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Manhattan Stadium Fails to Gain Approval


Image Courtesy New York Jets/ New York Sports and Convention Center

The highly contentious New York Sports and Convention Center, proposed for the Far West Side neighborhood of Manhattan, was defeated on Tuesday because State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno refused to approve the plan. The vote ended New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s multi-year quest to secure a new stadium, not only for the New York Jets, but for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. Although the Olympic bid is not dead, it appears to be in grave condition, as Bloomberg tacitly acknowledged at a breakfast meeting yesterday morning.

The $2.2 billion, 75,000-seat stadium, was also designed to accommodate overflow from the adjacent Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. It was being designed for the Jets by New York-based Kohn Pedersen Fox, and would have been built over the Metropolitan Transit Authorities' West Side Railyards. KPF had recently replanned the stadium so it would better fit the low-rise character of the neighborhood. These adjustments included an almost 40-percent reduction in height, and the addition of a semi-transparent glass facade. But these efforts were of no avail.

At a press conference Tuesday night, Silver, who held the deciding vote on the state’s Public Authorities Control Board, pointed to a number of issues facing the city as reasons for not supporting the plan. The most important, perhaps, was his position that 24 million square feet of additional development planned for the area would have siphoned crucial business and financial support away from Lower Manhattan and Ground Zero itself, which are still struggling after 9/11. Both are within the legislative district represented by Silver.

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About $1.6 billion of the stadium's tab would have been paid for by the Jets, including $250 million for the MTA site. The remaining $600 million would have been split by the city and state in the form of public subsidies. Many critics said that because the railyards were undervalued by hundreds of millions of dollars, the true cost of the project was already much higher.

“Considering the challenges already facing the City and the state of New York, this plan, at best, is premature,” said Silver. “The 2012 Summer Games are being used as a shield to hide another goal: to shift the financial and business capital of the world out of Lower Manhattan and over to the West Side.”

Predictably, stadium supporters like the Jets, Bloomberg, and New York Governor George Pataki were outraged. The Jets pinned much of the blame on the Cablevision Corporation, which owns nearby Madison Square Garden, and which feared the stadium would have competed with its property as an entertainment venue. Cablevision made its own development plan and had offered even more than the Jets for the MTA property, but lost on a technicality. Referring to Cablevision, Marissa Shorenstein, senior manager for strategic planning with the Jets said, “The Olympics, the Super Bowl, new conventions, and most importantly, thousands of jobs—all would be sacrificed so that a monopoly can retain its stranglehold on the sports and entertainment industry in New York City.”

Bloomberg also warned that the defeat of the stadium would not only cost the city the Olympics, jobs, and tax revenue, but would discourage builders on the Far West Side and elsewhere from pursuing other projects in the city.

“One of the great dangers is that developers are going to get disheartened and say ‘I can’t build anything in New York City because the politics always get in the way of what happens,’” he told reporters yesterday morning. Bloomberg is not alone in bemoaning the wariness of New York’s state government to fund large-scale projects, although many support the government’s ability to veto developers’ plans.

The stadium had been one of the most contentious building projects in recent city history, as many designers, planners, and neighborhood groups voiced disapproval of the project’s impact, both economically and aesthetically. Many felt the stadium would pull money away from needed projects, ruin the character of the neighborhood, interrupt any connection with the Hudson River, and bring unmanageable traffic and crowds into the area on game days. Supporters felt the project would not only be a boon to sports fans, but would help catalyze a new development area in the city.

The Far West Side, or Hudson Yards District is a forty-square-block area enclosed by 42nd and 30th Streets, and 8th and 11th Avenues in Manhattan. The light-industrial area has long lain dormant, and was recently rezoned to allow significant amounts of commercial and residential development. While there is a slim chance that the stadium project may still return, most have concluded this is unlikely.

For KPF, the project’s failure means the loss of at least four years of work. KPF said it could not comment at this point.

Sam Lubell

 

 

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