Residents from Elmont, Franklin Square, Floral Park and other areas of Long Island gathered at the Elmont Memorial Library on April 24 to get answers about the development plan for the proposed Belmont Park Arena. Richard Browne, managing partner of Sterling Property Development, oversaw the Q&A session as he explained the changes made to the development plan after receiving feedback from residents and local officials at an earlier scoping session. The first major change entailed moving the retail space away from the arena.
“We got a lot of negative feedback from the retailers about having a multilevel retail space next to the arena,” Browne said.
Retailers were worried that tailgaters and other partiers outside the arena would not be shopping and might obstruct customers. The space has been moved over to Site B, where the parking lots were originally situated. With the larger space, Browne said the retail center would no longer be multilevel and would help avoid distributive construction work near the Floral Park homes that neighbor the site. The proposed hotel was also moved and will now be situated near the arena and capped at 150 ft.
Floral Park resident Brenda McDonald, whose home is next to Site B, was worried about security and parking problems that might arise because of the arena project. Holly Leicht, from ESD, said that developers had gone on multiple tours throughout Floral Park, and were looking to see if they could acquire parking permits for the residents living next to the proposed arena. Browne added that because the arena represents an investment of billions of dollars, the site would have 24/7 security.
“It will have more enhanced security than anything that you’ve ever seen here,” Browne said.
Despite the changes made to the development plan, local residents were still not sold on the project. They continued to express their concerns over traffic, the feasibility of the arena succeeding in a place were other stadiums already exist and whether or not it can bring economic growth to Elmont and Floral Park. Many wanted the Islanders to move to a newly proposed stadium in Ronkonkoma instead. Local community activist Tammie Williams, of the Belmont Park Community Coalition, said that the development of Belmont Park did not have any proper community input until after the project for an arena was chosen.
“Pretending to listen to the community now, with choreographed ‘sessions’ that answer only the questions ESD finds convenient, does not address any concerns about the project, or the process that is in place,” Williams said.
ESD and New York Arena Partners LLC will continue to meet with local residents and officials to give updates to their development plan. The Environmental Impact Study is underway.