On Sunday, October 14 “The Belmont Park Community Coalition” (BPCC), was joined by residents of Floral Park, Bellerose, Queens Village, Southeast Queens and the coalition “Elmont Against the MegaMall (EAMM)” at a press conference and rally held at Belmont Park's Gate 3.
The MegaMall coalition unveiled more than a thousand signed post cards from area residence voicing their opposition to the proposed development at Belmont Park. “We represent the more than 1000 residents who oppose this proposal, … The more information the people of Elmont have about this giant development, the more they are against it,” said Kevin Barnes, spokes person for the MegaMall coalition.
“The Belmont Park Community Coalition has done solid work to lead the opposition … We are all in this fight together and will stay … until the billionaires get the message that they cannot run roughshod over our community, ” Barnes continued.
Nassau County Legislator, Carrie Solages encouraged the rally attendees to continue the effort to educate, activate and raise community consciousness. He voiced his disappointment and sounded an alarm regarding the scope of studies disclosed at a meeting between the Economic Development Corp. (ESDC) and elected officials on Wednesday October 10. “They [ESDC] plans to study traffic and general quality of life impact on communities north of Belmont Park,” he said. “It's an insult to the hardworking, taxpaying residents of Elmont and Southeast Queens who's properties are south of the proposed development.”
Elmont residents know first hand the frustration of traveling the approximately 1.5 mile stretch of highway between the Hempstead Turnpike and Linden Boulevard exits along The Cross Island Parkway. Both exits are south of the Belmont Park and according to ESDC will not be part of their traffic impact study.
Speaking on behalf BPCC, Elmont resident Aubrey Phillips focused his remarks on the coalition's ongoing leadership which is centered on community engagement, education and research based opposition to the proposed arena/stadium. “It has been almost a year since NYS and Governor Cuomo rammed this proposal and RFP through the Empire State Development Corporation, and the only constant since that time has been secrecy and lack of transparency, no clear plan, and absolutely no community engagement, other than having different plans presented to the community as a fait accompli.”
Floral Park resident Mathew Thomas echoed the concerns voiced by the speakers and spoke directly to Ledecky, owner of the Islanders about community engagement. Specifically he noted that “community outreach is not renting a bar and buying drinks for local politicians, Mr. Ledecky”
Underscoring the growing mistrust of ESDC was Floral Park resident Nadia Holubnyczyj-Ortiz, President Hillcrest Civic Association who noted that the ESDC not only misquoted her for their record but listed her as an affirmative voice for the project. It is clear that she was and remains firmly against the proposed project.
The last speaker at the press conference was Elmont's Tammie Williams. Tammie's name and face and voice is synonymous with opposition to the proposed arena and megamall project. She used her time to make clear information about what a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) is and how it works. Noting that the study is slated to be released during the upcoming Thanksgiving / Christmas season. A time when most residents are busy with family.
The communities that are in the shadows Belmont Park are united and are growing in strength. The rally and press conference marked the first time that both BPCC and Elmont Against the Megamall have spoken out together against the project. The more than 4000 petitions and postcards from residents against the project are growing.
Obviously not everyone in Elmont is against the proposed development but most are. Jon Johnson, an appointed member to the Community board that was hurriedly assembled “after-the-fact” by ESDC to bring them into superficial compliance with the law notes in a Facebook post, “No One Person or One Group Speaks For the Entire Elmont Community.” Notwithstanding Mr. Johnson's truism the number of residents that oppose the proposed development grows as education and outreach expands.
BPCC and EAMM should be thought of as icebergs by Gov. Coumo and local elected politicians, “... Part of the iceberg is immediately visible; part of it emerges and submerges with the tides, and its foundations go deep beneath the surface.” - culture at work dot com
Parkhurst resident Lori Halop sum it up, “if the project is not good enough for Madison Square Garden (MSG) [it sold its interest in the proposed project to a Hollywood based developer] why is it good for us, the taxpaying residents of Elmont.”