards, taking the rest of the county with it.

You may not notice right away the damage the ensuing crash will cause, but rest assured it will be permanent.

The Islanders are going to attempt to dazzle the masses this week with a pro-arena media blitz. They will hold a rally at the Coliseum at the end of the week. They will trot out every legend that’s ever pulled on the crested sweater. They will scream at you repeatedly how a “yes” vote will more than save the Islanders; it will also prevent Nassau County from slipping further into the dark ages — and they would be right.

But while I applaud them for this I think it’s coming a day late and a dollar short. Not too late to secure a victory, mind you, but too late to make this the landslide victory many think it should be.

All that said, I do agree a win is a win is a win. The battle with the Nassau Interim Finance Authority for final approval will be a knock-down, drag-out affair regardless if the referendum passes with 51 percent or 90 percent, mostly because no matter what anyone says or does these things are always decided by politics. But the idea of the people being overwhelmingly in support of an idea in theory should be enough of an impetus for any ruling body to throw up their hands and say we’re pulling a France here and surrendering.

But that is not going to happen.

So now this whole thing is simply a case of survive and advance. It’s the NCAA tournament. There will be no style points awarded for margin of victory and no individual award given to most valuable PR guy.

Regardless of the job you think President Barack Obama is doing, he won back in 2008 because young people in record numbers wanted the idea of change. The situation in Nassau County is the same type of deal, albeit on a much smaller scale, obviously. The caveat here is this new arena, unlike running a government, does not have a billion moving parts. When it’s decided it’s decided. If it’s built the county will move forward, jobs — regardless if they are short term or long term — will be created and a guaranteed revenue stream of $14 million-plus per year will roll in regardless of how much money the Islanders make.

The other side simply has no counter to this. Those people have proposed nothing to fix the situation. By all accounts they appear ready to just let the county’s hub turn into a sand and crumbled asphalt eyesore, an even more gaudy one than it is now.

If the arena is not built, the county will almost certainly continue to move backward. Do you honestly think the hub will become this booming money maker inside of the next decade, what with all you know about how things work in Nassau? I’d bet you any amount of money if the Islanders left and the arena was eventually closed down, which would probably be the case because whatever revenue it was generating would dry up instantly, the county would turn right around and tax you, the resident, to make up the difference for that $243 million per year in economic activity now gone. And trust me, it will be more than $16 a year.

So to all the young people out there who have a general apathy towards politics and decision making, you really need to have the light bulb go on here. You need to vote “yes.” It’s that simple. You need to tell all of your friends to come out and support this plan. You need to tell them, regardless if they like the Islanders or not, to trust you. It’s sometimes difficult for young people to have conversations of substance, but now is the time to try.

You need to convince your friends to take control of a small part of their future. Nassau County’s younger generations need to spit in the face of this “no” culture and think about all the positives associated with saying “yes.”

This is about a lot more than saving a hockey franchise. It’s about making progress. It’s about no longer spinning your wheels in the mud of county government.

You don’t have — nor should you have — the luxury right now of being close to retirement age and thinking you are going to take every last dollar you have saved to the grave. You can do something that’s in short supply: you can, in your own little way, begin to make the next generation feel secure, feel as if it eventually won’t pass that point of no return.

You can begin to help what has become No-ssau County turn back into Nassau County again.

(The opinion here is that of the writer. It does not speak for or as a whole)

Please read more columns by Jeff Capellini

Both sides have presented their cases in this arena debate. Where do you stand? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.

  • Ed

    Lawn Guy Land:

    Let’s talk “Business 101” for a minute here, which Kate Murray and the TOH absolutely does not understand::

    The Lighthouse Project had to be the size it was to be able to generate enough profit, to pay for a new coliseum, without public financing. The size downgrade of that project, proposed by Kate Murray made the project unfeasible. Enough revenue would not have been generated from the downsized project to pay for a new coliseum. Of course, a totally negative person will not believe anything, but any person who has run a business could easily understand this concept. Obviously, Ms. Murray never did.

    • Lawn-Guy Land

      Wang already has enough spare change in his pockets to pay for a new Coliseum. He doesn’t need subsidies from the Lighthouse project or from taxpayers.

  • Ed

    This is about progress and quality of life.
    Our taxes pay for many quality of life projects. If you do not want a project like this because of “preserving suburbia” and keeping traffic down as Kate Murray put it, then let’s close some parks, libraries and museums. That too, would lower our taxes! One contrast here is to develop this area, with the coliseum as a catalyst, would actually generate revenue and sales tax.Without it, the area would be at best, a vastly underused piece of prime real estate, generating little revenue for the area.We could all go spend those dollars elsewhere, like the city, thus depriving Nassau County and the local towns badly needed tax revenues. To all the NIMBYs and nay sayers, look past your noses and VOTE YES!

  • Lawn-Guy Land

    The history of public sports financing shows quite clearly that Wang WON’T pay back anything. He DOESN’T INTEND to pay back anything. The County will let him “forget” to pay it back, or else let him first deduct every expense he’s ever had in his life.

  • Art

    Murray is a Republican as are 5 of the other 6 TOH Board members

  • eric

    Who paid for Yankee Stadium? Citifield? Its almost always public financing. In this case Wang pays back the county anyways. I don’t get why people are against it, a bunch of selfish ppl. it improves your quality of life in Nassau County.

