Volume 74, Number 14 | August 04 - 10 , 2004

How would stadium affect park and High Line?

By Albert Amateau

It was a novel recipe for a cocktail: one part Hudson River Park, one part High Line, one part Bryant Park, stir with a jigger of New York Jets and call it “Defining Stadiums: New Districts and Open Spaces.”

The concoction was a forum about how the proposed New York Sports and Convention Center would interact with the two parks taking shape around it — a mix with tantalizing flavor but not very intoxicating — just as well since it was served at 8:30 on a Tuesday morning.

What about the football fans’ traditional pre-game tailgate rituals? They wouldn’t be in Hudson River Park or on the High Line, would they?

“No,” said Andrew Cantor, a spokesperson for the Jets. The football team has plans for a parking lot on the New Jersey side of the Hudson, just right for tailgating. And then a seven-minute ferry ride would bring the fans to the stadium. Moreover, the proposed stadium will have plenty of inside venues — restaurants and bars — lots of opportunity for pre-game activities, he said.

The Jets marketing surveys indicate that most fans would use public transportation, and the stadium will not have auto parking except for truck loading docks, he added.

Then there was the question of the view corridor to the river with a stadium the equivalent of a 20-story building in the way. Not to worry, said Cantor — there would be open space around it and the stadium’s steel framework will contribute to the feeling of openness.

At first, neither Robert Hammond, a founder of Friends of The High Line, nor Albert Butzel, president of Friends of Hudson River Park, came out for or against the controversial N.Y.S.C.C. — better known as the West Side stadium.

And when pressed by a question from the audience, they stepped around the issue. “I represent an organization that hasn’t taken a position on the stadium,” said Butzel, “but we do have a lot of concerns about how it would relate to the park.”

Friends of the High Line has members who are for and members against the stadium, said Hammond. “We support all the proposals that include the High Line. We’re grateful to the Jets for including it in the stadium — and we support the Hell’s Kitchen/Hudson Yards’ and Borough President Virginia Fields’ proposals,” he said, recognizing the anti-stadium side.

However, Dan Biederman, head of the Bryant Park Restoration Corp., was definitely in favor of the stadium. He lauded Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff for promoting the stadium as an area for both the Convention Center and professional sports. But he added, “It’s still debatable whether the city should make the investment of public money.” Moreover, he said it would be a challenge to bring people all the way west to 12th Ave., far from most transportation, when there is no football game.

Richard Kahan, former head of the state Urban Development Corp. — who initiated such projects as Battery Park City, the Jacob Javits Convention Center and Roosevelt Island — was the moderator of the July 27 forum at the Center for Architecture in the Village. Kahan was optimistic that the stadium would be a good adjunct to the convention center even thought it would be built a block south of the center.

“It’s not contiguous with the [convention] center,” Kahan acknowledged. But he pointed out that the main hall of the Javits Center is far away from most of the space in the sprawling existing building. “It’s far less contiguous than the stadium would be,” he said.

The sports and convention complex raises issues of access to the waterfront, Butzel pointed out. “One of the problems of the stadium and the convention center is that you don’t have access to the river except at 34th St.,” he observed. Providing access to the High Line and Hudson River Park would be interesting and challenging, Butzel added.

Kahan, who is currently president of The Open Assembly, an organization that develops small, theme-based public schools, affirmed the widely held opinion that the edge of the river should not be given for housing or office buildings but should be dedicated to public space. “You can decide whether this [stadium] is public space or not,” he said.

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