Volume 74, Number 27 | November 10 - 16, 2004

The Newman Real Estate Institute at Baruch College offers a proposal to rebuild the Javits Convention Center on a land bridge on an east-west axis. The land bridge — which would span the West Side Highway, Hudson rail yards and 11th and 10th Aves. — would also support a new stadium and office towers. Dark black line around project represents a monorail.

New twist is proposed for West Side development

By Albert Amateau

A team of visionaries is proposing that the city, the state and the Jets scrap their current plans for the Hudson Yards redevelopment with the controversial New York Sports and Convention Center stadium and flip the project on its side to an east-west orientation.

It would mean eventually demolishing the 25-year-old Javits Convention Center and constructing what the team calls a “land bridge” over the rail yards from the Hudson River Park to Ninth Ave.

The proposal, presented to a Community Board 4 forum on Monday by Henry Wollman, director of the Newman Real Estate Institute at Baruch College, and Charles Lauster, an architect associated with the Newman Institute, calls for constructing a new convention center on the bridge structure over the rail yards with a deck that could accommodate a sports stadium and all the commercial development that the Bloomberg administration’s current Hudson Yards project wants to put along 11th and 10th Aves.

A monorail would surround the new project, extending from in front of Madison Sq. Garden at Seventh Ave. up to 34th St., west to Hudson River Park, south to 30th St. and east to Seventh Ave. The monorail, a loop of 12 stations with 90-second intervals between stops, including connections with the Seventh and Eighth Ave. subways, would be accessible from the street level by clusters of escalators.

The monorail, which Wollman said the Institute has determined would cost $600 million, would link the new convention center — and the potential stadium site — to existing transit without the proposed $2.5 billion No. 7 line extension.

Nevertheless, Wollman said the Institute plan is neither for nor against a stadium or the No. 7 line extension.

“The Institute has no position on the stadium or the No. 7 extension, but we’re sensitive to the pressures on the current project and its scope and to the 2012 Olympic bid,” said Wollman, adding, “We’d like this plan to be compatible with 2012 bid.” The plan could accommodate both a stadium and the subway extension, he said.

The financial advantage to the city and state in the Institute plan would come from opening the state-owned property now occupied by the Javits Center to revenue-producing residential development with streets and view corridors open to the river now blocked by the convention center.

The area now occupied by the Javits Center from 34th to 41st Sts., valued at about $3 billion, could accommodate 15,000 apartments, including 4,000 affordable units, Wollman said.

“As crazy as it sounds to take a 30-year-old building and raze it, it makes sense,” said Wollman.

The land bridge would also provide the infrastructure for all of the 28 million sq. ft. of office development, which the city says is economically necessary for the project. It would also provide the base for 700,000 sq. ft. of retail space and the roof would accommodate a public park.

The proposed new convention center — located directly over the rail yards between 30th and 34th Sts. from 10th Ave. to the West Side Highway — would provide continuous unobstructed space for the largest convention center in the nation, Wollman added.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which has title to much of the existing property, would come out a big winner, Wollman said, noting that the agency is now contemplating another round of fare increases to deal with its financial problems. Although the state would build the land bridge, private developers of office and commercial space on the structure would pay their share of the infrastructure cost.

Robert Olmsted, planning chief of the M.T.A. before he retired in 1989, another member of the Newman Institute team, was also at the Nov. 8 forum.

The way to administer and finance the Institute plan already exists in the Battery Park City Administration, Wollman said. “B.P.C.A. has very little left to do,” said Wollman, noting that the Authority is getting ready to issue requests for proposals for its last three sites early next year. “They have a lot of talent and the experience to do the financing and the operation. Battery Park City can also issue triple-A bonds,” Wollman added.

Ed Kirkland, a member of Community Board 4, observed that the Bloomberg administration’s Hudson Yards plan is far advanced in the approval process. “How can this plan stop the juggernaut that Doctoroff has put together?” Kirkland asked, referring to Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, a prime mover in the Hudson Yards plan and a vigorous advocate for the Sports and Convention Center stadium as the home of the Jets and the venue for the hoped-for 2012 Olympics.

Wollman replied that he has spoken informally with city officials and hopes there is still time to make a new commitment to what he sees as a more practical plan and a better use of public funds.

For the small crowd of 50 Chelsea residents at the forum, the plan was intriguing but Wollman’s neutrality on a stadium did not please most of the audience. The fate of the north end of the High Line was also an unresolved issue that worried partisans of the proposed conversion of the rail line into an elevated park.

Wollman acknowledged that the Regional Plan Association and the Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Association had previously suggested the concept of an east-west orientation for the project.

A major roadblock in the Institute’s plan for the land bridge is the high-rise concrete building with the curved sloping sides at 450 W. 33rd St., which houses the Daily News among other offices. The building would have to be condemned or be incorporated into the structure.

The Institute’s 200-page technical and financial outline of the project is available for inspection at Steven Newman Hall of Baruch College, 137 E. 22nd St., and Community Board 4, 320 W. 42nd St., 26th floor, 212-736-4536.

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