Ruling to void Coliseum lease put on hold by appeals court

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By Dan Sears

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A day after a State Supreme Court ruling voided the Nassau Coliseum lease between casino developer Las Vegas Sands and Nassau County, an appeals court put a temporary hold on the lower court action. 

State Appellate Court Justice Lourdes Ventura ruled last Friday that the 99-year lease will remain valid until the hearing on the county’s appeal on Nov. 21. 

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman said in a written statement that the county is confident that the ruling to void the lease will be overturned.  

“I will continue to stand for the proposal by the Sands to develop a world class luxury hotel, spa, entertainment center, and casino which will bring $5 billion dollars in construction, good paying permanent jobs, and tax relief for our residents,” Blakeman said in the statement. 

Just a day earlier, a ruling by State Supreme Court Justice Sarika Kapoor voided the Coliseum lease, casting a pall over Sands’ $4 billion plan to develop a casino resort on the Uniondale property. In deciding a lawsuit brought by Hofstra University, Kapoor ruled that Nassau County’s Planning Commission had violated the state’s Open Meetings Law by not providing a proper public hearing on the lease transfer and failed to give a “hard look” when considering the project’s environmental impact. She ordered that the Planning Commission’s April 27 recommendation to approve the lease transfer to Sands be annulled. 

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Kapoor kicked the matter backed to the Planning Commission and the Nassau Legislature “to conduct a proper public hearing” and ordered the county to issue a positive SEQRA declaration in preparation of a new environmental impact statement on the proposed development. 

“We appreciate the court’s thoughtful ruling and the court’s granting of reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs to Hofstra incurred in connection with several of the claims,” Hofstra President Susan Poser said in a written statement before the ruling was put on hold. “The court recognized the public’s right to participate in decision-making about the current redevelopment plan for the Nassau Hub. We look forward to contributing to the planning process and advocating for the use of the Hub in ways that will best contribute to our thriving community, while protecting against environmental and other harms.” 

Hofstra has long opposed having a casino on property adjacent to its campus.  

Las Vegas Sands has already spent a fortune in preparation for its proposed development, including a $54 million payment to the county, $241 million to Nassau Live Center LLC the former leaseholder to the Coliseum property, and millions more in its lobbying effort to secure a casino license from the state. The license bid from Sands is among several proposals seeking one of the three downstate casino licenses the state will be awarding. 

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“Las Vegas Sands is proceeding proudly and enthusiastically with our proposal for an integrated resort and entertainment center at the Nassau Hub,” a Las Vegas Sands spokesperson said via email. “We are grateful for the wonderful response we have received from the Long Island community and we will be continuing our very comprehensive outreach as we present this transformational project.”   

If the state does grant Sands a casino license, Nassau will get $25 million of the state Gaming Commission’s minimum $500 million license fee. In addition, the county will get a $5 million annual rent payment for the Coliseum property, which increases to $10 million upon the start of casino operations or the three-year anniversary of the casino license award. The lease agreement had mandated that Sands contribute $2 million a year for a Community Benefits Program, which later increases to $4 million annually. 

Sands has said the project will go forward as a mixed-use complex without gaming if the sought-after license isn’t awarded. In fact, the now voided 99-year lease agreement stipulates that a non-casino development must include up to 500 units of housing, a 5-star hotel and an entertainment venue with at least 3,600 seats. 

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