A group of residents opposed to building a new arena for the New York Islanders on land next to Belmont Park in Elmont have released a proposal of their own for the site.
Instead of a hockey arena, the land should be used for a community center, Little League fields, and other sports fields, according to Elmont Against The Megamall, which has registered with New York State as a lobbying organization and hired California-based strategist Howard Kushlan to lead its lobbying efforts.
“The megamall and the arena are simply too much,” Tony Bhatti, a leader of the group, said in a news release touting the group’s plan. “It’s time to start over and our plan is a good place to start.”
The new group is working with prominent local attorney Albert D’Agostino of the Valley Stream-based law firm of Minerva & D’Agostino, to build a case against the development. It’s also reportedly working with Mercury Public Affairs, which helped opponents nix a plan to build a mall at the Cerro Wire Site in Syosset.
The Islanders won a bid in 2017 to build a new arena in Elmont, making real fans’ hope that the NHL team will skate home to Long Island after moving from Nassau Coliseum to Brooklyn. The hockey team and its financial backers got the greenlight to build a new 18,000-seat arena on New York State land adjacent to the Belmont racetrack in what officials touted as a $1-billion project.
Critics of the plan maintain that the already traffic-congested area can’t afford the inundation of additional cars and trucks that a new arena and mall complex would bring. Supporters argue that the park’s Long Island Rail Road station will allow fans to use mass transit, easing the impact on local gridlock. But opponents doubt that additional LIRR trains to the park will be enough to mitigate the issue.