Volume 17 • Issue 25 | Nov. 12 - Nov. 19, 2004

Brainstorm group wants B.P.C.A. in its Hudson Yard plan

By Albert Amateau

A team of planners is proposing that the city, the state and the Jets scrap plans for the Hudson Yards redevelopment with the controversial stadium, and instead flip the project to an east-west orientation with financing and administration by the Battery Park City Authority.

It would mean eventually demolishing the 25-year-old Javits Convention Center and constructing what the team calls a “land bridge” over the rail yards from the Hudson River Park to Ninth Ave.

The proposal, presented to a Community Board 4 forum on Nov. 8 by Henry Wollman, director of the Steven Newman Real Estate Institute at Baruch College, and Charles Lauster, an architect associated with the institute, calls for constructing a new convention center on the bridge structure over the rail yards.

The proposed new convention center would provide low-rise but continuous unobstructed space for the largest center in the nation, Wollman added.

The bridge structure could also accommodate a sports stadium and all the 28 million sq. feet of commercial development that the Bloomberg administration’s current Hudson Yards project wants to put along 11th and 10th Aves. It would also provide the base for 700,000 sq. ft. of retail space and the roof deck would accommodate a public park, said Wollman.

The way to administer and finance the institute plan already exists in the Battery Park City Administration, Wollman said. “B.P.C.A. has very little left to do,” said Wollman, noting that the authority is getting ready to issue requests for proposals for its last few sites by early next year. “They have a lot of talent and the experience to do the financing and the operation. Battery Park City can also issue triple A bonds,” Wollman added.

He acknowledged that the new project with B.P.C.A. financial administration would require action by the state Legislature. But the proposed financing for the current plan involves using $350 million in excess funds generated in the future by Battery Park City to back bonds for the convention center expansion and also requires state legislation. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who represents part of B.P.C., has criticized the city’s Hudson Yards plan and is not supporting the legislation.

Under the Baruch plan, a monorail would extend from in front of Madison Sq. Garden at Seventh Ave. up to 34th St., west to Hudson River Park, south to 30th St. and east to Seventh Ave. The loop of 12 stations with 90-second intervals between stops including connections with the Seventh and Eighth Ave. subways, would be accessible from the street level by clusters of escalators.

The monorail, which would cost $600 million, would link the new convention center — and the potential stadium site –— to existing transit, avoiding the necessity of the proposed $2.5 billion No. 7 line extension, Wollman said.

Nevertheless, the institute’s plan is neither for nor against the stadium or the No. 7 line extension but could accommodate both. “We’d like this plan to be compatible with the 2012 bid,” Wollman said, explaining why the plan was compatible with the stadium.

The financial advantage to the city and state in the institute plan would come from opening the state-owned property now occupied by the Javits Center to revenue producing residential development with streets and view corridors to the river now blocked by the convention center.

The area from 34 to 41st Sts., now occupied by the Javits Center, is valued at about $3 billion and could accommodate 15,000 apartments including 4,000 affordable units, Wollman said.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which has title to much of the existing property from the rail yards east to Ninth Ave., would come out a big winner, Wollman said, noting that the agency is now contemplating another round of fare increases to deal with its financial problems. Although the state would build the land bridge, private developers of office and commercial space on the structure would pay their share of the infrastructure cost, plus ground leases, to the M.T.A.

Robert Olmsted, planning chief of the M.T.A. before he retired in 1989, another member of the Newman Institute team, was also at the Nov. 8 forum.

Ed Kirkland, a member of Community Board 4, remarked that the Bloomberg administration’s Hudson Yards plan is already far advanced in the approval process. “How can this plan stop the juggernaut that Doctoroff has put together?” Kirkland asked, referring to Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, a prime mover in the Hudson Yards plan and a vigorous advocate for the Sports and Convention Center stadium as the home of the Jets and the venue for the hoped-for 2012 Olympics.

Wollman replied that he has spoken informally with city officials and hopes there is still time to make a new commitment to what he sees as a more practical plan and a better use of public funds.

For Chelsea residents at the forum, the plan was intriguing but Wollman’s neutrality on a stadium displeased most of them who dreaded the prospect of stadium traffic added to rush hour tunnel traffic. The fate of the north end of the High Line was also an unresolved issue that worried advocates for the proposed conversion of the rail line into an elevated park.

A major roadblock in the Institute’s plan for the land bridge is the high-rise concrete building with the sloping sides at 450 W. 33rd St., which houses the Daily News among other offices. The building would have to be condemned or be incorporated into the structure, according to the Institute’s 200-page technical and financial outline of the project.

The document is available for inspection at Steven Newman Hall of Baruch College, 137 E. 22nd St. and at the Community Board 4 office on the 26th floor of 320 W. 42nd St.

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