Volume 73, Number 44 | March 3 - 9, 2004

Hardhats and residents clash over stadium plan

Villager photos by Elisabeth Robert

Construction workers are for the J-E-T-S, Jets! stadium.

BY Albert Amateau

West Side residents and construction union members traded chants and slogans last week about the Jets/Olympic stadium proposed for the rail yards south of the Javits Convention center at the City Planning and Community Board 4 forum on the redevelopment of the Hudson Yards District.

“We want jobs,” chanted construction workers in favor of the stadium.

“We want our neighborhood,” replied residents and elected officials from the redevelopment area — roughly between Ninth and 11th Aves., from 29th to 43rd Sts. — who are adamantly against a stadium and strongly critical of the overall plan.

“Build it in Queens. Build it in Brooklyn. Build it in Staten Island. Don’t build it here,” was the cry of Adam Honigman, a Community Board 4 member.

City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden and Manhattan Planning Director Vishaan Chakrabarti detailed the proposed zoning that would transform the area on the west side of Midtown into a new central business district over the next 30 to 50 years, with broad green plazas, thousands of new residential units and office towers along 11th Ave. that could rise 70 stories high.

Community Board 4 chairperson Walter Mankoff gave a capsule outline of the board’s support of an alternative scaled-down plan — with a Jacob Javits Convention Center facility instead of a stadium and less-dense development along 11th Ave. The alternative plan was developed by the Hell’s Kitchen Hudson Yards Alliance, a local civic organization.

“We believe seriously that the community plan would create more jobs earlier than the city plan would,” said Mankoff. “Our plan is close to the city’s plan but we want a bigger Javits Center, no stadium and a specific commitment to affordable housing.”

Mankoff acknowledged that City Planning has been considering aspects of the community alternative. Nevertheless, he warned that disregarding the community would “lead to lawsuits and complications.”

West Side residents fear a stadium would aggravate the rush-hour traffic approaches to the Lincoln Tunnel. “Ninth Ave. is wall-to-wall traffic,” said Andrew Berman, director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and a resident of Clinton, the neighborhood that includes the Hudson Yards District.

The Feb. 25 forum, which overflowed the 200-seat Douglas Fairbanks Theater on 42nd St., referred only tangentially to the stadium proposed for the western part of the rail yards between 11th and 12th Aves.

“It’s a state-led project and that’s why its not part of this presentation,” said Chakrabarti, referring to the stadium and the proposed expansion of the convention center.

But anti-stadium neighbors and elected officials charged that the comprehensive plan, which includes extending the No. 7 subway line to 11th Ave. and 34th St., was based on the assumption that a Jets football stadium that would serve both the 2012 Olympics and the convention center will definitely be built.

The H.K.H.Y. Alliance plan calls for using existing Long Island Railroad tracks between Penn Station and the rail yards to serve the Convention Center and the Hudson Yards District instead of the proposed $1.4 billion No. 7 line extension.

“The [City] plan is flawed because the endgame is the stadium,” said Councilmember Christine Quinn. “The plan is designed to make the stadium happen. We agree that the area needs redevelopment but not to this extent.”

Dan Golub, an aide to Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, recalled that Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff has ssaid the stadium is an inextricable link in the redevelopment plan. “Do the Javits, not the Jets and don’t leawall of office towers along 11th Ave. block the waterfront,” Golub said. Several real estate experts have recently questioned whether a stadium on Manhattan’s West Side would contribute to the city’s economy, Golub added.

City Planning’s estimate that 12,000 units of affordable housing would be created in the redeveloped Hudson Yards through existing 80/20 and Inclusionary Housing programs was disputed. Berman said that those existing programs have resulted in very little affordable housing in the district recently.

Chad Marlow, a member of Community Board 2 speaking as a West Village resident, invoked the memory of the abandoned Westway landfill project and the spirit of Jane Jacobs to urge opposition to both the city plan and the H.K.H.Y. Alliance plan.

“The city is the full bulldozing and the eight-lane highway, and the Alliance is the half bulldozing and the four-lane highway,” Marlow said. “There is another opposition out there, the West Side Alliance, that says this entire plan needs to be scrapped because it destroys the neighborhood and does not address the real needs of the city,” he added.

J.D. Nolan, a member of Community Board 4 and a resident of Clinton, recalled Commissioner Burden’s pioneering involvement in the Midtown Community Court a dozen years ago. “She loves the neighborhood and she would have said the stadium sucks,” said Nolan. “I can only conclude that Amada Burden has been kidnapped,” he said, and recited lyrics he made up, which include the lines “Oh where have you gone Amanda Burden?/ Hell’s Kitchen is full of regrets/ since you were kidnapped by the Jets.”

Burden blushed and laughed but didn’t reply.

Jeremy Soffin, public affairs director of the Regional Plan Association, commended City Planning for a plan, “which represents the best planning we’ve seen from the city in decades.” Soffin said the district represents the region’s best opportunity to provide new areas for office development. But he noted that R.P.A. research indicated that the need for office space may not develop for more than a decade.

“We believe that further study and public discussion is needed,” Soffin said, citing problems of waterfront access, the Lincoln Tunnel approaches, the impact on Lower Manhattan development and the impact of a football stadium on residential and commercial development.


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