Volume 18, Number 3 | JUNE10 -16, 2005

Silver is the M.V.P. of the stadium fight

As far as opponents of the West Side Stadium are concerned, the most valuable player of the fight is Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
By ordering his representative on the Public Authorities Control Board to abstain from voting on the project on Monday, Silver prevented the Metropolitan Transportation Authority from transferring the West Side rail yards development site and the state from allocating its half of the $600 million subsidy for the contentious project.
The cash-strapped M.T.A. should now be free to open up a real bidding process for the rail yards. A fair market price will make it easier to maintain the subway system and fares, and to make improvements.
In his remarks justifying his decision, Silver, who represents Lower Manhattan, said the Jets/Olympic stadium would take the focus away from rebuilding of the World Trade Center site, which hasn’t seen one brick since 9/11.
“It’s about a moral obligation each and every one of us committed to when we saw those towers go down,” Silver said. “Am I supposed to turn my back on Lower Manhattan as it struggles to recover? For what? A stadium? For the hope of bringing the Olympics to New York City?”
In addition to the 2,749 souls who perished at the Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, Lower Manhattan lost 13.4 million square feet of office space in the attack, more than $10.8 billion in wages and is still missing more than 67,000 jobs.
The city’s — and the nation’s — bid for the 2012 Games now appears dead but the fault lies with the mayor, not with Silver, State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno or the stadium’s opponents. The strategy of Bloomberg and Dep. Mayor Dan Doctoroff was to maximize the chances for building a West Side Jets stadium, not for winning the Olympic bid. It was foolish not to include a stadium alternative in the bid when West Side stadium opposition predated the Bloomberg administration. In 2002, Silver told the mayor and us that he was worried the Olympics posed a threat to the rebuilding effort.
Much of the blame falls on the shoulders of Doctoroff, the deputy mayor for economic development and rebuilding. The Olympics and West Side stadium have been his consuming raison d’etre for the last 10 years, and perhaps he is asking himself if he wants to continue.
Bloomberg’s defeatist tone Tuesday was uncharacteristic of a mayor who usually knows what to say and hits an upbeat tone. The Olympic vote won’t be until July 6 and even though the city will most likely not be picked, there is plenty to do Downtown and all over the city.
Politically speaking, Bloomberg is probably better off the stadium was sacked. The issue threatened to be an albatross for his reelection campaign, distracting from his many positive accomplishments like leading the city through tough budgetary times, decreasing crime and improving the schools. When he has focused on Lower Manhattan his influence has been positive. We assume and hope his focus Downtown in recent months has been based on understanding the importance and not on an effort to sway Silver, who has a clear grasp of what the priorities should be.
The mayor’s help is needed Downtown and undoubtedly, he understands that too.

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