Nassau Pols OK Coliseum Redevelopment Plan

Forest City Ratner rendering
A rendering of what Forest City Ratner's redeveloped arena would look like at Nassau Coliseum site.
A rendering of what Forest City Ratner’s redeveloped arena would look like at Nassau Coliseum site.

The Nassau County Legislature unanimously approved Monday a 34-year lease with developer Forest City Ratner, paving the way for a $229 million renovation of Nassau Coliseum planned to start in 2015.

All 19 lawmakers on the panel authorized the measure by jointly shouting “yes,” capping three hours of deliberations from Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and the firm he tapped last month to redevelop the 77-acre Uniondale property.

“This is a historic day in Nassau County,” Mangano said during a press conference afterward where he was joined by the entire Legislature. “If there was every a day to come together, today was that day.”

“I cannot wait to get started,” beamed Bruce Ratner, head of the development firm. “This was a long hard journey.”

The vote marked a rare moment of election-year bipartisanship for the dysfunctional legislature that Republicans control with a 10-9 majority. It also could mean a promising future for the 40-year-old arena that has been the site of many ambitious, but failed proposals over the years.

Among the biggest perks is that the project will be privately financed as opposed to Mangano’s 2011 failed referendum seeking $400 million in taxpayer borrowing as a last ditch effort to keep the New York Islanders from moving. Team owner Charles Wang, who himself failed to redevelop the property into a mini-city, announced last year the Islanders will move to Ratner’s new Barclays Center in Brooklyn when the team’s coliseum lease is up in 2015.

Nassau Entertainment Center, as the Forest City subsidiary that will redevelop the coliseum is called, will be able to start construction starting Aug. 1, 2015—the day after the current lease expires with the Islanders and SMG, the arena’s management company.

Mangano said he expects the renovations to the coliseum, which would reduce the number of seats from more than 16,000 to about 13,000, would be ready for the public when it reopens by 2016. It’s expected to create 1,500 union construction jobs and 2,700 permanent jobs, with priority going to current coliseum employees and local residents.

“We want this become iconic,” Ratner told the legislature. “We want this to become world famous.”

-With Rashed Mian