Concerned residents of Floral Park along with local politicians and their representatives filled the room at the Floral Park Recreation Center last week to discuss Belmont Park’s potential redevelopment plan, which would deeply affect the Village of Floral Park in terms of more traffic, garbage and noise.
Deputy Mayor Kevin Fitzgerald, who also happens to be the Belmont Task Force chair, gave a slideshow presentation about the effects a brand new New York Islanders arena and potential 435,000 square-foot megamall would have on the Village of Floral Park. A movie theater, restaurants, a 24-story 250-room hotel and much more are also expected to be included.
According to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the $1 billion redevelopment of Belmont Park will serve as an internationally recognized destination for sports, entertainment, retail and hospitality, while strengthening the local economy and boosting tourism. Late last year, New York Arena Partners (NYAP) was designated to lead the redevelopment. NYAP is a joint venture among Sterling Equities, the Scott Malkin Group, Madison Square Garden and the Oak View Group.
Introducing the phrase “scope creep” to the audience’s vocabulary, Fitzgerald said the Belmont redevelopment plan started with the building of the Islanders’ arena but has now morphed into something much bigger with more retail space added and a bus terminal.
The redevelopment project has now started to creep onto Belmont’s north parking lot, which borders Floral Park-Bellerose School and the village’s residential West End.
“In the addition of the mall, we’re looking at potentially 18,000 to 20,000 people visiting the mall [daily],” said Fitzgerald. “Infrastructure issues such as water, sewage, electric—all of these will have an impact on Floral Park.”
Fitzgerald said that with the arena and all of the different amenities that will be included in the redevelopment plan, residents can see traffic throughout the village increase significantly. Not to mention, the Islanders’ arena will also be used for concerts, making loud tailgating in the north parking lot a possibility.
“Construction isn’t going to happen overnight, but I think they’re looking to start somewhere in 2019,” explained Fitzgerald. “And have the arena open and ready for the 2021-22 NHL season.”
At the top of this year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo welcomed the Islanders back to the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, where they will play 60 pre-season and regular home games over the next three years while construction on their new permanent home at Belmont Park is completed.
“This project keeps changing from what it was in the beginning,” said Floral Park Mayor Dominick Longobardi. “It was an arena with some ‘tchotchke’ stores, a couple of restaurants and a lot of parking on the south side of Hempstead Turnpike. But now you have this development that is on our borders…and it is going to affect our way of life every day.”
Longobardi urged residents to contact their local elected officials and tell them their concerns about the redevelopment plan.
“In my opinion, right now, the project is way too big,” said Longobardi. “It’s way too big for what we need. If you’re going to do something like this, it should be studied properly.”
During the Q and A session of the informational meeting, one resident asked about building a wall around the village to limit the traffic increase, drawing laughs from the crowd.
“If push came to shove, we joke about building walls on those ends [in the West End]. I have a vision of these beautiful brick walls with flowers on top and how wonderful that would be,” responded Longobardi. “Honestly, at this point, because this keeps evolving and changing…we have to make sure that we’re going in protected. We’re looking at all kinds of things. I’m not going to say that we haven’t talked about these big beautiful walls.”
The ESDC will issue the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Belmont redevelopment project within the next few weeks. Hearings on the impact statement will be held shortly thereafter where residents can ask questions.