Judge denies transfer of Coliseum lease to Sands casino resort

A judge on Thursday blocked a 99-year lease agreement that would allow Las Vegas Sands to develop a $4 billion casino project on the Nassau Coliseum property. Hofstra University sued Nassau County in April, claiming the county Planning Commission violated the state’s Open Meetings Law because it had not properly notified the public of a meeting to discuss the lease.

Justice Sarika Kapoor ordered the lease voided in her 32-page decision. Kapoor also annulled the votes by the planning commission and the county legislature that approved the lease transfer. Kapoor stated that Hofstra demonstrated that the failure to post the resolution was not just technical, but an attempt to avoid public scrutiny. She also said Nassau must conduct a comprehensive environmental review of the proposed development, and that the county legislature had failed to take a “hard look” at the Sands casino project. Instead, the county legislature considered only the technical issue of transferring the lease from one entity to another.

Hofstra President Susan Poser said in a statement late Thursday: “We appreciate the court’s thoughtful ruling … 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.” Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman declined to comment Thursday night, citing pending litigation.

Sands spokesman Ron Reese declined to comment directly on the lawsuit but told Newsday the court’s decision didn’t change the casino-resort company’s bid to build on the Coliseum property. He stated, “This does not impact our pursuit of a license or how we are preparing our bid or what we believe is our likelihood for success.”

Kapoor ruled that the Nassau County Legislature must take a “hard look” at Sands’ overall $4 billion casino proposal, not just the effect of the lease transfer. The lease transfer had broad support among Nassau County lawmakers from both political parties. However, Kapoor said the county engaged in improper segmentation by not considering the future development planned by Sands.

In August, Sands submitted a land-use application to Hempstead Town and the town started its environmental review, as required under state law. The planning commission approved the lease transfer in April. The legislature approved the lease transfer in May, in a 17-1 vote, with one member abstaining.