Volume 73, Number 42 | February 18 - 24, 2004



City and state would team on Hudson Yards project

By Albert Amateau

Protesting the West Side stadium plan at a press conference on City Hall’s steps last Wednesday were, from left, Councilmember Letitia James, who is fighting plans for a new Nets basketball arena in Brooklyn; Councilmember Gale Brewer; Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum; and Councilmember Christine Quinn. They were also joined by Community Board 4 members.

City and state officials last week presented details for a new Hudson Yards business district with a 75,000-seat stadium for the 2012 Olympics and the Jets football team, the potential for 28 million sq. ft. of new high-rise offices, a park-and-boulevard corridor between 10th and 11th Aves. and the extension of the No. 7 subway to serve them all.

The plans unfolded as two separately financed but simultaneous projects, one by the city and the other by the state.

Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff and Mark Page, director of the city Office of Management and Budget, at City Hall on Wednesday morning presented the city’s $2.77 billion share of the project. The biggest ticket item is the $1.96 billion subway extension. The city would also finance a $410 million platform over the eastern part of the rail yards between 11th and 10th Aves. for an Olympic Plaza, which would be open public space. The park-and-boulevard corridor would cost an estimated $407 million.

A computer rendering of the plan for a new West Side stadium, at left, and expansion of the Javits Convention Center, at right. The plan would also include a new tree-lined boulevard between 10th and 11th Aves. and an Olympic Plaza, which would be open public space.

Plans for the controversial stadium, which critics have likened to an 800-pound gorilla, came on Thursday when Charles Gargano, chairperson of the New York Empire State Development Corp., outlined the state’s part of the project — without financial details but all on a fast track for completion.

The state project includes a platform over the western part of the rail yards between 12th and 11th Aves. upon which the Jets would build a stadium, which would also serve the Olympics and the Javits Convention Center. The Jets would put about $800 million into the stadium. The state, however, would be responsible for the cost of the platform and for the stadium’s retractable roof — which would make it usable for convention events — which together could cost more than $600 million.

At the same time, the convention center would be extended north to 40th St. in the next five to six years. The state’s total financial burden was estimated at $2 billion.

“We have to break ground by next spring [2005] if New York City is to get the Olympic commitment by July of next year,” said Gargano in reference to the platform and stadium. He said the stadium could be completed as early as 2007 and the entire Javits Center expansion could be completed by 2009. A second phase of the convention center expansion from 40th to 42nd Sts. at a cost of $500 million may be completed by 2012, Gargano said.

In between the two presentations, West Side elected officials and Community Board 4 members rallied on the steps of City Hall on Wednesday to denounce plans for the stadium.

“We restate our opposition to a West Side stadium,” said City Councilmember Christine Quinn. “It shows Mayor Bloomberg’s priorities are misplaced. We should make sure the Javits Center is expanded as soon as possible.”

Opponents believe the stadium would bring unmanageable traffic congestion to an area already choked with rush-hour tunnel traffic. They also say stadiums rarely benefit commercial and residential communities in which they are located. Moreover, they contend that a football stadium would not lend itself to convention uses.

Quinn said the city and state plans set aside no money for the Javits expansion. “The plans tap out any possible revenue that may come in,” she said, pointing to the city’s proposals to finance the subway extension, the Olympic Plaza in front of the stadium and the park-and-boulevard corridor. “In no way is there financing for the Javits Center expansion,” said Quinn. “There is also no financing for affordable housing, which apparently has been put on hold,” she added.

“The plans are fuzzy at best,” said Ed Kirkland, of the Community Board 4 Chelsea Planning Committee.

However, in addition to 28 million sq. ft. of commercial space, the city plan envisions 12.6 million sq. ft. of residential development under the 80/20 program — under which 20 percent of the apartments would be affordable — providing 2.5 million sq. ft. of affordable housing.

Kent Barwick, president of the Municipal Arts Society, told The Villager that he was impressed with the scope of the project. “It’s the kind of planning we’ve been asking the city to do for years,” he said. “The question is, does it make sense?”

Barwick noted that the city’s presentation was made in the Blue Room at City Hall in front of a portrait of Thomas Jefferson. “He made a huge investment as president and was much criticized at the time,” Barwick said, referring to the Louisiana Purchase, which more than doubled the size of the United States in 1803.

The city will establish the Hudson Yards Finance Corp. to finance the project. Tax-exempt bonds would be issued, backed by developers making payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs) for new commercial properties and by the sale of development rights for high-rise commercial buildings along 11th Ave. The revenues are contingent on a new Hudson Yards rezoning, which City Planning hopes to certify in March and submit to the City Council in November.

Quinn denounced what she called the “massive up-zoning of 11th Ave.” to encourage very tall buildings.

Groundbreaking for the subway extension is expected by the winter of 2005 with completion projected for 2010. The city’s timetable for the platform for the Olympic Plaza in front of the stadium calls for groundbreaking in 2006 and completion in 2011. The city also proposes to sell air rights generated by the Olympic Plaza for development elsewhere in the 50-sq.-block Hudson Yards district from 29th to 42nd Sts. between Ninth and 12th Aves.

Anna Levin, a C.B. 4 member of the Clinton Planning and Zoning Committee, said the board is supporting an alternative plan for the Hudson Yards. Said Levin, “We would put a new convention center instead of a stadium on a deck over the rail yards with office buildings on the four corners to meet the city’s demand for commercial space.”


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