UNIONDALE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — With new faces on Long Island’s political landscape, it’s time to ask a serious question.
Can something finally be built around Nassau Coliseum?
Nearly 80 acres of undeveloped land — prime real estate — has remained a parking lot for decades, CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported Wednesday.
“I think it’s just a giant white elephant,” one resident said.
That person was talking about the Nassau County “hub” — 77 acres surrounding the renovated coliseum. For 20 years political promises have been made, and for 20 years the parcel of land has remained mostly asphalt.
“Everything was stymied by partisan, petty politics,” Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen said.
But now there is a new vision of cooperation. Both Gillen and County Executive Laura Curran have made hub development part of their campaign pledges.
“Here we have a newly renovated coliseum in the midst of 77 acres of parking, and, really, not much else is going on,” Curran said.
Curran has appointed a “hub task force” to investigate new revenue sources with a sense of urgency.
“It’s not like the Islanders are coming back,” one person said.
The NHL franchise, which called the coliseum home for more than four decades before leaving for Brooklyn’s Barclays Center in 2015, has reached a deal to play approximately half of its home games over the next few years at the coliseum before moving to a new arena at Belmont Park.
The Long Island Index is among those suggesting retail, theater, restaurants and, most importantly, housing on the land.
“They could do some really good if they put housing up,” one person said.
Eric Alexander is with the group “Vision Long Island.”
“There was political bickering. The communities weren’t always on board. But now the communities need to unite. The town needs to change their zoning,” Alexander said.
When asked if zoning can be changed so that more than 500 units can be built, Gillen said, “It’s something we’re discussing. We’re discussing that both with the developer and I’m discussing it with Executive Curran.”
Hector Mendoza manages a deli across the street.
“We are actually very excited about that. That would definitely help us with the business,” Mendoza said.
Hofstra University has built pedestrian bridges. New state funds could provide buses from the hub to the Mineola Long Island Rail Road station.
The Ahmuty family hopes the hub will become a destination.
“We are headed into the city right now to have lunch and go see a show. I would love to be able to do that on Long Island,” Monica Ahmuty said.
“So it’s just time to get shovels in the ground,” Gillen added.
The hub has been a huge economic disappointment. Community members have wondered why Belmont Park redevelopment plans can go through so quickly, while land around Nassau Coliseum has been left to struggle.
Curran is expected to address the hub on Wednesday night when she delivers her first state of the county speech, McLogan reported.