I don’t know what to tell you about the vote tomorrow to allow the County of Nassau in suburban New York to borrow up to $400 million to build a new Nassau Coliseum as home for the NY Islanders, concerts, trade shows, etc. I doubt if I’ll make up my mind until I’m in the voting booth.
First, the vote is advisory. There are an awful lot of details that haven’t been worked out. Revenue projections look pretty rosy to me. We’ll get around 800 new and badly needed construction jobs, but the county is laying off civil-service workers and they need jobs too. The bond issue, if approved, will raise County taxes more than the two percent allowable under a new state law. The Nassau Interim Finance Agency is skeptical too because, frankly, Nassau County government is broke.
I don’t buy the argument that a new arena will make the Islanders a better team. The place wasn’t run down in 1984 when they stopped winning Stanley Cups and they haven’t won one since. Plus, a new arena hasn’t helped the Mets much, has it? Of all the major professional sports, hockey draws the fewest people and when the NHL locked out its players in the 2004-2005 season, I’m told Coliseum revenues hardly noticed it.
They say we’ll lose 2,000 jobs if the Islanders leave and the Coliseum closes. Most of them are part-time and low-paying yet a job’s a job, especially with the economy the way it is now. I’d hate to lose any. They say we’ll have 3,000 permanent new jobs at a new arena, but that includes the 2,000 jobs they have now and is based on a projection that the Islanders will come close to selling out every home game. I don’t know if they ever did that, even when they were winning those four straight Stanley Cups.
I don’t care about hockey. The only sport I follow is baseball: I’ve been there for other things, but I haven’t been inside the Nassau Coliseum for any sporting event since the Chinese ping pong team was there almost forty years ago. I would like a place nearby to go for home shows, auto shows, concerts and other big shows.
I think our taxes will go up whichever way the vote goes. Building a new arena will cost us and so will closing down the existing Coliseum and not replacing it. So, I guess I’m sitting on the fence (which is uncomfortable) and when I jump off tomorrow, whichever side I land on will be uncomfortable too. Sometimes if you’re hurting either emotionally or economically you go out and spend some money you don’t have on a treat for yourself in an effort to feel better. Maybe that’s the mindset that will decide the question.
Polls are open from 6 AM to 9 PM. The date was selected to ensure a low voter turnout in the hope that special interests (or stake holders, depending on whether you agree with them or not) will decide the issue. If you’re neither a special interest nor a stake holder and you vote anyway, perhaps the people will actually decide the outcome. I know I’ll vote; I just don’t know how yet.