New York Islanders, Belmont, NHL
Photo courtesy of @NYIslanders

Irate Elmont residents are preparing a full-scale legal battle in an effort to stop the New York Islanders’ plans for the development of Belmont Arena at all costs.

The New York Islanders may only have two wins in their last 15 games, but rest assured, they have bigger problems in their immediate horizon (and no, it’s not even pending UFA John Tavares).

They call themselves the Belmont Park Community Coalition (BPCC), and they are represented by Norman Siegel, who according to Newsday‘s Randi Marshall, is “the famed civil liberties attorney who previously headed the New York Civil Liberties Union.”

During Thursday’s Empire State Development meeting, Siegel issued a statement that included: “If we come together, we can stop this project.”

It was met with roaring applause.

The initial estimate on the arena construction timetable was about three years, but the recent opposition doesn’t just include the BPCC.

Reinvent Albany, a company that advocates transparent and accountable New York State government, also issued a statement questioning the public costs related to the arena development.

Via David Winzelberg of the Long Island Business News:

“Judging from the draft scoping document, the DEIS will not answer basic questions about how much the Belmont redevelopment project will cost taxpayers. We want to know where and when the ESD will clearly explain how much this project will cost, and who will pay. Without this crucial information, the public cannot adequately determine whether the reported benefits will outweigh the costs.”

The Power of the Underdog

It’s needless to say two things. First, anyone who thought that this process was destined to be a smooth, three-year transition was outright kidding themselves. Reality will begin to hit hard because this is just the beginning of the setbacks.

The construction requirements for the Islanders new home will call for a demanding amount of resources, including a large-scale power station that particularly displeased this Elmont resident, per Newsday‘s Candace Ferrette:

“You are pushing the limits of development here,” said Kristin Flood, 37, a lifelong resident of Floral Park, who attended with her two small children. “A power station in the backyard of my child’s school?”

Newsday’s Editorial Board took a good, hard look at the site as well and offered a list of reasons on what’s wrong with the proposal. Essentially, they break it down into three key factors: move the location of the power station away from the school, find a solution for the traffic that will only worsen, and figure out where to place the new retail location.

Mind you, this is all taking place while the Islanders are in the midst of an Environmental Review that is slated to take a year at the very least. Siegel told Newsday’s The Point that as of now, he hoped to work “through the process,” referring to both Empire State Development’s environmental review and the approval effort that’s just getting underway.

Siegel also made it clear that they “never dismiss the possibilty of litigation.”

When it’s all said and done, Newsday‘s Jim Baumbach optimistically expects everything to be finished by the 2021 season, but if the Barclays Center construction taught New York developers anything, it’s that these battles can be both threatening and time-consuming.

For the Islanders, it’s both.