The Battle For Belmont: The Belmont Park Redevelopment Listening Session
Elmont High School hosted Sunday’s Belmont Park Redevelopment Listening Session, between NYCFC’s City Football Group, and the New York Islander’s Sterling Group/Oak View Group/Malkin Value. The two groups were represented by both architects of the proposals, as well as senior executives in charge of turning the proposal into actual building sites. The moderator of this event was Gail Lewis, who did a great job.
The auditorium was a good mix of Islander fans, community members and a few protesters of both proposals. It was a relatively calm session, and ESD (Empire State Development) did a great job of showing transparency and a behind the curtains view of each team’s reasoning for wanting to build at Belmont Park and the repercussions of the construction on the community.
Each team had fifteen minutes to give their view of their proposals, with NYCFC going first. It was very hard to see the actual slideshow of the proposals due to the lighting on the projector screen, but each team did a great job of breaking down their priorities and means of building their site.
NYCFC started the proposal section with a breakdown of their plans for Belmont. They are proposing a 26,000 seat open air stadium on 400,000 sq. feet of land, with a 5.2 acre community park for all activities (they actually listed yoga, tai chi, kite flying to name a few activities) and a 2 acre soccer facility for both soccer training for youth and the team. They stressed that they would have a bridge between the south end of the park and the north end, with limited traffic going through communities. They want to keep building the sport of soccer in America and even offered that there would be a university specifically for soccer purposes, whether it be learning to coach or play the sport.
Islanders proposed an 18,000 seat multi-purpose arena (Islanders, concerts, seminars, etc.) on 435,000 sq. feet of land, with 10,000 sq feet community space, a hotel with 200-250 rooms. Both proposals added that there would be outlet malls, entertainment on game days (tailgates, barbecues, etc.) and restaurants, shops, and all amenities open to the public year round. The Islanders team added that they would add 7,000 parking spaces without excavating below ground and the community space would be determined by the community and their representatives. They are to determine how the land would be divvied up, whether it be community centers for children, computer labs for higher learning, or an open area park for the community to use. The Islanders focus was bringing a fan-friendly experience for all who come to Belmont Park, whether it be during a concert, an Islanders game, or just shopping at the outlet mall or walking around the park.
The second part of the meeting was a Q & A between the community and the developers, where the community wrote questions that each team had to answer. The questions were broken into four categories; Land use, public amenities, job creation, and traffic/parking. Here are some important points brought up for each:
As stated above, each team gave their proposals with their intentions on how to use the state-owned land. They both stated that imminent domain would not be necessary as it was state land. Both stressed safety both during and after construction, and that the construction would not affect the community in any way. Both sides stressed that any kind of pollution, excavation, dirt removal would be done in the most efficient way, and it is a New York State law that the projects must be LEED eligible (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design), meaning that they are striving for LEED Gold (the highest standard) and that the proposals would be as energy efficient as possible.
The public use of the land was already stated, but some differences lie in the way each team will execute what the public needs.
NYCFC made a strong case that the open park would be of great use to the children of the neighborhoods, and that they are trying to have social activities planned to get the community more involved and programs in place to keep the youth involved with Belmont Park.
The Islanders agreed, but stated that the community centers that will be decided upon by the community can be used for whatever they see fit in the best interest of the community.
NYCFC stated that the construction would open up about 4,500 jobs for local unions and companies to apply to, and that once built they would try to create programs to get people who live nearby to be the vendors, retailers and the muscle of the operation.
The Islanders state their construction would open up 5,000 jobs for local unions and companies to apply to, and that they would have outreach programs to ensure the same, that the vendors, retailers, team staff, etc. would all be the workforce on a day to day basis.
Both teams agreed that the reason their arenas will be built on the north side of the site is specifically for traffic control. The access to the arenas would flow through the LIRR station and the Cross Island Parkway, not Hempstead Turnpike where many people live. NYCFC also stated that they would use the parking already available for the Belmont Stakes to keep the flow of traffic constant and the congestion to a minimum.
The Islanders added that the additional parking in their proposal on the north end would ensure that no new traffic would be flowing through the area, and advise commuters to games to change their “behavior” and try taking public transportation to games. They noted that 65% of fans that go to Citi Field for Mets games (the Wilpons are part of this proposal group) use public transportation and the cutdown on cars will cause less congestion.
NYCFC put on a good proposal that highlighted the need for a more soccer-centric facility where children can learn to play soccer and use the park for their own recreation. They want Belmont because the combination of space available and proximity to public transportation favors a fan-friendly environment and a place where people both young and old can enjoy their facilities.
The Islanders also put on a good proposal, stating that the state of the art arena will bring tons of new jobs to the area, and the proximity to public transportation will cut down on traffic. They want Belmont because they want to build a fan-friendly environment that is a moneymaker and an area that can be used year round. They stated again that they’ve been down this road many times before, most recently Citi Field, and that they have the communities’ best interests in their proposal and that the community center could be a special place for the community to bond with the team, as the Islanders and MSG already do lots of charity work (Garden of Dreams, hospital visits, etc.).
Overall, it was an eye opening experience that the Islanders are that much closer to getting the nod from ESD to start their Belmont proposal. The Belmont Park is just one of many areas NYCFC has scoped out as a potential landing spot, but this is it for the Islanders. With all of this commotion, ESD must be coming to a decision sometime soon. Either way, this meeting was greatly needed, as it gave the community the chance to ask even more questions and make sure that the proposals were in the best interest of the surrounding neighborhoods.
Make sure to follow me @SupRos22 and all sports coverage @DoubleGSports. I will be writing my weekly review Monday after a tough week of hockey for the Islanders. Every Belmont update I’ll make sure to keep you guys in the loop and hopefully soon enough the Islanders will have a new home.