Wang: Long Island Needs an Icon
Charles Wang, co-owner of the New York Islanders, believes that Paris
has its tower; London has its bridge and China has a Great Wall. Now,
Wang said, it's time for Long Island to have its own iconographic
landmark and he has proposed that it be a lighthouse.
"Currently, we don't have an icon that represents Long Island," Wang
told residents and community leaders from the Carle Place, New Cassel
and Westbury communities during the Central Westbury Civic
Association's March 22 meeting. "We should have something that truly
tells the story about who we are as Long Island people."
To do so, Wang has proposed the Lighthouse Project, a $1 billion
renovation and expansion project to transform the five-acre Nassau
Veterans Memorial Coliseum - the second oldest arena in the National
Hockey League - and 72 acres of surrounding asphalt, to include a
state-of-the-art athletic complex and 60-story tower known as The
Lighthouse at Long Island.
In regard to the coliseum, Wang's proposal calls for new seating,
widened and modernized concourses, a state-of-the-art sound system,
video boards, additional washrooms, restaurants and bars and 50 new
luxury suites. According to the Islanders' website, the team has
committed to "being a major part of the fabric of Long Island" until
at least 2025, 10 years beyond the current lease's expiration.
Wang stated that while the stadium has one of the best sound-systems
in the league, the facility itself, which was built in 1972, can only
accommodate a little over 16,000 people. "We have to provide for the
Islander's a place that is certain first-class for an NHL team," he
said. "[The Coliseum] as it is, is a tired, old building."
For the site, Wang has also proposed constructing a 50,000 square
foot athletic complex with two ice surfaces, a basketball court and
health club; a Plaza, a public performance and recreation space
complete with an amphitheater, outdoor cafés, shops and restaurants;
and the Lighthouse at Long Island, the world's tallest lighthouse and
Long Island's tallest building, which would feature a five-star
hotel, condominiums and an observation deck.
According to Wang, the lighthouse itself would stand proud at the
center of one of the world's most remarkable islands. He compared it
to the great lighthouse of Alexandria - the world's very first
lighthouse and one of the world's tallest buildings, which stood for
some 1,500 years and became known as the last of the Seven Wonders of
"That's where we got the inspiration," Wang said. "We wanted to come
up with something that reflects and tells the world what we as people
of Long Island represent. We want to build the world's tallest
lighthouse because we're an island."
Further, the property's existing exhibition hall will be renovated
and expanded into the Island's largest conference center to host a
broad range of events while a proposed Sport Technology Center will
host organizations focused on all aspects of sports technology,
including enhancing performance, health and rehabilitation.
"What we want to do is make this a destination, a place people want
to go to," said Wang. "It will benefit all of the surrounding
communities and not be in competition with them. Hopefully, what it
will do is help people recognize what we have here."
While Wang admits his Lighthouse project is not going to fix Long
Island, he does, however, believe the ambitious plan will make it a
more attractive place to live, work, do business and raise a
family. "We are hoping to give Long Island a swift kick in the butt
as a catalyst to do something," he said. "We've got to do something
for the people of Long Island. We cannot have kids continue to leave
Long Island. We've got to build new business ... We've got to do
While Wang's project is not contingent upon passage of Nassau County
Executive Tom Suozzi's HUB proposal, which calls for, among other
things, a light rail system, the Lighthouse project must be approved
by the Nassau County Legislature, Town of Hempstead and State of New
York in order for it to move forward. In response to one resident's
inquiry regarding whether he would go through with components of the
project should the Lighthouse itself be denied if he was asked to
scale it down, Wang said, "No. I don't want three 20-story buildings.
I want something that stands for Long Island and makes people say 'Oh
my God, would you look at that.'"
To date, Wang has completed a memorandum of understanding with
Suozzi, who said the Lighthouse project could bring tremendous
economic, cultural and social benefit to the Island. In addition,
Legislator Roger Corbin stated, at last week's meeting, that the
Nassau County Legislature is wholly in favor of the project.
"We can't raise taxes anymore. We are taxed out. So we have to come
up with something else to do. This is it," said Corbin, adding that
through the lighthouse project, Nassau would see an additional $4
million annually toward the county caucus on a piece of property that
no one has offered to do anything with before. "Name something county-
wide that's going to give us $4 million [a year] for 25 years," he
said. "[Charles Wang] is not asking us, as taxpayers, to pay for
this. He is spending his own money." In addition to $100 million to
the county, the project is also expected to generate $100 million to
the state as well.
Based on the location of the property, taxes generated from the
proposed project would largely benefit the Uniondale School District.
Westbury officials such as Peter Cavallaro, a Westbury Village
trustee and chairman of the North Hempstead Republican Committee, and
Dr. Constance Clark, superintendent of Westbury Schools, however,
believe it should be beneficial county-wide.
Cavallaro stated that while the Uniondale School District will
receive multiples of $4 million a year in extra tax revenue if the
proposal is granted, Uniondale is only one of dozens of communities
that will be effected by Wang's Lighthouse project. As a result,
Cavallaro is requesting that Corbin and other elected officials find
a way for the project to benefit the county as a whole. "I challenge
you to go to Albany and request special legislation so that a special
district can be created that way the tax revenue that comes in
doesn't only benefit a small segment of the population," Cavallaro
"[Charles Wang] has an extraordinary vision, is asking for
extraordinary things and needs extraordinary approvals from the town
and the county so I think the normal solutions really don't apply
here. What we need is an extraordinary approach to address this. This
requires a creative and extraordinary approach so that there's
taxpayer equity here."
To do so, Cavallaro suggests that the proposal be treated similarly
to how New Jersey handled the construction of the Meadowlands several
years ago. "[They created] intricate, overlaying taxing and zoning
districts that basically took all the burdens and all the benefits
and spread them out," he said. "If it accomplishes what Mr. Wang
wants to accomplish and pays taxpayers equity among all the
communities that are going to be affected, then I think it's a goal
that should be pursued."
Dr. Clark agreed, stating that the Lighthouse project would provide
the opportunity to come up with a creative way for Westbury and other
districts to share a tax break. She adding that despite its location,
Westbury does not share in any of the tax benefits generated by the
Source and Roosevelt Field Mall. "I think the project is wonderful,
but I think it would be a tremendous coup for us if someway
[Westbury] could share in the tax revenue because we just cannot
continue in their vein," said Clark.
If approved, transforming the Nassau Coliseum and constructing the
site's athletic complex is expected to begin in either 2006 or 2007
and be completed in 2009. The Lighthouse Project is expected to take
between eight to 10 years to complete.
The Central Westbury Civic Association hosted last week's meeting,
which featured representation from the Birchwood Civic Association,
Sherwood Civic Association, West Hills Civic Association, Carle Place
Civic Association, Unified Civic Association of New Cassel, Unified
New Cassel Revitalization Corporation, Westbury Community Improvement
Corporation and the Uniondale-based Nostrand Gardens Civic
Association as well as civic, school and village representatives.