Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Still Skating on Thin Ice

The Queens Chamber of Commerce is still looking to inveigle the Islanders to come to Queens-and Willets Point is once again in the spotlight. As the Queens Courier reports: "Jeff Wilpon officially broke the ice in talks to potentially bring another professional sports team to Queens. Reports have surfaced that the Mets’ chief operating officer recently met with Charles Wang, owner of the New York Islanders, to discuss relocation options for the embattled hockey franchise, as reported by Newsday on Wednesday, May 12. The meeting, confirmed by Wilpon himself, is also said to have included talks about the possible sale of Long Island’s only professional sports team to the Mets’ owners."

This is a good idea, because? Probably because the Mets are doing so well in their new stadium-losing fans at the highest rate in the major leagues. Still, credit Jack Friedman of the Chamber for both perseverance and creativity: "Jack Friedman, executive vice-president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, said that bringing the Islanders to Queens is something that the Chamber has been interested in for years. “The Lighthouse Project has gone nowhere for seven years,” said Friedman. “The master plan for that project and the master plan for Willets Point are almost identical. The only difference is Willets Point is a lot further along in terms of the politics and the zoning.” Plans for Willets Point include a convention center that could potentially be used as home ice for the Islanders, whose lease at the Coliseum expires in 2015."

Earth to Jack! There are no plans-and a convention center is one of any number of ideas that have been floated-but we particularly liked the transportation rationale for the hockey team: "Most agree that bringing the Islanders to Queens would expand the fan base simply by providing mass transit options to get to and from the games. Also, Friedman believes that moving the team to Queens would give its Long Island followers the best chance to remain supportive."

Oh, good grief! Willets Point was sold as an economic development plan-and even a successful franchise is a money losing proposition. So, how is evicting productive businesses-using hundreds of millions of tax payer dollars-in exchange for a white elephant hockey team a sensible idea? And Friedman's belief that Willets Pint is, "further along," than the Long Island Lighthouse development is certainly questionable.

But we say, by all means, put the Islander relocation in the center of the Willets Point scheme-and watch the support for the development melt like rink ice on a summer day. We thought that the entire scheme was pie in the sky before, but with the Islanders in the mix, the Bloombergistas are playing defense against a power play while two men short.