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Clinton / Hell's Kitchen Land Use

Letter to NYC2012, re West Side stadium proposal - April 2004

Before the: Committee on Economic Development
New York City Council
June 3, 2004

How Will The Proposed West Side Stadium Complex Impact Our City?

Statement on Behalf of
Manhattan Community Board No.4
Walter Mankoff, Chair

Good afternoon Chairman Sanders and Committee members. My name is Walter Mankoff. I am the Chair of Manhattan Community Board No. 4. We welcome this opportunity to speak about the City's ill-advised plan to put a stadium on the West Side of Manhattan. Given the methodical attempt by the City and State to use the State ownership or control of the areas west of 11th Avenue to evade public and legislative review of this project, this will be one the few opportunities for the public to be heard on this vital matter
Our District extends from 14th Street to 60th Streets and from either Eighth Avenue or Sixth Avenue to the Hudson River. We encompass the well-established residential and business communities of Clinton/Hell's Kitchen and Chelsea. The site for the proposed Olympic and football stadium lies at our district's heart, but its impact will be felt far beyond our boundaries.

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.

Our carefully considered position was arrived at after two years of study and discussion with those who live and work in our area. Unlike NIMBY positions which enjoy little support away from the focal point of a project, 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 (editorial 1/26/04), Newsday (editorial, 2/12/04), New York Observer (editorial 3/4/04) and various columnists and op-ed articles. Significantly, many of the strongest opponents are sportswriters

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.

Negative opinions 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 (New York Times, 5/6/04).

Before proceeding, let me summarize the reasons for our opposition. A West Side Stadium will:

" Cause severe environmental and traffic impacts endangering crucial NYC industries such as theaters and restaurants.
" Cost outrageous sums requiring use of City funds as backing for securities. May impair funding essential for education, schools, health care, affordable housing and crucial infrastructure repairs.
" Discourage badly needed residential and commercial development in vicinity of stadium.
" Force unacceptably high levels of building density and height in other parts of the neighborhood to make up for lack of real development on the stadium site.
" Force potential development away from lower Manhattan, other parts of the borough or from other boroughs to provide sufficient development in the West Side to provide income needed to back up bonds. May probably delay Second Avenue subway.

Community Board 4 does not oppose the City's bid for the Olympics, and we support an expansion of the Javits Convention Center. We are opposed only to the proposed Olympic "legacy" to the West Side - a permanent football stadium. We believe that the long-term benefits of the stadium to our community are illusory, and that even if those benefits are realized, the stadium will do more harm than good.

Our City needs more housing, an expanded Javits Convention Center to draw business and create jobs, and balanced commercial development. The West Side rail yards, four entire city blocks on the Hudson River, is a development opportunity that can play a crucial role in achieving these goals. It should not be squandered on a football stadium.

Ask yourselves: what does a football stadium do for us? But before you do that, ask yourselves whether you'll even have the chance to weigh in on that question. Because the site is owned by the MTA, and the proposed stadium would apparently be part of the Javits expansion, which is also a state project, the western rail yards have been carved out of the zoning plan being developed by the Department of City Planning. If that strategy prevails, and we certainly hope it doesn't, neither the stadium nor its financing will be subject to public review through the City's land use review procedure, and today's hearing could be the last the City Council hears about the development of this vast and valuable property.

But this need not be. The stadium plan is unworkable without the major rezoning of the 59 square block area of Hudson Yards. Only rezoning can provide the open plaza and the mid-block boulevard that are signature parts of this plan, and only rezoning can provide the rushed funding and construction of the No. 7 line extension we are told we need immediately. And here, the City Council cannot be deprived of its rightful role. We urge the Council to use its zoning power to demand proper public and legislative review of the entire project including the stadium and Javits Center expansion.

