Volume 74, Number 54 | May 18 - 24 , 2005

Villager photo by Jennifer Weisbord

A protester at last Saturday’s anti-stadium rally.

Politicians pile on West Side Jets/Olympic stadium

By Albert Amateau

About 500 anti-stadium partisans filled McCaffrey Park in the middle of Hell’s Kitchen on Sunday afternoon to hear neighbors, elected officials and political candidates tee off on Mayor Bloomberg’s drive to build a 75,000-seat New York Sports and Convention Center stadium over the 30th St. West Side rail yards.

Mayoral candidates who whipped up the crowd on May 14 against what they called a giveaway to the New York Jets and a waste of public money, included City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, Congressmember Anthony Weiner and former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer.

“No West Side stadium, build it in Queens,” said Weiner, whose Congressional district encompasses parts of Queens as well as Brooklyn.

Miller referred to his leadership in the City Council action last week that prevents the city from using payments in lieu of taxes, or PILOT’s, to finance the stadium. “We expect the mayor to veto it and we will override the veto,” Miller predicted.

Assemblymember Scott Stringer and Councilmember Bill Perkins, candidates for Manhattan borough president, were there and so was Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, seeking reelection. Carlos Manzano, a resident of Clinton and candidate for Manhattan borough president, also made a stand against the proposed stadium.

Stringer and Gotbaum reminded the crowd that they have joined one of two lawsuits against the city to stop the Metropolitan Transportation Authority from selling the rail yards to the Jets for a stadium. Moreover, Gotbaum remarked that the proposed stadium would have to be expanded beyond its 75,000-seat capacity to accommodate the 2012 Olympics, which the city hopes to win.

Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, whose West Side district includes Chelsea and Clinton, and State Senator Liz Krueger, representing Manhattan’s East Side, also blasted the proposal by the Bloomberg and Pataki administrations to spend public money on a stadium instead of on schools and affordable housing.

Stadium opponents at the rally said they were encouraged by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s statement on Fri., May 12, that the state Public Authorities Control Board would probably not vote on the stadium at its May 18 meeting. Silver, Governor Pataki and State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno control the three P.A.C.B. votes, and a No vote from one of them could stop the project. Silver and Bruno indicated last week that they thought the P.A.C.B. vote should wait until the lawsuits are settled.

City Councilmember Christine Quinn and State Senator Tom Duane, who represent the Chelsea and Clinton neighborhoods where the rail yards are located, were cheered as they denounced the stadium and its impact on auto traffic already bumper-to-bumper during rush hours. Quinn and Duane are among the plaintiffs in Hell’s Kitchen Hudson Yards Neighborhood Association suit to block the stadium

“If the stadium is built, what happens at halftime when everybody flushes the toilets at the same time? The West Side would be flooded,” quipped Duane, referring to the North River sewage treatment plant in West Harlem, which is already handling storm and sanitary sewage beyond rated capacity.

Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, whose district includes the West Side, Lower Manhattan and part of Brooklyn, also spoke against the stadium and the intense promotion of it by Dan Doctoroff, the deputy mayor for economic development. “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a deputy mayor for economic development instead of a deputy mayor for a stadium?” Nadler quipped.

City Councilmember Gail Brewer of the Upper West Side and Assemblymember Adriano Espaillat of Washington Heights joined the rally organized by the Hell’s Kitchen Hudson Yard Neighborhood Association. Councilmember Eva Moskowitz, representing the East Side, agreed that a stadium over the West Side rail yards would generate terrible traffic jams all over Manhattan, especially since the plan does not provide for any parking at all.

Community Board 4 Chairperson Walter Mankoff also denounced the stadium plan. The community board last year cited an environmental impact statement that foresaw traffic problems associated with the stadium.

The crowd rocked and later danced to the live music of Andrew Vladek and the Magnificent Seven, a Lower East Side band. An anti-stadium letter-writing campaign that rally leaders promoted on Sunday resulted in 25,000 letters and e-mails urging Governor Pataki, Assembly Speaker Silver and Majority Leader Bruno to hold off approval of the stadium.

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