the: Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions;
Committee on Tourism, Arts and Sports Development
June 21, 2004
Statement on West Side Development Proposal
Walter Mankoff, Chair
Manhattan Community Board No.
Chairmen Brodsky, Morello and Stringer and Committee members. My name is Walter
Mankoff. I am the Chair of Manhattan Community Board No. 4. Thank you for
inviting us to testify today on this very important matter.
extends from 14th Street to 60th Streets, from 8th Avenue to the Hudson River
above 26th Street and from 6th Avenue to the river below 26th Street. We
encompass the well-established communities of Clinton/Hell's Kitchen and
Chelsea. We are highly diverse in terms of income, race and ethnic background.
The 12 square block area designated by the Governor's program bill as the
'expansion project" site lies at our district's heart.
Community Board 4
has consistently opposed stadiums on the West Side, ever since they were first
proposed many years ago. But the latest version, a 75,000 seat football stadium
pretending to do double duty as a convention center, disturbs us the most.
In my few allotted
minutes, I want to touch on the key points that concern us most. I ask that my
full written testimony be inserted in the record of today's hearing.
No. 4 supports a thoughtful, appropriate expansion of the Javits Center to bring
badly needed additional jobs and business to our City. The grafting of a stadium
onto the Javits is not the way to achieve these goals. Not only does it not
provide the Javits with the type of space it really needs, but stadium events
will compete with and detract from the existing convention uses if both are
happening at the same time. Experts in stadium and convention facilities
testifying recently at City Council hearings made clear that the multi-function
facilities of the type proposed by the City do not work effectively and should
We are also deeply
concerned about the uncertain operational details of the combined facility at
this late date. Agreement is still lacking on just how the facility will
operate, how scheduling will take place and whether the Jets or the Convention
Center will have first claim on space. The potential confusion arising from this
complex arrangement does not augur well for the Javits Center.
We strongly oppose
the construction of a stadium over the western rail yards whether linked to
Javits or not. It is the wrong use for this extremely valuable waterfront site.
Adding traffic to
that already coming from the West Side Highway, Lincoln Tunnel and the Port
Authority Bus Terminal, a stadium will bring traffic nightmares when in use. It
will endanger the health of our many seniors and others with breathing problems
and immune deficiencies. Traffic congestion will endanger crucial NYC industries
such as theaters and restaurants. When not in use, the stadium area will be
desolate and will discourage badly needed residential and commercial
stadium puts at risk development scheduled for and needed by other parts of
Manhattan and other boroughs. Public funds should not be used to subsidize
construction of a stadium for the privately owned Jets when we have so many more
pressing needs in our community - housing, schools, health care -- to name but a
reasonable development of residential and commercial buildings in the area,
including significantly greater quantities of affordable, non-market rate,
housing than currently proposed. We want our neighborhoods to continue to be
diverse. We want the wide range of families we now have to be able to live here
- firemen as well as stockbrokers, stagehands as well as lawyers.
We support access
to the waterfront and the rapid creation of new parks and open spaces to help
enhance the community and attract development. The open space now planned around
the stadium is largely for crowd control for stadium events and not a real
We do not oppose a
New York Olympics and agree with most experts that locating a stadium elsewhere
would enhance the City's chances of winning the bid for 2012 or in any other
The process by
which the proposal for Javits expansion and stadium construction has been
conducted, as well as Hudson Yards in general, seems to have had one guiding
principle- release as little information as possible and minimize or even
eliminate opportunities for public and legislative review.
initial program bill was regrettably a perfect example. It eliminated oversight
by the state comptroller and severely limited the possibility of judicial
review. The Convention Center Development Corporation (CCDC) was given unbridled
authority to issue billions of dollars of bonds. Artful language was used to
permit these funds to be used not only for true Javits expansion but for
construction of the adjoining stadium as well. The ability of the CCDC to act on
its own without further authorization put the Mortgage Insurance Fund and the
State itself at financial risk.
The bill gave the
Mayor and Governor the power to appoint a majority of CCDC directors, packing
the board and throttling dissent. It exempted the project from state laws
insuring fair bidding by firms maintaining proper labor standards and eliminated
language insuring meaningful participation by minority individuals or
A storm of protest
apparently forced the Governor to modify his bill in the last few days and
remove some of the offensive provisions. However, few people have seen the new
version and even fewer have had a chance to analyze it. We urge the Legislature
to examine it carefully before acting. It is still a bad bill and needs major
One key item
apparently not fixed is the elimination of the Advisory Committee established in
1979 that includes representation for Community Board No. 4. It substitutes the
much vaguer language on community role of Section 16 of the Urban Development
Corporation Act which makes no reference to our Board.
Given the massive
size and community impact of the Hudson Yards proposal including the Javits
expansion and stadium, the creation of a dedicated community advisory board with
mandated representation of Community Board No. 4 is extremely important. Our
Board intimately knows our population and its needs. This was why the provisions
were inserted in the 1979 legislation. This is why they must be maintained 25
Our position is
not NIMBY. We support reasonable development of the Hudson Yards area. An ever
growing list of highly respected organizations and experts share our views and
are making their position public.
Press opponents of
a West Side stadium include the New York Times, Newsday, NY Observer and many
columnists and op-ed articles. Significantly, many of the strongest opponents
are sportswriters who might be expected to support the stadium.
The stadium is
opposed by many local elected officials including Council member Quinn, Assembly
member Gottfried, State Senator Thomas Duane and Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum
and Congressman Gerald Nadler
have been forthcoming from fiscal analysts at the Independent Budget Office, the
Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Center for an Urban Future, the University of
Pennsylvania and countless other planning and development experts. Lastly, the
NY Times reported that the Regional Plan Association staff had prepared a
blistering critique of the heavily subsidized stadium, which the group's study
paper suggested would "deter rather than attract the large-scale redevelopment"
that the West Side needs and that the RPA had agreed to delay the release of the
report following intense lobbying by Deputy Mayor Doctoroff.
There is a range
of opinions in our community about the level of growth that is planned for our
community in the next 40 years. Some may take to the streets - and maybe even
the courts - to oppose all forms of development. Many will accept that change is
inevitable, but will try to shape that change to take the community's needs into
account. But there is consistent and widespread opposition in the community to a
stadium, just as there is widespread support for a Javits expansion that is good
for Javits. As for Community Board 4, we support rational, balanced development
that will inure to the betterment of our area and the City as a
Let me finish by
asking you to reflect on what a stadium prevents us from doing. A stadium will
block a precious waterfront site with what is the equivalent of a solid
three-square block building 30 stories high extending over the West Side Highway
and encroaching on the Hudson River Park. There are so many other things we can
do with this site that will have lasting benefits for our community and all New
Yorkers. Your committees can help by rejecting the undemocratic, stampeding
tactics of the Governor, the Mayor and their representatives. Tell them to go
back to the drawing board and come up with a real plan, one that can meet the
test of openness and public review.