But let's assume that you do have the opportunity to evaluate the stadium. We believe that a football stadium is bad planning, and bad development risk management for the City's plans for growth. A stadium is bad planning because it will only aggravate the area's crushing traffic problems. The Broadway theaters seat 240,000 people a week, the Madison Square Garden Arena seats 20,000 for concert events. At times it feels like they're all trying to find parking in our neighborhood - parking that will disappear when the parking lots are taken for new development. And the City wants to add 75,000 football fans? And the huge crowds for other stadium events?

And while traffic will be awful when the stadium is in use, the surrounding streets will be active only when the stadium is in use and dead when it's not. Even the Department of City Planning has recognized this as a concern, and has talked of measures to enliven the building's perimeter. But how much can really be done? The latest proposed adornments to the stadium site range from a flea market to a sports bar. These are supposedly to attract Class A office buildings and upscale apartments to the vicinity. Using this huge, valuable site to build one stadium is bad development risk management because it puts an awful lot of eggs in a single basket.

Remember, the proposed stadium is only one part of the City's proposal for the development of the Hell's Kitchen/Hudson Yards area. That proposal calls for substantial new residential and commercial communities that will fuel the City's competitiveness in the regional and global economies for 40 years to come. So much bulk, in fact, that the plan may never be achieved. Without the stadium, that bulk could be spread across the rail yards in a much more rational manner, and development could occur in more realistic sizes and a more realistic time frame.

A stadium will be obsolete in 20 to 30 years. What happens then to the City's 40-year plan?
The public is being asked to invest in a deck over the rail yards, an extension of the No. 7 subway line, and attractive but very expensive public space. Yet we will be relying, to a very large extent, on a single user - the New York Jets - to determine the ultimate success or failure of that investment. And, improper as it may seem, The City is relying entirely on cost/benefit studies arranged for and paid for by the Jets. And we may be compromising the City's ability to complete other important projects, such as the Second Avenue subway, the redevelopment of Lower Manhattan, and commercial development plans in other parts of the City.

Many examples are offered of other cities that have built stadiums next to residential areas (Seattle) or stadiums as part of convention centers (St. Louis). But none of those others cities come close to New York for complexity - they're surrounded by freeways, and distant from commercial and population densities like ours.

The Jets have offered the St Louis domed stadium adjoining the Convention Center as a model of what can be done in New York. From a cost standpoint alone there is no comparison. The Ernst and Young study done for the Jets in March 2004 indicates a 1995 cost for the domed stadium in St. Louis at $260 million. In 2004 dollars the cost would be about $330 million. The Jets stadium has a basic cost of $1.4 billion or about 4.5 times the inflation-adjusted St. Louis cost. And the New York cost does not include any payment to the MTA for use of its land, a factor that might easily bring the New York cost to well in excess of $2 billion.

Relying on enormous projects by single developers has not worked well in our city. Take the example of the Times Square Redevelopment. The original plan, way back in the '80s, was that a single developer would develop all the buildings. A collapsing real estate market and a series of lawsuits meant that nothing happened for 10 years. Eventually, the development risk was spread among a variety of developers, serving a variety of constituencies, and rebuilding occurred.

The City, NYC 2012 and the Jets can paint a dazzling picture of what this stadium could look like. But dazzle doesn't get projects built in this City.

We should learn from the experience, and model, of Battery Park City, where the public invested in an infrastructure that allowed a variety of developments to occur - developments that, over time - a long time - created a successful residential and commercial community, and a revenue stream that will continue to flow long after the infrastructure is paid for.

Letter to NYC2012, re West Side stadium proposal

April 12, 2004

Jay L. Kriegel
Executive Director
1 Liberty Plaza, 34th Floor
New York, NY 10006

Dear Mr. Kriegel:

We were disappointed by NYC2012's original bid book which states misleadingly that care has been taken to ensure that "proposed venues are typically located in communities that view them favorably." This has certainly not been the case in our community. Our board, neighborhood and civic organizations and all of the area's local elected officials have been unwaveringly opposed to a stadium on the West Side of Manhattan. Many of those opposed to the stadium have joined us in signing this letter.

