New York Islanders: Elmont Against Megamall Shouldn’t Worry Belmont

ELMONT, NY - JUNE 09: Thoroughbreds and Exercise Riders train prior to the 149th running of the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park at Belmont Park on June 9, 2017 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
ELMONT, NY - JUNE 09: Thoroughbreds and Exercise Riders train prior to the 149th running of the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park at Belmont Park on June 9, 2017 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) /

Should New York Islanders fans worry about anti-Belmont group Elmont Against the Megamall and their $650,000 worth of funding? No, they really shouldn’t.

In December of 2018, the New York Islanders were awarded the right to build a new arena on the grounds of Belmont Park. The new 18,000 seat arena would be built next to the Belmont track, along with a 250-room hotel, and retail space. The Islanders were going from vagabonds playing in two arena’s, neither of which could be a permanent home to having a brand new permanent home within a few years, hopefully.

But as with any large scale project, there’s going to be opposition. And that’s fair, not everyone likes 18,000 seat arenas, big hotels, and a ton of retail popping up in their homes. But as reported by Jim Baumbach of Newsday, an opposition group that formed in the summer of 2018 has $650,000 worth of funding to fight the project.

Should Islanders fans be worried about this group’s ability to stop the Belmont redevelopment? No.

Mixed Messaging

Elmont Against the Megamall is opposed to the entire Belmont project, it seems. They don’t want the New York Islanders to build a new arena at Belmont Park, I think. In Jim Baumbach’s piece for Newsday we heard from Tony Bhatti, an Elmont Against the Megamall board member and local resident:

"“We are against this project and so are they, and that’s why we are together,” Bhatti said of Crux and McKeon. “It will just make our voice be heard much faster and much louder because their agenda is the same as ours.”"

That’s pretty clear language. Bhatti and the rest of the board are against the project and so is the California-based marketing group (The Crux Group) that is operating the opposition group.

And then there’s a piece from 2018 by Long Island Business News’ David Winzelberg. In August of last year Winzelberg wrote:

"it (Elmont Against the Megamall) opposes the arena that would be home to the New York Islanders because it “will bring street-clogging traffic” to local roads."

That’s some fairly strong rhetoric against the Belmont project and specifically the New York Islanders arena. A group with that type of messaging and with the amount of funding that Newsday reported could be worrisome for Islanders fans hoping to see a smooth process that eventually leads to Belmont being built in a few years time. But when you look at the Elmont Against the Megamall’s website the tone seems a little different.

"The Islanders could finally be coming home to Long Island! Fans are excited to have the Islanders back full time on Long Island, but they want to avoid the hassles they have experienced with games at the Barclay’s Center. If the team is going to get approval for an arena in Belmont, fans should have a full-time train station to make it easy to get there – with no transfers at Jamaica. We all know fans will drive to Belmont before taking a train that means transfers at Jamaica both ways. As locals and elected officials have pointed out, that means traffic to a new Belmont arena […]"

So what is this group about exactly? They’re against the project, but their very own website seems to indicate that they’re fine with an arena at Belmont. They just want to reduce the traffic in and out of the game? Which is perfectly fine, and even in line with most Islanders fans who commute by train from all over the Metropolitan area to get to the game.

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Does this group worry me? No. Mainly because I’m not really convinced they’ve got all their ducks in a row. Maybe they’re against the entire project, maybe not. They seem fine with an Islanders arena, according to their website. And according to Newsday, full-time LIRR service is being looked at for the site. So now what?