    • anthony c

      it’s cause there are a lot of dumb, ignorant people in nassau county and LI for that matter that would prefer things to stay the same as they have since 1975. And being a former long islander, nothing has changed. When you got people from st. paul minnesota (that city became a ghost town when the north stars moved to dallas) that have said they wish their government came up with a deal like this years back, you know it’s good. Same can be said for winnipeg. Even people out here in vegas I know who I’ve told about this said everyone here would get behind something like this. And we got the highest % of unemployment out here. Vote Yes August 1st!

    • Lawn-Guy Land

      “In this case Wang pays back the county anyways.”

      Except that he DOESN’T. History shows that the public always ends up with the short end of the stick, or with no stick at all. Wang is getting a major free ride at County expense, and people are lining up to drink his Kool-Aid.

  • Rich J

    I guess according to our Mr Capellini this is now a turf war of young versus old among a whole host of other conservative views. Everyone knows politicians and big business are all corrupt and looking for nieve and stupid people to pay their way for them. Geez, I could go on and on but why bother. This will be a mass of corruption, payoffs, and back door dealing that will cost the nassau taxpayers A LOT more than what is being printed now. VOTE NOOOOO!rjacobs

    • Nick

      There are required minimum payments.

      The bonding is capped.

      Charles Wang is responsible for cost overruns.

      A non-partisan group reviewed it and said the maximum exposure for the taxpayer would be $13,80 a year, and through inflation (like a fixed-rate mortgage) that share will go down until the county turns a profit.

      Numerous studies have suggested losing the Coliseum and the Islanders (a given for at least Nassau if this fails) results in $16 per year tax increases and the loss of $243 million and almost 3,000 jobs.

      Oh I’m sorry, doesn’t fit the narrative you’ve chosen…..Try to get informed and stop being a slave to the cut off your nose to spite your face logic that has destroyed Long Island.

      I’ll be voting yes, and many more are with me.

    • Ed

      By that logic, Rich, let’s stop ALL future government projects, because they will just be correupted?
      Become informed. Expenses to this are strictly capped to the public

  • Tony S

    Leo it’s not only a baseball field but they now want to build a new track and field facility there too when there already is a County run (and neglected) track just adjacent to the site..
    Only a sucker would believe County Executive Mangano’s double talking sales pitch on this entire proposition.
    He’s got a $120 budget deficit and NIFA watching him and yet he’s asking for the taxpayers in the highest taxed county in the US to take on an additional $400 million ($800 million with interest and service costs) to finance the construction of a ice rink for a billionaires hockey team in the midst of a economic recession.

    • Nick

      $800 million is a false number….are you familiar with time value of money and interest? A raw number that adds up 30 years from now is not the same as borrowing $800 million up front.

      EVERY unbiased and nonpartisan study says the taxpayers are on the hook for no more than $13.80 a year ($16 if the Coliseum closes) and the county will turn a significant profit….but please, by all means, vote no, flush $243 million out of an ailing economy, and see what comes to rescue you.

      • Lawn-Guy Land

        Read your history. The County WON’T turn a profit because Wang will NEVER pay anything back.

    • Kyle

      $14/taxpayer/year. That’s all it is. The team will cover $17M of the $25M in annual debt service. The remaining $8M equates to $14/taxpayer/year. Really? You want to lose over 2000 jobs, revenue from concerts, events and Islander games over $14?? You’ve got to be kidding if you think that makes any sense at all.

      For the record, Wang wanted to do it his way and pay for the whole thing with the LIghthouse project but that wasn’t good enough for the Town of Hempstead.

      • Rich J

        You really believe these numbers? Amazing, simply amazing.

  • Anthony


  • Dalby Jason

    vote no!!!!!!! WANG wants it let him foot the bill………

    • anthony c

      hey dalby jason, wang was going to pay for the lighthouse project with his own money and with other investors so it wouldn’t cost tax payers a single penny. But kate murray, toh, and garden city killed it with the excuse of “preserving suburbia”, and that the project was “to big” and was a “mini city”. So it’s either this or the coliseum closes in a few years when the Islanders move. Comments like yours just shows how stupid, ignorant and misinformed you truly are. Vote Yes August 1st!

      • Lawn-Guy Land

        If Wang REALLY planned to use all private money, he would have just downsized the project to satisfy objections. Absent that, he obviously ARRANGED to have that plan rejected just so he could use (and KEEP) hundreds of millions of the taxpayers’ dollars.

    • Kyle

      He tried to foot the bill and Kate Murray and the rest of the Dems rejected his proposal…which is why we’re where we are!

      • Rich J

        It’s always politics. Cant we all agree all parties are all equally corrupt. And trying to compare this current project with the Lighthouse project is kind of ridiculous.

      • Lawn-Guy Land

        Wang probably arranged to have his own “financing plan” rejected specifically to justify using taxpayer dollars. If he really planned to pay for it himself, he would simply draw from his own vast fortune without borrowing from anybody.

  • ace11

    vote NO

    • anthony c

      Vote YES!

  • Leo

    Unfortunately, the proposal is not just about building a new Coliseum. A new Coliseum is needed. However, adding a new minor league baseball team to the site makes little sense economically (can the area support yet another minor league baseball team?) and in terms of taking away necessary parking for the Coliseum (which we are being told would be full if a new one is built). The revenue projections and job creation counts are absurdly high. A new facility does not guarantee that the Islanders will be a highly competitive team. That’s what puts people in the seats. There will also now be added competition for other types of events from the new Nets arena in Brooklyn. If the Coliseum can’t pay its debt service what’s the point? Are we supposed to subsidize a rich owner and players just to be able to say we have our own team? Once again a deal is struck in which the sports franchise benefits at the expense of the municipality.

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