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UNIONDALE, NY-A week before what proponents of the Lighthouse at Long Island call a “crucial” public hearing, Gov. David Paterson expressed his support of the $3.74-billion project, urging state and county agencies to expedite the review process. The mixed-use project, which would redevelop 150 acres surrounding the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum here, needs zoning approval from the Town of Hempstead.

“The Lighthouse Project has the potential to be one of the most important economic development initiatives we have ever seen on Long Island and is precisely the kind of economic stimulus that we need here,” Paterson said at a news conference here Monday. “Our government agencies need to work diligently and swiftly to ensure that this project can move forward as quickly as possible so that we can begin to put people back to work right here on Long Island.” He was joined at Monday’s event by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, town supervisor Kate Murray and New York Islanders owner Charles Wang, who is spearheading the project.

A public comment period is under way, following the town board’s approval earlier this month of the environmental report on the project. Along with area residents, who will have an opportunity to be heard at a hearing scheduled for August 4, the town is seeking input from the New York State Departments of Environmental Conservation and Transportation, the villages of Garden City and Hempstead, Nassau County Departments of Health and Public Works, the Town of Hempstead Water Department, Uniondale School District, local fire department and the Long Island Power Authority, among other groups. The public comment period ends August 17, says a Lighthouse Development Group source.

“In broad terms, the environmental issues that are the subject of public comment and a hearing include the project’s impact on traffic, drinking water availability/quality, air quality, the handling/processing of sanitary sewage, storm water runoff and the collection and disposal of garbage, among others,” according to a release from the Town of Hempstead. The town encompasses 22 villages, including Garden City and the Village of Hempstead, and 35 hamlets, including Uniondale.

Wang, who is developing the Lighthouse project in a joint venture with RXR Realty, drafted his original proposal for the project in the summer of 2004. Lighthouse Development filed its application with the town in November 2007.

Since then, the project reportedly has been stalled in approvals, with the most recent logjam broken in June by Murray’s announcement that the town board would hold a hearing July 7 on the completeness of the project’s draft environmental impact statement. In a statement, Wang expresses the hope that Paterson’s support will enable the state, county and town to “finally bring certainty to this project by the start of the next hockey season” on Oct. 3.

Assuming that the town okays zoning for the project by Oct. 3, approval of a lease agreement by the Nassau County legislature and site plan approvals by the town board will also be required before the town’s building department could issue building permits, according to a release from the Town of Hempstead. Construction on the project–which would include a new arena for the Islanders along with residential and retail components–could theoretically begin after the hockey team’s 2009-2010 season comes to an end, the Lighthouse source says.

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