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The following letter appeared in Newsday on February 23, 2006.

Date:

  February 20, 2006

Letters Editor
Newsday
235 Pinelawn Road
Melville, NY  11747

To the Editor:

Last week, Nassau County named two finalists in the competition to redevelop the Nassau Coliseum site: Charles Wang’s Lighthouse Development Group and a team led by Fred Wilpon’s Sterling Equities.  Both proposals have attractive features, and both would include a new state-of-the-art Coliseum.

How to choose?  A better question, in my judgment, is “Why should we be locked into one developer’s vision or another’s?”  What if the best solution is “one from column A” and “one from column B”?   Nassau’s residents deserve the best possible plan, not just the best of the existing plans. 

We should require the chosen developer, or developers, to combine the best elements of both proposals.  After much public discussion, we have arrived at a fairly good sense of which ideas the public likes – retaining the Islanders, adding a minor-league baseball team, improving transit and adding green space – and which it does not, e.g., a 60-story tower.  We also know what makes such projects economically viable: commercial and retail space, and market-rate housing, offsetting the cost of workforce housing, which should also be in the final plan.  This project is too important to Nassau’s future to make compromises.  We need all of these elements.

To make sure Nassau gets the maximum benefit, the county should bring in experts to help it negotiate and oversee implementation.  The New York metropolitan area is knee-deep in talented professionals experienced in mixed-use development.  It might add a bit more time to the process, but the consequences of these decisions will be felt for years to come.  If we allow Nassau Centre to reach its full potential, future generations will thank us for it.

Howard Weitzman
Nassau County Comptroller