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West Side Story

"The West Side has shown time and time again that when it's a battle of David and Goliath, we win," New York City Councilmember Christine C. Quinn said before a rally outside City Hall on June 3. A series of public forums and press conferences that day followed a round of contentious council hearings about an ambitious new development plan that includes building a $1.4 billion stadium for the New York Jets along the West Side waterfront.

Drawing of proposed west side development
The project has sparked a bitter political battle over the future of Manhattan's Far West Side. The proposed Jets stadium would sit over the Long Island Railroad's train yards between 30th and 33rd Street along 11th Avenue, and calls for a combined $600 million contribution from the city and state. Other aspects of the proposal include an expansion of the Jacob Javits Center, an extension of the #7 train from Times Square to 34th Street and 11th Avenue, and a new nine block boulevard between 10th and 11th Avenues from 33rd to 42nd Streets.

In opposing the project, Councilmember Quinn is joined by a coalition of business owners, preservationists, and Cablevision, the owners of Madison Square Garden, which has been sponsoring television ads arguing that the $600 million of public funds should be spent on other projects.

Photo of protestors
Joe Restuccia, a member of the Hell's Kitchen / Hudson Yards Alliance and an active opponent of the plan, told NY Voices' Rafael Pi Roman that building a publicly subsidized stadium ignores the experiences of other cities. "Stadiums are built all over the country. And in those districts in many cities, they have not brought development around them."

Restuccia favors gradual development of the area through rezoning. "Did Times Square happen over a day? No, it happened over 20 years ... You take that approach, we are ensured that we are going to get building, we are going to get commercial development, and we are going to get taxes from it as opposed to putting all of our eggs in this one basket."

Supporters of the plan include labor unions, the Jets, the Bloomberg administration, and the Pataki administration. As Chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, Charles Gargano is the top development official in the state, and a major proponent of the West Side project. In an interview with Rafael Pi Roman, he predicted that the development will create "14,000-15,000 new construction jobs ... and 4,000-5,000 new permanent jobs." When asked about the poor track record of other stadium projects, Gargano argued that this project is different because this facility would be more than just a football arena. "Two-thirds of the time this facility would be used for Javits shows, Javits conventions. So it is very different than stadiums that you might be referring to. In addition, the Jets will be spending $800 million of their money on the project, when the City and State are expected to spend only a combined $600 million."

Photo of protestors
Gargano thinks critics who object to the $600 million subsidy for the project are shortsighted. "Projects [like the Jets Stadium] generate a lot of revenue for the city and state, which has given them the ability to do more projects and support more programs in the future."

While Gargano is optimist that the project will be built, Restuccia points to the track record of other big development projects in New York. "This is going to be bunched up in litigation forever. I mean, the city is like oh well we are going to do it. The truth is there is going to be a ton of law suits ... Anything that I have been involved in with the city, whatever is proposed, is not what gets built."

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