Volume 18, Number 3 | JUNE10 -16, 2005

Stadium opponents do sack dance over Silver vote

Downtown Express photo by Elisabeth Robert
Stadium opponents

By Albert Amateau

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s rejection on June 6 of the proposed stadium over the West Side rail yards made him a hero to local elected officials and neighborhood activists fighting the project for nearly three years.

While Mayor Mike Bloomberg denounced Silver and his senate counterpart controlling a vote on the Public Authorities Control Board, State Senator Joe Bruno, as sabotaging New York City’s chances to host the 2012 Olympics, stadium opponents rejoiced at a June 7 rally on W. 35th St., a block away from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority rail yards where the stadium is proposed.

Elected officials at the rally – three of them aspiring mayoral candidates – and members of the Hell’s Kitchen/Hudson Yards Alliance said Silver did the right thing by rejecting a $2.2 billion New York Jets stadium to be built with city and state money.

Silver, Bruno and Gov. Pataki control the three votes of the P.A.C.B. and all must agree on measures involving state authorities like the M.T.A. On June 6, Pataki voted in favor of spending $300 million in state money for the stadium platform, but Silver and Bruno abstained, which was the equivalent of votes against the measure.

Silver had said he moved against the stadium because he could not turn his back on his Lower Manhattan district’s struggle to recover economically from the World Trade Center attack. He specifically denounced proposed stadium-funded incentives for West Side commercial development that he said would compete with Lower Manhattan.

But speakers at the June 7 rally faulted the stadium because of the threat of more traffic to West Side streets already choked with autos. They also said state and city money should go to affordable housing, schools, and better public transport before a football stadium.

“When we on the West Side fight City Hall, we win,” declared City Councilmember Christine Quinn. “A 85,000-seat stadium with no parking is a bad idea for a neighborhood that experiences gridlock almost every day,” she said.

All four of the mayor’s Democratic opponents are against the stadium and three of them attended the rally—Council Speaker Gifford Miller, Borough President Virginai Fields and U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner.

“Sanity has prevailed,” said Miller. “It seems as if we’ve had football fever that’s been causing some of us to act irrationally,” he said, referring to what he called Bloomberg’s obsession with a Jets stadium. He blamed Bloomberg for forcing the M.T.A. to sell development rights worth about $900 billion for only $250 million to the Jets. “The mayor should admit defeat and move forward to bring affordable housing and hotels here and find ways to increase the capacity of the Javits Convention Center.”

Weiner, who represents parts of Brooklyn and Queens, said “While you have been saying ‘not in my back yard,’ some of us in Queens have been saying build it in our back yard.”

Earlier last week, the International Olympics Committee report on cities vying for the 2012 Olympics, indicated that the Paris proposal was nearly perfect. The New York proposal, the report said, was good but deficient in its the lack of commitment to a stadium. The report also raised other questions about the New York City bid, one concerning the proposed Olympic Village in Queens to house athletes and another, the lack of financial guarantees.

Just before the June 6 P.A.C.B. vote in Albany, Silver told reporters he wouldn’t reconsider the stadium even if New York City were chosen for the Olympics.

Walter Mankoff, chairperson of Community Board 4, said at the June 7 rally that he hoped the P.A.C.B. vote would end the West Side stadium issue. “If the mayor had had a plan B for the stadium we wouldn’t be in the situation we are in now. I hope they can develop an alternative plan for an Olympic stadium,” Mankoff said.

While the stadium is still a possibility, its chances now of being built are remote.

Robert Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association, in a prepared statement also commended Silver and Bruno on their rejection of the stadium.

“While it would certainly have been easier to make a deal, the speaker stood by his principles and recognized the stadium as a bad project for New York,” Yaro said. “We must move forward with an ambitious economic strategy for New York City, beginning in Lower Manhattan and expanding to the Far West Side when Ground Zero is rebuilt.”


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