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Nassau Coliseum redevelopment and relationship with Ratner a flash point in tight race for county executive

Tom Suozzi, Democratic candidate for Nassau County executive, was on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show yesterday, and took the opportunity to slam incumbent Ed Mangano's record regarding the redevelopment of the Nassau Coliseum.

It suggested that, should Suozzi win, he'd have a more tense relationship with developer Forest City Ratner, already selected to rework the arena, but may be unable to re-open the deal.

"We haven't had success here," asserted Suozzi, who formerly held the job. "The Coliseum project he's proposed--it's just to build a smaller Coliseum than we have now, and leave 77 acres of parking."

As Newsday reported, Suozzi had proposed a 77-acre project years ago, but the Town of Hempstead opposed it, and separately county voters shot down a referendum for a new Coliseum.

"Are you critical of smaller Nassau Coliseum," asked Lehrer. "Is the current size sustainable?"

"I'm critical of the fact that he went to Mr. [Bruce]  Ratner, who built the Barclays Center and stole the Islanders from Nassau County and said to him, What do you think?" Suozzi continued. "He said, Well, you should make it smaller. Could it be that he doesn't want to compete against a nearby facility?"

Or, perhaps, Ratner recognized that the arena would have to be a destination for concerts, not major league sports.

The D'Amato connection?

"He put it out to bid and he gave it to Ratner," Suozzi continued. "The fact that's he's represented by [Republican] Sen. Alfonse D'Amato may be just a coincidence

Newsday reported 10/29/13:
D'Amato, who attended the debate, said Suozzi misrepresented his role in the process. D'Amato said he helped arrange meetings between the developer and members of the county Legislature only after Nassau awarded Mangano [sic; actually Ratner] the contract.
Suozzi continued, "He now has control of both the Islanders in Brooklyn and the Nassau Coliseum. If he wants both facilities to succeed, as he says he does, then why not bring the Islanders back to Nassau County?"

Maybe because the Brooklyn arena has luxury suites and the other main revenue stream is a television contract.

Islanders in Brooklyn

Lehrer pointed out that the Islander would play six games at the Coliseum.

"That's been a pledge by Ratner and Mangano that has to be approved by the NHL, I can't imagine the Rangers going along with that. And all of this stuff is still just a promise," Suozzi continued. "They don't have financing in place. We've seen Mr. Ratner promise things in the past and not deliver them in totality. Listen, I'll work with Ratner, I want to get something done here, but it's got to be much more ambitious.. it should be the main destination point... we're entitled to a world-class facility and a world-class operation out here."

Mangano on the radio

When Mangano was on the air, he was asked about the chorus of endorsements for Suozzi.

"Newsday's conflicted," Mangano said of the endorsement. "First of all, they're [owner Cablevision and associates] bankrolling his campaign with a $275,000 contribution. They failed to say that, when the taxpayers fired Tom Suozzi  they hired Tom Suozzi [to work on a high school channel, MSG Varsity]."

"The biggest joke, he's running around criticizing Ratner, while I achieved a 100% privately financed Coliseum, they [rival MSG]  lost," Mangano said. "His former employer lost, they had the worst economic deal for the taxpayers... They're very bitter, because they lost the bid to Ratner, who is producing a world-class Coliseum here, an iconic coliseum, and an entertainment district."

Lehrer noted that Suozzi asked why contract with Ratner after he took the Islanders to Brooklyn?

"Because Tom Suozzi's employer was trying to give the taxpayers a raw deal," Mangano said. "Ratner had the best economic deal.. this is the best public-private partnership in the nation... $4.4 million guaranteed," while MSG merely wanted to add a surcharge to tickets.