Volume 74, Number 43 | March 02 - 08, 2005

Chamber hears Quinn tell other side on stadium plan

By Albert Amateau

The Greenwich Village Chelsea Chamber of Commerce last week listened to City Councilmember Christine Quinn express the negative view of the proposed New York Sports and Convention Center stadium over the West Side rail yards.

“The stadium is not really doing so well at the moment, I’m happy to say,” Quinn told Chamber members on Feb. 23, the week a delegation from the International Olympic Committee came to town to hear Mayor Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff vow that the stadium would be built in plenty of time for the 2012 Games.

“I’d like us to be the winner of the Olympic selection,” said Quinn, “but it’s not true that the Olympic Committee insists there has to be a hole in the ground [starting construction on a stadium] to make a decision,” she said. All the committee requires is two possible sites, but the mayor at first presented only one and added a second site as an afterthought, Quinn complained.

Quinn said the right place for a Jets and Olympic stadium is at Willets Point near Shea Stadium where councilmembers and Queens residents would welcome it. Quinn, however, didn’t give much of a chance for another potential stadium sited in Queens over the Sunnyside rail yards even though Councilmember Eric Gioia is a supporter.

“What if the I.O.C. decides in July not to give New York the 2012 Games?” Quinn was asked.

“I think the mayor will probably try for the 2020 Olympics,” she replied.

“Now that the M.T.A. [Metropolitan Transportation Authority] has opened the bidding on the West Side rail yards, the mayor and the governor should insist that all bidders will be able to get the zoning they’ll need to develop the site,” Quinn said.

But she was leery of the recent $700 million bid last week from TransGas to develop the rail yards in return for a site on the Queens waterfront. “I don’t get it,” she said, adding, “I read the story three times and I still don’t understand it. I think they made the bid to throw a monkey wrench into the works.”

The site over the rail yards between 11th and 12th Aves. from 30th to 33rd Sts. is the last publicly owned undeveloped site in Manhattan, said Quinn. “It’s a huge opportunity and whatever is built on it will be there for a long time,” she said. The argument that a stadium is necessary for an expanded Javits Convention Center doesn’t hold water for Quinn. “Only two of the top 16 convention centers that do more business that the Javits have stadiums that flow right into the convention center,” she observed.

For Quinn, the best way for the West Side rail yards to develop would be a mix of office, hotel and residential uses. And despite Bloomberg’s declaration that the Sports and Convention Center stadium will be built, Quinn suggested that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who controls one of the three votes — with Governor Pataki and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno — on the Public Authorities Control Board, could stop the stadium plan. A single no vote is a veto and Silver has taken a cautious stand on the stadium. “We should all be grateful for the thoughtful caution of Shelly Silver on this issue,” said Quinn.

“I don’t have to go on at length into the traffic problems of the stadium. You have to get shot out of a cannon to get down the West Side in any reasonable time,” said Quinn, referring to congestion on the approaches to the Lincoln Tunnel.

She made short work of the justification by the Jets that the stadium would not aggravate traffic because it would be used only for eight or 10 Sundays a year for football games. Contending that the stadium would receive much heavier use than that, she said, “They would have to fill it for 200 days a year to meet their revenue goals.”

Quinn reminded the Chamber that the Hudson Yards rezoning west of 11th Ave. that the City Council approved recently does not allow any revenue from development in the district to go to the stadium.

The Feb. 23 Chamber forum was the follow-up to a November event where the Jets and New York City, Inc., the quasi-public agency that promotes New York City tourism, made the pro-stadium pitch to Chamber members.

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