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Newsday (New York)


Sheila Moriarty pushed her blue walker along the sidewalk outside Belmont Park, balancing two cardboard signs protesting the new Islanders arena and sprawling commercial complex planned near there.

Despite her bad back, the Bellerose Terrace woman wanted to be part of Sunday's protest march against the project, which Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky recently said he expects to start next May.

That timetable, coming as the project remains under environmental review, has further angered residents — and made them more nervous, said Moriarty, 50, president of the Bellerose Terrace Civic Association.

"No matter what we say, no matter what we do, no matter how many phone calls we make, or letters," she said. "We feel we don't really have a voice. Nobody's sitting at the table with these developers."

As the several dozen residents toted signs in front of Belmont Park in Elmont, they offered a vision of the massive project as a misfortune to the surrounding communities. Hempstead Turnpike and the Cross Island Parkway, already troubled with traffic, would lock up even more, they said, and an influx of drivers would turn their neighborhood streets into thoroughfares and parking lots. Then there's the noise and pollution from all that construction, they contend.

Moriarty, for her part, worries about her son, Ian, a 12-year-old who carried his own homemade sign saying "Too dangerous." The project edges near the gates of his school, Floral Park Memorial Middle School. She worries the sporting events and concerts will bring in drunken drivers.

The project includes an 18,000-seat arena, 435,000 square feet of retail space, restaurants, a movie theater and a 250-room hotel. It also includes 30,000 square feet of office space, 10,000 square feet of community space and 8.5 acres of public open space.

Developers have billed the billion-dollar project as a homecoming for the Islanders and a financial bonanza for the area.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has said the project will serve as an economic engine for the region, increasing visitor spending, stimulating local businesses and creating 12,300 construction jobs and 3,100 permanent jobs.

State officials at Empire State Development said Thursday they've "fostered robust community engagement at every step of the Belmont Park redevelopment process, and the project has been refined and improved as a result."

Not so, said the frustrated residents who marched Sunday, a conglomerate of people from Elmont, Floral Park, Bellerose Terrace and other nearby communities. Many have come to know each other since they started protesting the plan announced a year ago.

March organizer Tammie Williams, of Elmont, arrived early carrying signs and her red bullhorn. Aubrey Phillips, an IT security consultant from Elmont, handed out news releases.

Marching, Matthew Sexton, 41, of Floral Park, led the call-and-response chants, as he has done before.

What do we want? he bellowed.

"Transparency," came back the chorus.

As a chill autumn breeze blew along Hempstead Turnpike, the group stopped at the racetrack's Gate 3 and set up a podium.

"This is not a done deal," Williams told the crowd. "I am willing to fight this to the Supreme Court."

"Enjoy the ride," she added, as if addressing all those behind the project.

When the rally was over, Lucinda Doyle headed back to her Elmont home. Doyle, 38, said she was raised in Nassau County, and that her husband was from Brooklyn. When they married she pushed hard for them to live out here.

"I want to ensure that this is a place where my family can grow and enjoy," she said.

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October 15, 2018


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