Floral Park requests more time on Belmont project

Floral Park requests more time on Belmont project
Longobardi said that Floral Park is pursuing their options if the Belmont Arena project goes forward. (Photo by Tom McCarthy)

In an effort to build local support, the Village of Floral Park submitted its comments for the Belmont development project’s final environmental impact statement three days early.

On July 29, the village of Floral Park sent out a copy of its letter to Empire State Development’s Michael Avolio containing its concerns over the Islanders’ hockey arena project in Belmont Park.

“As the village has repeatedly stated, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement was wholly deficient, based on fundamentally flawed assumptions concerning traffic and other impacts,” the letter said.

The reason for submitting the comments earlier than the Aug. 1 deadline was to amend the FEIS and issue what is known as a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. The village’s comments also included requests to local state, county, and town elected officials to join the village in calling on the ESD to amend FEIS and the SEIS due to “deficiencies” with the 8,000-page document.

Floral Park’s letter breaks down its concerns by category. In an earlier interview, Mayor Dominick Longobardi had said that the ESD would utilize navigation applications such as Waze for traffic diversion.

In the mitigation chapter of the FEIS, the ESD suggests that in order to minimize traffic diversions to local streets, the project’s transportation management team would partner with apps like Waze to define specific local residential streets which might otherwise be used as an alternate route, like Plainfield Avenue in Floral Park, as “unavailable” during events at the arena. In its letter, Floral Park said, “Is ESD seriously considering suggesting that providing misleading information to the public is an acceptable mitigation measure?”

The FEIS also included a “no retail” alternative, excluding the proposed mall component of the project. While Floral Park was in support of this measure, the village wrote, “This alternative should have been included in the DEIS in the first instance.” The village went as far as saying in the comments that the plan was implemented so late to deter from the “no retail” option.

In an interview, Longobardi said about the FEIS, “It didn’t cure traffic, it didn’t cure parking.”

The comments said the ESD “failed to account for the fact that traffic generated by the project will overflow off of the already overburdened Cross Island Parkway onto local streets.” The village also said that most Islander hockey fans and potential patrons of the mall will be coming from eastern Long Island. “For those coming from the east, approaching the project from local roads that lead into Hempstead Turnpike will not be more circuitous than any alternative highway,” Floral Park said.

Floral Park wrote letters to state Sen. Anna Kaplan(D-Great Neck), Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, state Assemblyman Edward Ra (R-Garden City South), Hempstead Receiver and Supervisor Candidate Donald Clavin, Hempstead Clerk Sylvia Cabana, Hempstead Councilman Thomas Muscarella (R-Garden City), Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages (D-Elmont), Legislator Vincent Muscarella (R-West Hempstead), and Presiding Officer Rich Nicollelo(R-New Hyde Park).

So far, Legislators Nicollelo and Muscarella along with Assembly members Ra and Solages have written comments in support of the village’s request for a SEIS with a new comment period.

Nicollelo and Muscarella’s joint letter said, “As Nassau County legislators, we represent neighborhoods surrounding Belmont Park, whose residents have enjoyed a peaceful quality of life while living in close proximity to the site for many years.” The letter went on to say that the village of Floral Park would be “uniquely impacted” by development due to the proximity of the development to an elementary school and a high school.

The legislators’ letter said the feedback period for the FEIS  was “short” and that the ESD introduced a new Long Island Rail Road station and traffic management plan with the FEIS that the village believes requires more research.

The Village of Floral Park had a news conference Monday at the Mayfair Gate — or the entrance to Belmont Park on Mayfair Avenue. The conference, attended by droves of Floral Park residents, was hosted by local legislators, council members, and civic leaders.

During the conference, Mayor Longobardi said the village has “options” that it is pursuing if the project moves forward, which could include legal action.

Deputy Mayor Kevin Fitzgerald said in an interview after the conference that the trustees have not heard a response to comments from the ESD.

Jack Sterne, an ESD spokesman, issued a statement in response to Floral Park’s comments, saying, “Throughout this process, Empire State Development has led a robust community engagement effort, holding dozens of meetings and speaking daily with local community leaders – oftentimes exceeding the public comment requirements in state environmental law.”

He continued, “We will respond to substantive comments received during this most recent feedback period and will continue to work with our local partners to make this project a success.”

Now that the public feedback period has closed, Sterne said, the Empire State Development team is working on responding to feedback from all commenters, including the Village of Floral Park. Rather than respond point-by-point via press inquiries, the responses will be presented publicly in a manner similar to how comments on the Draft EIS were presented in the Final EIS.

Sterne said final approvals are being sought from the ESD Board, Franchise Oversight Board, and Public Authorities Control Board. The PACB approved the project on July 31. ESD has a meeting scheduled Aug. 8.

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