Volume 74, Number 3 | June 8- 14, 2005

Silver tackles stadium plan, as opponents do sack dance

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 Bloomberg denounced Silver and his State Senate counterpart on the Public Authorities Control Board, Majority Leader Joe Bruno, as sabotaging New York City’s chances to be the venue for the 2012 Olympics, stadium opponents rejoiced at a June 7 rally 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 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 would compete with Lower Manhattan.

But speakers at the June 7 rally faulted the stadium’s threat of more traffic to West Side streets already choked with autos.

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

“Sanity has prevailed,” said Council Speaker Gifford Miller, who hopes to be the Democratic mayoral candidate this fall. “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 $2 billion for only $200 million to the Jets.

“The mayor should admit defeat and move forward to bring affordable housing and hotels here and increase the capacity of the Javits Convention Center,” Miller said.

Congressmember Anthony Weiner of Queens, who is also running for mayor, 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.’ ” Weiner called for an Olympic stadium in Queens, “the most international of all the boroughs.”

Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields, another aspiring Democratic candidate for mayor, said, “When the community spoke and said ‘no’ to a stadium on the West Side, the mayor did not listen. If anyone is to blame [for the threatened loss of the Olympics] it is the mayor and [Deputy Mayor] Dan Doctoroff,” Fields said, adding, “Sheldon Silver has raised the right issues.”

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 deficient in its the lack of commitment to a stadium, the possibility that the proposed Olympic Village in Queens would not allow athletes to get to some outlying events in time and the lack of financial guarantees.

Walter Mankoff, chairperson of Community Board 4, said he hoped the June 6 vote at the P.A.C.B. in Albany closes 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.”

Fernando Ferrer, another Democratic mayoral hopeful, issued a statement opposed to the M.T.A. designation of the Jets as developers of a stadium over the 30th St. rail yards. Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, whose district includes the rail yards, and State Senator Tom Duane and Assemblymember Deborah Glick also issued statements supporting Silver’s opposition to the stadium.

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