New York Islanders, Belmont Park
Photo by Sterling Project Development

The New York Islanders’ Belmont Park proposal has been met with opposition from some local residents.

Justin Weiss

For three days, local residents packed Elmont Memorial Library to discuss the $1 billion project to build an arena and retail stores at Belmont Park on Long Island.

The state’s proposal includes a 19,000-seat arena for the New York Islanders and roughly 450,000 square feet of retail space. The Islanders’ bid was approved on Dec. 19, 2017, and would culminate in a new arena by 2021.

In the meantime, the Islanders have been splitting their home games between Barclays Center in Brooklyn, and Nassau Coliseum on Long Island. It is unclear where the Islanders would play their playoff games if they progress to that stage.

From Tuesday to Thursday, the Elmont Memorial Library hosted hundreds of local residents — some of whom supported the plan and others who opposed it.

Supporters of the plan argue that the arena would boost the economy by creating jobs and providing business to local companies. The project is expected to create 12,000 construction jobs and over 3,000 permanent jobs in the Elmont/Floral Park area.

The notion that new stadiums spur economic growth has been challenged by Stanford economist Roger Noll, the former senior economist for the President’s Council of Economic Advisors. Speaking on the topic of publicly-financed football stadiums, he says that the economic impact of arenas is exaggerated.

“NFL stadiums do not generate significant local economic growth, and the incremental tax revenue is not sufficient to cover any significant financial contribution by the city,” Noll wrote.

Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen called on the arena’s developers to “provide job opportunities for local residents living throughout Long Island and the Town of Hempstead,” according to a press release.

Islanders fans expressed their concern with public transportation options after the Long Island Rail Road pledged only two trains on nights of events and games.

Currently, service at Belmont Park is on a seasonal basis only. The station can only facilitate travel to and from Jamaica Station in Queens, meaning that Islanders fans may be required to transfer at Jamaica if coming from points East.

Still, Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a press release in Dec. 2017 that the MTA will be “developing a plan to expand LIRR service to Belmont Park Station for events year-round.” It’s unclear if any progress has been made.

Opponents of the proposal have cited traffic and safety concerns as reasons to balk at the plan.

On Dec. 6, the state released a 700-page environmental impact study that evaluated the potential effects of the proposal on the surrounding communities.

The project “would not have the potential to result in significant adverse cumulative impacts other than in the area of transportation,” according to the paper.

Nassau Coliseum New York Islanders
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Cross Island Parkway and its adjacent roads would be impacted by the new arena, according to the study. At Belmont Park, the developers suggested that residents might need to change their driving habits.

“I think the presentation you just made, where you’re asking thousands of people to change their driving behavior, frankly underscores just how unprepared the current plan is to absorb the thousands of cars,” said state Sen. Todd Kaminsky.

On Wednesday, Lt. William Doherty of the Floral Park Police Department suggested that the plan could slow emergency personnel in the area. He argued that traffic could affect “life and death in Floral Park.”

Hempstead Turnpike is already congested during rush hour, so adding nightly events could further impede the flow of traffic. Empire State Development has suggested the use of ride-sharing and Waze to mitigate the effects of the proposal.

Previously, the Islanders had proposed the Lighthouse Project, which would have renovated Nassau Coliseum and added a minor league baseball stadium, restaurants, and a new hotel.

In 2011, the proposal was voted down by Nassau County residents, who cited the $400 million public bond issue as reason to be wary of the deal.

Islanders owner Jon Ledecky isn’t concerned that the Isles might meet the same fate in Belmont.

“I don’t think there are any showstoppers, from what I have been led to believe,” Ledecky told Jim Baumbach of Newsday in November.

Justin Weiss is a staff editor at Elite Sports New York, where he covers the New York Islanders and Brooklyn Cyclones. In 2016, he received a Quill Award for Freelance Journalism. He has written for the Long Island Herald, FanSided and YardBarker.