Nassau Voters Cast Ballots in Arena Referendum

Nassau Coliseum Development Hockey
Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum home of the the New York Islanders NHL hockey team is shown in Uniondale, N.Y., Wednesday, May 11, 2011. Officials on New York’s Long Island will ask voters this summer to approve a $400 million plan to build a new hockey arena next to the current home of the Islanders. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum home of the the New York Islanders NHL hockey team is shown in Uniondale, N.Y., Wednesday, May 11, 2011. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Today’s the big day.

Nassau County voters have been heading to the polls to cast their ballots since 6 a.m. Monday to decide the fate of the proposed Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum redevelopment.

After much debate from those for and against the idea, voters will decide if taxpayers should fund a $400 million bond issue for a new arena and minor league ballpark nearby in the Nassau Hub.

Several hours into voting, elections officials reported that turnout was low. Officials at some polling locations expect a boom Monday evening after voters get out of work and before the polls close at 9 p.m.

In Garden City—an area bordering the development area—voter turnout was moderate at Locust School.

“I don’t really like the way it’s set up,” said Sandy Reina, a Garden City resident who voted No. “Charles Wang in now way is saying that he’s going to keep the team here for any amount of time, so for a bunch of short-swing jobs, I’m not going to finance Charles Wang’s business.”

Martha Reina, who also voted No, said she doesn’t see a need for a Coliseum at a time when many people are out of work and that the county is going broke.

“Charles Wang can pay for it himself,” she said. “He has enough money.”

Voters at Uniondale High School, even closer to where the new arena would be built, turnout was brisk during mid-day, including some in favor of the idea.

“I’d like to see the area developed,” said Anthony Watts, a Uniondale resident who voted Yes despite realizing he would likely see a slight tax increase. “I’d like to see a stream of tax revenue coming in for the long-term. Anybody who’s voting ‘No’ is being very short-sighted.”

Not all Uniondale residents were on the same page. Even though the Coliseum is located in their backyard, some residents felt there were too many unanswered questions about the details of the deal.

“I just don’t think there’s enough information out there,” Uniondale resident Reggie Paylor said. “Everyone wants the island to obviously prosper, but I just don’t think it’s very well thought out. I think it’s a little rushed.”

Even if the referendum passes, the county legislature and the Nassau Interim Finance Authority (NIFA)—a state fiscal watchdog agency—would have to sign off on the borrowing.

The final results of the referendum are expected to be revealed later tonight. The fate of ‘Wang’ Island is at stake.