The Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on June 16, 2020.
We've been down this road before.
A new tenant for one of Long Island's key entertainment venues. New plans for one of the Island's most valuable pieces of land. And Nassau County officials, hoping this time, somehow, will be different.
The stakes are higher, the situation more precarious. The county is teetering on a financial cliff in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. No one knows when Nassau Coliseum will be allowed to reopen. But whatever happens to the arena is critical to the surrounding land known as the Nassau Hub. The county must keep its taxpayers' interests, and its future, front and center. And its partners must work together to see their vision to fruition.
This isn't about whether the New York Islanders play at the Coliseum for a single-season hurrah, or whether we ever see the Long Island Nets or "Disney on Ice" there again. Nassau officials must focus on the larger picture — the county's economic future and financial viability.
Complicating the situation is that the county's new tenant has a thorny history. Nick Mastroianni II runs a company called U.S. Immigration Fund, which facilitates a controversial program known as EB-5. For cash invested in U.S. job-creating projects, Chinese immigrants get a return better than any interest rate: a visa and a path to a green card which could eventually lead to citizenship. It's a repulsive concept and Mastroianni exploited it to raise $100 million that he lent to developer Bruce Ratner for the Coliseum's 2015 renovation.
Now, Mastroianni, essentially a middleman, has the keys to the Coliseum; the lease is in his hands. But the loan still hovers, and the future is murky at best. Mastroianni is an unknown with a checkered past. He, his lawyers and companies have been sued by investors, who said they weren't paid back. Mastroianni has denied the claims, and none involve the Coliseum. And New York Community Bank pulled out of its naming rights agreement.
Meanwhile, developer Scott Rechler has the reins on the 70 acres around the arena. He has the difficult but important task of determining how to smartly develop the Hub in a post-pandemic world.
Mastroianni is on a 60-day clock, with a 30-day extension. The county hopes to negotiate a rent agreement, while Mastroianni is supposed to determine how the Coliseum will be used, and make a deal with an operator, likely either Oak View Group, which will operate the Belmont Park arena, or ASM, which operated the Coliseum pre-pandemic.
The haggling continues. Mastroianni will want to pay less rent. He has to find an operator and follow through. The county has to lead, refuse to give too much in exchange for too little, hold Mastroianni to his promises, and make sure it all works with what Rechler is planning. If after 90 days, Mastroianni says he needs more time, or the deal isn't solid, it may be time to walk away, even if that means rethinking the Hub without a Coliseum at all.
- Chinese investors vs U.S. Immigration Fund - NY & Nicholas Mastroianni III
- Nicholas Mastroianni II & U.S. Immigration Fund - NY & Allied Capital and Development of South Florida LLC vs David Finkelstein
- New York
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