of the proposal for a football stadium on the Hudson railyards describe
it as a way to revive the neighborhood, the city, and the region. In
reality, the plan serves only the needs of the New York Jets.
Stadiums have not proved to be sensible public investments. On game
days, they clog the streets with traffic -- in this case in an area
where streets are already straining under the weight of the Javits
Center, Madison Square Garden, and the theaters on Broadway. In other
cities, when no events are scheduled at a stadium, by contrast, the
surrounding area turns into a ghost town. This pattern discourages
other types of developments nearby.
This would be bad for the west side even if no public money was
used. But stadiums always require huge public subsidies to build and
often operate only with additional public money. Yes, the $800 million
that the Jets propose to invest is unprecedented. But the city and the
state have each pledged $350 million to deck over the railyards and
build a retractable roof. And that doesn’t include the $700 million the
city is going to invest in the stadium by creating open spaces,
condemning property, and constructing parking garages nearby.
Before the city pours over $1 billion into this project, we should
consider that not one football stadium in the country works in such a
dense urban area.
Some claim that this stadium will be the exception. It been dressed
up with the current flavor of sustainable architecture and presented as
part of a larger plan for the area. But recent additions of a Museum of
the Science of Sport and a community theater are just window dressing.
The retail square footage is minimal—equivalent to a large Duane Reade
or CVS. The proposed open spaces around the stadium are hard-surfaced
plazas and walkways--not parks. All of these items are in the service
of the main event—the75,000 seat stadium.
Councilmember David Weprin recently said that the stadium would be
good for the city’s finances. However, his financial analysis was not
independent. He later clarified it was taken from a report commissioned
by the Jets.
ANOTHER CONVENTION CENTER?
Prior to the political arm-twisting by Governor George Pataki, Mayor
Michael Bloomberg and the New York Jets, the officials of the Javits
Center showed little interest in the stadium-equals-convention-center
idea. Plans developed by the New York Convention Center Operating
Corporation, the state entity that operates the Javits center, proposed
an expansion to the north, completely covering two blocks and erasing
two streets, with a high-rise hotel on 11th Avenue and 42nd Street. The
stadium plan to the south was a footnote to their planning efforts.
But when the leader of the effort to bring the Olympics to New York,
Dan Doctoroff, became the city’s deputy mayor for economic development,
this footnote became the plan’s main storyline. Doctoroff has pushed
hard for a stadium in Manhattan as a vital part of the Olympic plan.
But there is no reason that the Olympic stadium couldn’t be built in
Now the Jets propose to enter a business they know nothing about and
run it at a profit. But convention centers are generally run by public
authorities, whose goal is only to cover expenses. Convention centers
are not intended to earn money for the operator, but to make money for
the city or region where they are located. Their purpose is to draw
visitors to a city to spend dollars on hotels, restaurants and other
attractions. Many convention centers actually lose money.
When the Jets realize that they cannot make money running
conventions, they will probably begin to compete with Madison Square
Garden for events like concerts or circuses. If they succeed in this,
the west side stadium will not bring new business to New York, but
merely pull existing events a few blocks westward.
PUBLIC INVESTMENT FOR PUBLIC BENEFIT
It is a good idea to make a large public investment on the west
side, by decking over the rail yards, laying out streets, and building
sewers and streetlights. Instead of the Jets stadium, the city should
break the railyards into several sites. The Javits center could then
expand both to the north, as currently proposed, and to the south into
the railyards. Then we could also build a new park overlooking the
Hudson and create infrastructure to encourage the private sector to
redevelop six blocks of exceptionally located waterfront real estate.
This would spread the risk out over a range of businesses in a
variety of business sectors â€“ office, commercial, retail, residential,
hotel. The city’s increased tax revenue would not depend on a single
business, especially one using a plan that has proven itself a failure
Joe Restuccia, the executive director of the Clinton Housing Development Company, is on the board of the Hell’s Kitchen/Hudson Alliance, an organization of community groups and elected officials opposing the west side stadium.
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