Great Neck the leader in opposing Coliseum plan

Great Neck the leader in opposing Coliseum plan

Despite a strong public relations campaign by Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and the New York Islanders, the $400 million coliseum bond referendum suffered a stunning defeat August 1 in Legislative District 10, which represents all of Great Neck, and parts of Manhasset, New Hyde Park, and Plandome.

The referendum failed in 18 of 19 legislative districts, but the highest percentage of “no” votes came from LD 10.

While 57 percent of votes cast in Nassau County were against the referendum, 75 percent of LD 10 votes were against.

The bond would have cost taxpayers up to $800 million for debt service for a new coliseum and a $50 million minor league ballpark. The special election cost the cash-strapped county $2.2 million.

Within LD 10, Great Neck said no in overwhelming numbers. Of the district’s 20 villages and hamlets, the top 10 “no” precincts were located in Great Neck.

On the peninsula, no votes ranged from a high of 90 percent in Kensington to a low of 75 percent in the hamlet of University Gardens and the Village of Great Neck Plaza.

In the rest of LD 10, no votes ranged from a high of 73 percent in Manhasset to a low of 66 in Herricks and the village of North Hills.

“We are in a struggling economy, and the sense was [voters] would love to keep the islanders, and they would love a new coliseum, but they did not want to be the ones paying for it,” said Nassau County Legislator Judi Bosworth (D-Great Neck), who represents Legislative District 10.

Turnout ranged from a low of 8 percent in the Village of Kings Point to a high of 23 percent in the Village of Kensington. Turnout was 17 percent in Nassau County.

“The prevailing thought was maybe there would be a 7 percent voter turnout,” Bosworth said. “I think the fact that it was a great deal higher than that is indicative.”

Bosworth’s outreach efforts ranged from a fact sheet she sent to community leaders and village mayors in her district, to community appearances, such as at the Kings Point Civic Association picnic, where she questioned the referendum’s date and cost.

“I think Great Neck was energized by the redistricting debacle,” she said. “I think you have a population that is now very much aware of the Nassau County issues.”

A Republican redistricting plan for the county Legislature that is currently the subject of litigation would split Great Neck by moving the Village of Lake Success and part of University Gardens into District 11, which is currently served by Democratic Nassau County Legislator Wayne Wink. The plan was vigorously opposed by Great Neck mayors and residents.

Village of Kensington Mayor Susan Lopatkin was thrilled her village had the highest voter turnout, which she attributes to a newsletter to residents she sent about a week before the election. In the newsletter, she informed residents that if approved the bond could raise their property taxes much higher than the $58 for an average Nassau County home.

“I’m glad to see that the overwhelming majority was no, because I thought that was the appropriate response,” she said. “I think that it’s very clear from the total vote, not just in Kensington but all over, that Nassau County taxpayers do not want to pay for something when it is questionable.”

Mangano has said he is seeking redevelopment proposals for the entire 77-acre coliseum site.

Bosworth said she is looking forward on working with her colleagues on a new plan for the coliseum.

“We need really to work together to build a plan that will rebuild the entire coliseum area,” Bosworth said. “We are an aging suburban community. We have to make use of the land that we have.”

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