With a controversial referendum just days away, a little heat Wednesday afternoon didn’t stop thousands of union workers, Nassau County officials, hockey fans and Islanders players from rallying to “Vote Yes” outside Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale.
Headlining the event was Long Island’s own Blue Oyster Cult, who played a free concert. Voters will decide Aug. 1 if taxpayers approve of the county borrowing $400 million to replace the aging arena and build a minor-league baseball stadium nearby. Proponents tout it as much-needed economic development while critics scoff at the estimated 5-percent tax hike involved.
Chants of “Build It Now,” “Vote Yes” and “Let’s Go Islanders” echoed through the crowd.
“We’re looking forward to getting a new building and bringing those new Stanley Cup banners into that new building,” said Islanders general manager Garth Snow, predicting a positive outcome Monday.
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and Islanders owner Charles Wang addressed the crowd as well, insisting that the time is now to rebuild the coliseum.
“We’re here to talk about creating a sports entertainment destination right here in the Hub of Nassau County,” said Mangano.
“We need some place that says something about us as Long Islanders,” said Wang. “We got to build it and we got to build it now!”
Those in attendance were clearly in favor of the referendum passing.
“The Islanders generate a ton of revenue for Long Island,” said Nick Jacobellis, sporting his blue John Tavares jersey despite the heat. “Without the Islanders, it would demoralize the Island.”
“That would be the worst thing that can happen,” John Sanseverino, of Hicksville, said of the possibility of the referendum failing and the Islanders potentially leaving Long Island as a result when their lease is up in 2015.
Nassau residents can vote Monday at their regular voting locations.
“I will absolutely be voting yes,” said Sanseverino. “If I could vote twice, I would.”