Saturday, September 12, 2009

Long Island Hold 'Em

If you are familiar with Texas Hold 'Em Poker, maybe you can help me with my analogy. Let's pretend the Islanders and the Town of Hempstead are engaged in a game of high-stakes poker because, well, they are. Let's call it: Long Island Hold 'Em. Sitting across the felt table from each other, looking at each other and sizing their opponent up. Just to make help you visualize this a little better, the Islanders are wearing a helmet at the table and the Town of Hempstead has donned a cowboy hat.

The Islanders have been losing for most of the game, but they are starting to gain some chips. They aren't quite what they were in earlier hands, as they had built quite a bankroll, but it was more than what they came to the party with. The Town of Hempstead quickly built up their winnings and burrowed it away. But, for as long as anyone can remember in this tournament, whatever they have won over the past hands has been squandered.

This hand will represent a sea change in the match. The winner here has to be able to outlast the other, perhaps call its enemy's bluff. If you followed this analogy so far, September 22nd is the last card to drop (the "river") and October 3rd is the call. The Islanders are going to call no matter what. Most people know they already have three of a kind and the river might give them a full house. No one knows what the Town of Hempstead is holding except the Town of Hempstead. The ToH thinks it has a lot to gain on the river, but it cannot help the ToH as much as it could help the Islanders.

We know the Islanders are all-in. The Islanders would gain more chips in the court of public opinion if the Town of Hempstead folds. If the ToH antes up and moves all of its chips to the middle of the table, it will be time for the Islanders to put up or shut up.

But, here's the dirty little secret: as long as the Islanders stay east of Manhattan, they can't lose.

That's why they are all-in and would call even if they had a pair of eights. The Town of Hempstead thinks they are negotiating with the Isles and making sure they put their money where their mouths are. An honorable request to protect its constituents. But, it would have made more sense to bring this up months ago or, at the very latest, very soon after the public hearing in August. Guess what? The Islanders do not have to. They can accuse the Town of Hempstead of stalling, a very believable accusation, and bide their time until October 3rd, when they would look like scorned lovers jilted at the altar and open their phone lines for outside the 516 area code.

The Town of Hempstead sent this letter to be sure if anything changes from what has been promised, the Town and its residents are not left in the cold. What does that mean? It means what everything else means in politics: money. If anything changes, the Town wants some skin in the game so it can get some of the money changing hands. Change the developer on the property after the shovel is in the ground? Not unless we get some money. We want all of the tax dollars you say we are going to get if this goes through. No problem, but, in Kate Murray's letter to the residents of the Town of Hempstead (thanks,, this was brought up now because the Town has only had eight-plus months to look at this and these provisions are part of any agreement. Why wait until month nine of this process when you know month ten means the asking price will go up? The only reason I can think of is because of pride. The Town, specifically Kate Murray, wants to set the timetable. The Town wants this to happen on their terms, not the County, and especially not a real estate developer and a sports team owner.

I have repeatedly heard this is moving fast compared to "business as usual" in the Town of Hempstead. Perhaps that is the problem. Also, this is hardly a usual situation. It represents the possible endangerment of the only major-league franchise in either Nassau or Suffolk Counties. It means jobs and fans spending money to ancillary businesses around the Nassau Coliseum would be gone, along with all of those tax dollars. If the Town of Hempstead loses the card game, it will have an empty arena with a barren parking lot around it, which is far worse than the status quo. Nothing could replace that revenue for many years, if not longer.

On October 3rd, the Islanders will surely call and most likely will take their chips and play in a higher-stakes game, a game that will be too rich for the Town of Hempstead. The Town could have made this happen before the final call and could have participated in that high-stakes game if the Town did not squander its chips over the years.


As an Islander fan who lives west of Manhattan in New Jersey, a move to Willets Point in Queens makes too much sense. Better infrastructure, (possibly) less politics, and a shorter trip would be something I would sign up for now. For the few thousand fans who drive west to the Coliseum from Eastern Long Island, their trip would be 20-30 minutes longer. The team would be more accessible for Bridgeport Sound Tiger supporters to see their babies play with the big boys.

Though I never lived on Long Island, I spent a lot of weekends there over the years visiting my mother's family and loved the Island. I still do. Most of the family has moved away and, outside of the Islanders, I do not have much of a reason drive past Citi Field. At the start of this latest push to keep the Islanders at the Coliseum, my vote was to keep them in Uniondale. But, my distaste for the constant politicking and blaming that has gone on since the hockey season ended, as well as the shiny new baseball stadium in Shea Stadium's old parking lot has changed my opinion. My vote now is to move the team to Queens.

Queens has made statements to the media that they would welcome them with open arms. Brooklyn's proposed Barclays Center does not seem to be moving in the right direction and may never happen. Queens might be the eventual destination for the Nets, too. Better for the Islanders to get on the ground floor and build the arena primarily with hockey in mind instead of basketball. A beautiful new stadium would not be an inconvenience for fans like a Coliseum would be under re-construction. Plus, with the Mets in town April-October, it would make Flushing a year-round destination.

The time may have come for Nassau County to be the bedroom community the Town of Hempstead and the Village of Garden City seems to wish for. Before the Town pushes all of its chips to the table, it should be careful what it wishes for, because it has a lot more to lose than the Islanders do.

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