By Fred Wu, Louis Pagillo, and Virain Palta
Two lawsuits filed two weeks apart against the NHL franchise New York Islanders and Belmont Park in September aim to stop the construction of a new stadium, hotel and mall in Elmont.
The first of the lawsuits was filed by Floral Park, and was followed by another suit filed by several Elmont Civic associations. Both of the lawsuits raised concerns about the environmental evaluation process performed prior to construction. The Floral Park suit also claims that the complex represents the encroachment of New York City’s urbanization into Long Island suburbs.
“I don’t really think they took into consideration what’s going on…” said John Raleigh, a Floral Park local who is concerned with the noise the new stadium will bring. “I mean, the Floral Park-Bellrose School is right over there.”
The Belmont Park arena broke ground on September 23 in a ceremony that was attended by Governor Andrew Cuomo, majority owner of the Islanders Jon Ledecky, and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. It is projected to cost $1.3 billion and have a capacity of 19,000 seats. Construction plans include a 250-room hotel, 350,000 square feet of retail space and a new LIRR station with full time service in Elmont. The state predicts that the project will create 10,000 full time and construction jobs
“The Islanders belong on Long Island – and today we start building the state-of-the-art home this team and their fans deserve while generating thousands of jobs and billions in economic activity for the region’s economy,” Cuomo said at the groundbreaking ceremony.
The common theme amongst the lawsuits was the spread of New York City’s influence into the suburbs. “The Village of Floral Park lies directly adjacent to Belmont Park, which is home to elite thoroughbred racing events operated by the New York Racing Association. For the residents of Floral Park, Belmont Park is not just a neighbor; it has long represented a bulwark against the encroachment of New York City’s urbanized development to the west,” stated the Floral Park lawsuit.
Those supporting the stadium think the urbanization will be a positive aspect. “The Belmont Park Redevelopment Project is poised to be a game-changer for the community and Long Island at-large,” Senator Todd Kaminsky said via email. “This vital investment in our region will transform Belmont into a hub for entertainment, commerce and economic development and will bring our beloved Islanders home. I look forward to continuing to work with the surrounding communities to ensure the success of this transformational project.”
Residents who visit the race courses have also raised their concerns. John Pinna, a resident of Northport, frequents the race course and is against the retail facilities accompanying the stadium and thinks it’s unnecessary
“This is a race track. They’re gonna fill it up with parking lots, stores, a couple more starbucks and takeout places… I don’t think it’s necessary,” Pinna said.
While many residents are against the stadium, some are excited to have a new stadium for the Islanders on Long Island. Kerry Nuzzi, a Nassau resident and an Islanders fan welcomes the project.
“I think Islanders fans will be happy to have something closer to home rather than having to go all the way to Brooklyn [Barclays Center],” said Nuzzi.
Those who welcome the arena are also hopeful it will help local businesses. However, with more business from new customers, there will likely be a change in demographic.
“Sales are probably going to go up for sure, but there’s going to be a change in the crowd in terms of the guests we get here, ” Ramanjeet Singh, an employee of a hotel in the Belmont Park Area, said. “With that [new stadium] coming in here, we’re probably gonna get just one-nighters, rather than three nights or four nights,” he believes new business opportunities are going to arise with the new stadium. A new set of consumers are going to be looking for accommodations when the arena hosts games. Since the hotel just currently get guests from the tri-state area who stay for two to three nights, both Ramanjeet and his managers believe the reservation of the hotel will go up in the future.
Sabi Singh, a new pizzeria owner in the area sees this as something that could benefit the local area and business and is hopeful about the arena.
“We just opened two months ago… I hope it’ll be better for everyone,” he said.