The New York Islanders announced plans earlier today to bail on a 35 year tenure in Nassau Country, moving the NHL franchise to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center in 2015. Quick to absolve Islanders owner Charles Wang (above, right) of blame (“his expansive vision for the 77-acre tract in Uniondale, a mixed-used development called ‘The Lighthouse Project,’ was kyboshed by Nimbyism and local political turf wars”) Newsday’s Lane Filler is looking on the bright side ; at least Long Island can build something more useful than a new hockey arena.
While the Islanders — and creating a new facility for them — have always been an anchor for any serious Hub plan, they have also been limitations. An arena takes up a huge footprint, and the parking spaces for an arena either eat tremendous acreage it they’re asphalt, or a gigantic sum of money if the parking is structured. Now, without being forced to include an arena or those types of parking in their plans (although they still might choose to) developers have a much broader opportunity. They can come up with a vision that provides them with profit, the county with tax revenue, and residents/employers/funseekers with a great place to live, work or recreate.
Or perhaps all three. Or something else entirely. That the Islanders are decamping is a shame, and the attempts to keep them have been a disaster. What happens next doesn’t have to be.