Long Island Realtor Scott Rechler was recently invited by the Garden City Chamber of Commerce to be the guest speaker at one of the semi-regular luncheons the organization hosts at the Garden City Hotel. This invitation served as an opportunity for Rechler to share proposed plans for The Hub, the area around Nassau Coliseum which, at this point, is a sea of blacktop. For those keeping score, the last time anyone tilted at this windmill was when the late Charles Wang unveiled The Lighthouse at Long Island (aka the Lighthouse Project).
What the former owner of the New York Islanders proposed for the nearly 150-acre site was a multi-use plan that was a complete refurb of the Islanders’ barn and the surrounding space that included four ice rinks, a state-of-the-art health club that would have doubled as the team’s practice facility (and been open to the public), a five-star hotel, condominiums, a basketball facility, a sports technology center, a conference center and an open-air plaza.
Sound like a lot? Well, that’s what then-Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray felt. She offered a counter proposal that was half the proposed size. Wang balked and tried to finance the new arena with a $400-million bond, which taxpayers voted down, 57 to 43 percent. The Islanders fled to Brooklyn, and eventually BSE Global came along to give the old spit and polish to the Coliseum. Seeing not only the botched first crack at the Hub, but the complete mishandling of Amazon coming to Long Island City, Rechler’s RXR Realty is attempting to learn from those very public mistakes.
In teaming with BSE Global, the RXR CEO and chairman is making inclusivity a driving factor in his vision for The Hub—a downtown for Long Island. It’ll be mixed use, with affordable housing included as a means of trying to keep the region’s youth from fleeing to less pricey digs in other states.
Northwell has signed on as an anchor tenant and has committed to a 250,000-square foot Innovation Center. A listening tour has been ongoing, in which Rechler and his associates are hearing the concerns of elected officials, local community and labor groups.
The developer is well aware of the fact that Long Island may not have another shot at the kind of middle class booster shot provided by the Grummans of the past. While his plans may sound grandiose, the mix of humility and eagerness to get everyone pulling in the same direction makes for a refreshing lack of the arrogance that doomed Amazon.
—Dave Gil de Rubio
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