Editor's Note: Diane Yatauro, D-Glen Cove, is the Minority leader of the Nassau County Legislature.
Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and his Republican Legislative Caucus have called for an August 1 referendum where County residents can vote on his plan to raze the Nassau Veterans Coliseum and replace it with a new structure, add a new minor league baseball stadium, appropriate parking and maybe some retail stores.
If voters approve, Mr. Mangano will turn the mid-County area known as the HUB into a major sports entertainment complex. No matter how he spins it, Mr. Mangano is asking County residents to vote themselves a tax increase. Independent estimates say the increase could be four percent per household. That belief was echoed by board members of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority (NIFA) at their July 14 meeting.
What looked like a plan to generate jobs and sorely needed revenue may just be another disaster waiting to happen.
As the legislative leader of the Democratic Caucus, it bothers me that Mr. Mangano never sought our input in his planning. He presented us with a finished product to accept or reject. Specific details on the plan were scarce and slow coming.
I am concerned that if the rosy future Mr. Mangano and Mr. Wang foresee fails to materialize, our taxpayers will be stuck with significant tax increases to pay the debt service on this venture. Taxpayers will be responsible since all funds collected from the revenue sharing agreement will go into a "spend all" general account and not to repay the money taxpayers have already spent. All major projects should be guaranteed by the borrower. No such guarantee exists and should the plan go bust, County taxpayers are still on the hook.
My husband and I are huge Islanders fans. My family attends many Coliseum shows and concerts. I want an affordable solution that keeps our team here and develops that HUB property in a way that assures taxpayer protection.
At its July 14 meeting NIFA board members unanimously expressed serious reservations about the coliseum deal. They believe the total debt involved could be $800 million not just the $400 million we are being asked to borrow. They factor in interest payments on the debt for 30 years which means another burden shifted to the next generation.
For me the concerns are hard to dismiss. The increasing red ink in our County budget and the rising debt deeply troubles me.
Too much information is still missing from the Coliseum plan. It contains too much wishful thinking. It leaves too many questions unanswered. I urge Nassau voters to examine this issue and do what is in their best interest. And by all means vote on August 1.