Nassau Comptroller George Maragos sounded at times part watchdog and at others head cheerleader as he weighed in Thursday on the proposed deal to build a new arena and keep the New York Islanders playing hockey on Long Island.
Maragos outlined four areas that needed to be addressed in negotiations between Nassau County and Islanders owner Charles Wang to build a $350 million facility to replace the aged Nassau Coliseum.
“Our objective is that this should not cost the taxpayer anything,’’ Maragos said. “There should be sufficient revenue to pay for any borrowing the county does in order to fund the development of the site.”
The arena is just one aspect of a 77-acre multifaceted redevelopment plan. While Maragos called the renewal of the Nassau Hub vital to the economic future of the county, he outlined four steps that need to be taken before he’d sign off on a deal. According to Maragos:
- The tenant’s credit quality in order to pay the minimum rent and any cost overruns needs to be defined.
- The Islanders’ formal commitment to stay in Nassau County for 30 years past 2015 has yet to be renewed.
- The county should retain the development rights to the 77 acres surrounding the Coliseum.
- The assignment and sublease terms in the lease agreement currently appear to favor the tenant and not the county.
“The redevelopment of the Nassau County Hub and the Coliseum are critically important to Nassau County,” Maragos said. “The Coliseum currently supports hundreds of jobs and the redevelopment will create thousands of construction and permanent jobs as well as expand the sales tax base of the county.”
The massive project still needs a public vote as well as approval by the county legislature, NIFA and the comptroller for it to move forward. Maragos, for one, wants to see this project move ahead. But not to the detriment of the taxpayer. His greatest concern is the credit worthiness of the tenant.
“We would expect, for example, Wang to be the co-signature,” Maragos said. “It’s a term that we’ve asked in order for the county to feel assured that the payment commitments will be made.”
County Executive Ed Mangano recently shared a revised proposal with the comptroller that addressed some of these issues. And with 12 days remaining before the Aug. 1 referendum, Maragos said he’s optimistic a deal will be reached.
“If these terms are satisfactorily resolved to the benefit of the county,” Maragos said, “then, yes, I would say it would be a good deal.”