Hofstra University has filed a lawsuit claiming the Nassau County Planning Commission violated state open meeting laws when it held a meeting to discuss the fate of the proposed Las Vegas Sands event center and casino at the site of the Nassau Coliseum last month.
Hofstra’s lawsuit, filed in State Supreme Court in Mineola Tuesday, contends the commission did not properly notify the public and provide materials about the lease transfer of the Nassau Coliseum, violated executive session rules by improperly meeting, prematurely voted to close public comment and held a meeting before the lease negotiations were completed.
“We are asking that the Planning Commission commit to a fair and transparent process,” Hofstra spokeswoman Terry Coniglio said in a statement. “To this point, the Planning Commission’s hearing did not comply with the law, and we have been forced to ask the court to ensure that the public receives the information it deserves and a fair opportunity to be heard on this important matter.”
Efforts to reach planning commission officials for comment on the matter were unavailing. Sands officials were also unavailable for comment.
Chris Boye, a spokesman for Nassau County said “Hofstra University would be better off spending their students’ tuition on education rather than frivolous lawsuits.”
In the lawsuit, Hofstra asks the court to mandate Nassau County to void the meeting and make materials related to the lease negotiations “available to the public at least one week in advance.” The commission is scheduled to meet Thursday at 10 a.m. and the agenda includes discussing the Coliseum’s lease.
No vote on the lease negotiations has been conducted by the planning commission yet and, if approved, it would need to be passed by the Nassau County Legislature.
Hofstra has opposed the entertainment center proposed by Las Vegas Sands at the site of the Coliseum. A letter from Hofstra trustees published online in March said potential “traffic congestion, crime, economic harm to local business” would have a negative impact on the school community, which is directly adjacent to the area.
“The Nassau Hub is an entirely inappropriate location for a casino,” officials said. “There are other locations in and around New York City to site a casino that are not in such proximity to multiple educational institutions where so many young people live and learn.”
In January Sands Vice Presidents Ron Reese said the company and Hofstra have engaged in discussions regarding the proposal and hopes to have a continued dialogue throughout the process.
“We don’t build $4 billion casinos, we build multi-amenity real estate developments and we want to engage with the community and local labor leaders,” Reese said. “We’ve spoken to Hofstra and we hope there are more opportunities to engage in conversation.”
Reese told Blank Slate Media in January the hotel will be at least 800 rooms, the live performance venue will have a 5,000-7,500 seat capacity and there will be roughly 400,000 square feet of “corporate meeting facilities” to go along with other amenities.
Hofstra President Susan Poser previously expressed concerns in a guest essay in Newsday that a casino would exacerbate traffic, contribute to addiction and mental health tendencies in college-age students and would not guarantee an increase in revenue to the area.
“A casino at the Hub is not about the future, and it would not be an engine for economic and social prosperity,” Poser said in the essay. “It would be dangerous for adjoining neighborhoods and create a nightmare of traffic and pollution, not to mention anti-social behaviors that often crop up around casinos.”
Despite Hofstra’s opposition to the plans, a pair of other local colleges have expressed support for the idea, with Nassau County Community College and Long Island University announcing they will aid Sands in its plans.
The partnership between the two colleges will allow students to advance their two-year associate’s degree into a four-year bachelor’s degree, officials said. The program, according to Sands officials, would be beneficial to graduates seeking to pursue a variety of hospitality roles.