First lawsuit is filed against Islanders arena, charging rigged bid and invalid environmental study

With the New York Islanders arena plan having received final state approval last month, the Belmont Park project is now facing the first of several lawsuits, as promised:

The Village of Floral Park has filed suit against the state to block the $1.3 billion redevelopment of Belmont Park, including the new arena for the New York Islanders, ahead of a ceremonial groundbreaking on the property expected this month.

The Article 78 proceeding, a lawsuit against a municipality, asks a judge to overturn all approvals of the project, stop construction on the site and restart the environmental review process, according to documents filed in state Supreme Court in Mineola.

Floral Park’s complaint is twofold: First, that the public bidding process was rigged because the state had already received plans for a hockey arena at the site; second, that the environmental review didn’t fully study the impact of a new Long Island Rail Road station planned to service the arena. And while the first may seem, as the Wii soccer announcer likes to tell me whenever I try a shot from midfield, “speculative to say the least,” the latter sounds pretty reasonable, at least in IANAL terms, considering that the train station plan wasn’t even released by Gov. Andrew Cuomo until the day the final environmental impact statement was being voted on.

Lawsuits to block development projects are always longshots given that developers can afford the best lawyers, among other things, but even longshots sometimes win, so we’ll see how this goes. My question: If they end up losing, will the developers have to re-plant the trees they already chopped down?

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7 comments on “First lawsuit is filed against Islanders arena, charging rigged bid and invalid environmental study

  1. Food for thought concerning the Village of Floral Park lawsuit proposed Islanders Belmont Arena. With 25 months left before the scheduled opening, it will be interesting to see if LIRR improvements are completed in time to coincide with the promised fall 2021 opening of the Belmont Park Islanders Arena. It continues to be disappointing that Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and other elected officials continue to support this project with major transportation access issues still unresolved. In January 2018, former MTA Chairman Joe Lhota informed the Empire State Development Corporation that there is no current Penn Station capacity to support new Belmont Park service. He said that his agency must first perform a planning study. The study started in July with a promised completion date of September 2018. The MTA shared this study with the ESDC in support of their environmental document. September 2019 marks the one year anniversary of the MTA/LIRR not making the study public. Perhaps this law suit will result in the study contents becoming available to all interested parties. There has been no presentation that I am aware of to the monthly LIRR or full MTA Committee Board meetings on the detailed contents of the study. The MTA has never committed one year later to a new schedule and date for release of the study. You have to wonder if continued delay for release of this study could imply that both feasibility and costs have been found to be prohibitive.

    The next MTA $40 to $50 billion 2020-2024 Five Year Capital Program Plan has been promised to be released in October. This is just weeks away. It will be interesting to see if buried in this document is the proposed new Elmont LIRR Station. Perhaps it will also provide some clue as to how the developers $97 million share will be transferred into the future MTA 2020 – 2024 Five Year Capital Plan for LIRR to access these funds.

    What will the MTA LIRR procurement strategy will be for construction of the new Elmont LIRR Station? Will it be Design/Build when you have the construction contractor advance final design beyond 30% in parallel with actual construction? Progression of design and engineering to 30% followed by initiation and completion of the procurement process including advertising, opening bids and awarding a contract followed by issuing a notice to proceed to the winning vendor can take many months before actual construction for the new station can begin. The MTA/LIRR could also advance design beyond 30% to 100% and then bid out the contract. This would also take many months. Another possibility is the LIRR intending to ask Main Line Third Track Construction Contractors (3TC) to perform this work via a construction contract change order to their existing $1.8 billion contract? How will the 3TC joint venture members including Dragados USA, Inc., John P. Picone, Inc., CCA Civil, Inc. Halmar International LLC, Stantec and Cameron Engineering perform these tasks? How would this additional work be integrated into the master contract schedule which already includes 50 major activities? Are there sufficient additional employees available to perform this added work while keeping the original work on schedule? How would MTA legal and procurement staff justify this change order to the existing contract? How would the MTA board justify voting in favor of this change order? How would the LIRR integrate this work into the upcoming 2020 and 2021 master track outages and force account plans for the agencies overall annual capital and maintenance track programs?

    The original project scope was to add a third track to 9.8 miles along the LIRR Main Line between Floral Park and Hicksville including elimination of all seven street-level grade crossings within the project corridor. I’m not aware that any work was contemplated under the original environmental review process or construction contract west of the Floral Park LIRR Station.

    Completion of Positive Train Control by December 2020 to meet Federal Rail Road Administration requirements, Main Line Third Track and East Side Access to Grand Central Terminal by December 2022 along with many other capital projects and programs are going to be a higher priority for the MTA & LIRR than construction of the new Elmont LIRR Station. Who knows what other new LIRR capital project and programs contained in the yet to be released MTA 2020 -2024 Five Year Capital Plan will also be more important as well.

    (Larry Penner is a transportation historian, advocate and writer who previously worked for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office 31 years. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for grants supporting billions in capital projects and programs on behalf of the MTA, LIRR, NYC Transit, NYC DOT and NICE bus)

  2. Since the bidding process was anything but open (or even fully public – was there ever an RFP for the land in question? I don’t recall one…), I think it’s fair to say that FP’s first argument will be accepted. The question will be what do they get as a prize for being correct?

    I suspect nothing, but who knows.

    As for the second, well, to properly remedy the land clearing, the developer would clearly have to reassemble and reanimate the original trees, not plant new ones.

    1. Yes the previous RFP had bids from the NY cosmos for a soccer stadium (they were hooked up with Sen Dean Skeols who is serving a federal sentence), Blumenfeld group for a Costco & another bid for a retail outlet. Suddenly poof the RFP was cancelled.

  3. This is just Barclays 2.0, which was really just Citi Field 2.0, which was really just Shea 2.0.

    It’s going to be funny when no one goes to see the Isles because they suck and Bettman gave Seattle all the good players.

  4. Let’s go Islanders! This stadium is the best thing to happen to this area in decades. A giant boast to the local economy, utilities and local businesses. Hundreds of jobs will be created from hotel staff, retail staff, venue staff, security staff and among other various jobs created. Major improvements to a aging 100+ years old infrastructure and surrounding areas. The new railroad station will reduce traffic congestion. Floral Park should be embracing the Islanders instead of fighting them. This lawsuit is a waste of taxpayers dollars. This is a win win for New York, the surrounding towns and its people.

    1. …and pretty much every one of those arguments was used to stump for a major renovation of Nassau AND also for the new arena at Atlantic Yards.

      Neither one did anything for the Islanders. This arena (if/when built) likely won’t either (remember when moving to Brooklyn was going to fix everything? yeah, about that…).

      The transit upgrades might be a legitimate benefit, depending on how the improvements are made and how the transit schedules are managed.

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