The residents of the Floral Park have expressed concerns about how transparent and communicative Empire State Development, the New York State Economic Development Agency, which is building the UBS Arena in Belmont Park, has been with them about the construction.
As part of the $ 1.3 billion Belmont Park Redevelopment Project, construction of the arena began in 2019. The project is expected to generate $ 25 billion in economic activity, as well as 10,000 construction jobs and 3,000 permanent jobs, 30 percent of which will be local Purposes are intended for residents according to ESD. Soon to be the home of the New York Islanders, the UBS Arena opens this fall at the start of the 2021-2022 NHL season.
Floral Park’s Bill Kelleher has been a supporter of the project from the start, but has long been concerned about the traffic, noise and environmental issues the arena could cause. “Ultimately, this project will benefit Nassau County,” he said.
Now Kelleher and other residents of the flower park have expressed concerns about the transparency of ESD’s construction plans and communication with residents about the ongoing work. Kelleher, who took part in the first meetings about the renovation plan and the construction of the arena, said he had never “firmly understood” ESD’s plans despite several contacts.
Communication with residents about ongoing work in the arena’s north car park is unclear, he said.
Kelleher, whose house is just 120 meters from that property, said he saw bulldozers working there last week. ESD originally referred to the northern property as an “overflow,” he said. The property with an estimated 2,400 to 2,800 parking spaces was not intended for construction.
ESD was unclear to the residents about the construction there, said Kelleher. “We’re still being told this is an overflow lot,” he said.
He and others who live near the soon-to-be-opened arena also expressed concern about a recently erected fence. The fence, claims Kelleher, does not match ESD’s blueprints, which are available online and publicly. He noted that the fence appears to be permanent, but ESD told him it was temporarily fixed to protect local residents like Kelleher from construction.
Marion Philips, senior vice president of community relations for Empire State Development, recently met with residents in the north parking lot to discuss the fence, Kelleher said. Philips told them the fence was not installed correctly and, according to Kelleher, is in the wrong place.
He said he would prefer an opaque fence, similar to the one on the south car park, which he attributed to MEP Michaelle Solages, a Democrat from Elmont, to keep Elmont residents safe and secure from construction. Kelleher said he spoke with State Sen. Anna Kaplan about securing a similar barrier for the north side to protect the Floral Park residents.
Kelleher first contacted ESD by email on May 21st about the construction work on the north car park. According to Kelleher, ESD only responded on June 4th. He sent a total of three unanswered emails.
“I’m fine,” said Kelleher about the construction of the UBS arena and even the north car park by ESD. “I don’t have to be held in my hand. [But] there is a lack of unity between the residents, the Belmont Park Advisory Board and ESD. ”
“Since the Belmont Redevelopment Project began, Empire State Development has provided community stakeholders and local leaders with at least weekly updates on construction progress and any changes,” the agency wrote in a statement to the Herald, “and has worked closely with them to address the impact of the construction. “
“ESD’s transparent public review process included more than 12 public meetings and hearings, dozen of meetings with local organizations and stakeholders, and months of public comment periods – which has generated thousands of community comments, ”the statement said.
The agency also addressed Kelleher’s concerns about construction on the north parking lot, claiming it notified the community three days after Kelleher’s request. “We are providing all community members with a weekly email called ‘Look Ahead’ which contains detailed information on construction activities planned for the coming week,” the statement said. “The work on the north property was first mentioned in the week of May 24th, when we were notified by the construction company, and again in the week of May 31st.”
Solages agreed that there was a need for a consensus among residents, the Advisory Board and ESD, and pointed out the importance of community input in an endeavor as powerful as the redevelopment project. “It’s about communication,” she said. “We’re in a symbiotic relationship.”
Solages supported both the Advisory Board, which required a legislative effort to create, and the Belmont Community Advisory Committee at the federal level. As a representative of the state’s 22nd assembly district, which includes Elmont and Floral Park and parts of Franklin Square, she expressed concern about the transparency issues raised by voters like Kelleher.
However, Solages said that ESD’s communication with local residents has improved since construction began on the UBS Arena. “ESD has come a long way,” she said, noting that she had filed complaints from voters about ESD in the past but that the agency had responded better. Solagen did it realized that ESD needs to improve its communication with residents about the work in Belmont Park. “We’re all involved in this project,” she said. “Communication must be involved”
In the past two weeks, ESD and residents had a conversation about the concerns raised, according to Solages. During an on-site visit by residents of Floral Park, local officials and ESD officials tried to solve the fence problem. There was also a second meeting that local officials attended.
“When ESD received a complaint about the work of Floral Park,” the agency said in its statement, “it was immediately dealt with with two conference calls with the village mayor and council members, as well as an on-site visit with ESD and the construction team ensure all concerns are understood. ”
“There is a conversation going on,” said Solages. “We are working together now and I encourage all parties to find a solution that will protect the community and the quality of life for the community.”
“We hope to find a solution that takes community views into account,” she added.