We support bringing the Olympic Games to New York in 2012 and we would be willing to host appropriate venues in our community, but we cannot support any plan that contemplates a sports stadium over Manhattan's western rail yards.

A West Side Stadium would frustrate our community's long-term planning goals of balanced and sustainable growth and affordable housing. It would rob us of an opportunity to make productive use of a prime waterfront development site that could help support the City's financial needs. It would obstruct the natural southern expansion of the Javits Convention Center. It would wall off three blocks of the Hudson River waterfront from the public forever. And because it would be located in one of the most congested parts of the City, it would cause traffic nightmares. That is why a growing chorus of voices from throughout the City - including New York City's Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, the New York Times, Newsday and the Observer - has expressed opposition to a West Side stadium. More recently the public at large is joining the opinion leaders in opposing the stadium. Witness the Quinnipiac poll results released last week that showed 60 percent of registered voters opposed to a West Side stadium if tax dollars are used and 53 percent opposed even if tax dollars are not involved.

The financing plan for the development - which the administration says is "integrally linked" to the stadium - is fuzzy at best. With an untried combination of commercial credit and bonds lent against future real estate tax revenues on development that may not take place in the time envisioned, the stadium is part of a risky financial scheme that would provide an enormous taxpayer subsidy for a sports franchise.

NYC2012's most recent submission to the International Olympic Committee claims that "NYC2012 has encountered no organized opposition to bringing the Olympic Games to New York." While the 2012 Olympics have not faced organized opposition, the West Side Stadium has.

The West Side Stadium is the Achilles' heel of our City's Olympic bid. Its enormous cost makes New York's Olympic budget the most expensive in world history - a certain concern for International Olympic Committee President Jacque Rogge, who has made controlling "the Games' cost and complexity" one of his highest priorities. And, perhaps most importantly, it is likely to prompt litigation from many quarters that will cause a fatal delay and negative publicity for the City's bid.

It is not too late. The IOC will not make its final decision until next summer. There are other potential locations for the stadium, which we know you have studied. Your bid book states that "should any localized opposition become problematic in the coming years, NYC2012 will be able to alter its Olympic plan by making recourse to an extensive array of alternative sites." But a thorough, community-friendly planning process takes time and forethought. Please act soon, for the good of our community, our city, and the success of our city's Olympic bid.

This letter was approved at the meeting of Manhattan Community Board No. 4 on April 7, 2004 by a vote of 29 in favor, 1 opposed, 2 abstaining and 1 present, but not eligible to vote, and is supported by the local elected officials and community organizations whose signatures appear below.


Walter Mankoff
Manhattan Community Board No. 4

Richard Gottfired
75th Assembly District

Gale Brewer
Council Member
6th Council District

Sarah Desmond
Executive Director
Housing Conservation Coordinators

Joseph Restuccia
Executive Director
Clinton Housing Development Company

Kathleen Treat
Hell's Kitchen Neighborhood Association

Chuck Spence
West 44th Street Better Block Association

West 45th Street Block Association
Marilyn Rockefellow

West 47th/48th Streets Block Association
Elke Fears

William Borock
Council of Chelsea Block Associations (400 W. 20th St. B.A.; 300 W. 20th St. B.A.; 400 W. 24/25 St. B.A.; 200 W. 15th St. B.A.; 200 W. 16th St. B.A.; and 300 W. 21/22/23 St. B.A.)


Governor George Pataki
Mayor Michael Bloomberg
New York City Councilmembers
C. Virginia Fields, Manhattan Borough President
Helen Marshall, Queens Borough President
Other elected officials
Manhattan Community Boards
Queen Community Board Nos. 3, 4, 6, 7 and 8
Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff
Mark Ricks, Mayor's Office
Brenda Levin, NYC2012
NYC Dept. of City Planning
Brian McLaughlin, NYC Central Labor Council
International Olympic Committee
United States Olympic Committee

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