Pros and cons aired in City Council hearing

Updated: June 3, 2004, 7:28 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Fans and opponents of a New York Jets stadium on Manhattan's far West Side held dueling rallies outside City Hall on Thursday and then packed a City Council hearing on the proposal.

"This is about the Jets, the Jets and the Jets, and we are here today to say that that is not our priority for the city," said City Councilwoman Christine Quinn, who represents the district where the stadium would be built.

But Councilman David Weprin, of Queens, addressing the pro-stadium rally, countered, "To me, it's simple arithmetic: It's jobs, it's economic development and it's tax revenues."

The $1.4 billion stadium would be built on the three blocks bound by 30th and 33rd streets and 11th and 12th avenues.

Its development would be linked to the expansion of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center to the north, and it would be designed to house conventions and concerts -- and the 2012 Olympics, if New York is chosen -- in addition to football.

The Jets, whose lease at the Meadowlands in New Jersey expires in 2008, have committed to spending $800 million in private funds on the stadium. The city and state would add $300 million each to build a retractable roof and a deck over the existing rail yards.

City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, addressing the hearing of the council's Economic Development Committee, said he was not opposed to the idea of a stadium.

"I think there are real questions that have to be answered," Miller said. "The first question is, is this a good investment in terms of the return for the city and state public investment. And the second question is, even if it is a good investment, is it an investment that draws resources away from other very important investments."

Daniel Doctoroff, the deputy mayor for economic development, said the facility would generate between $64 million and $77 million in revenues for the city and state every year, compared with annual debt service of $42 million on bonds that would be floated to pay for the project.

Council members pressed Doctoroff and Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corp., on whether the city and state were relying on numbers from a report commissioned by the Jets.

Gargano responded that Ernst & Young, the firm that prepared the report, is reputable and that he was comfortable with the numbers.

Jets President L. Jay Cross promised that the facility wouldn't be empty on non-game days but would be heavily used as a convention venue.

"We have enough interest to book the space for an entire year before the first shovel is in the ground," he said.

The City Council's role in the stadium plan is limited to approving zoning changes and permits.

But the hearing represented the first legislative oversight of a project that has been the subject of an intensive public relations campaign, including television ads from both sides.

Before the hearing, about 100 stadium opponents attended a news conference on the steps of City Hall, where Assemblyman Richard Gottfried said the stadium would be "dead weight."

Several hundred members of unions that have endorsed the stadium, including the building trades and hotel unions, attended the opposing rally.

Also on Thursday, Gov. George Pataki introduced legislation that would redefine the boundaries of the Javits center to prepare for its expansion.

"This legislation is a vital step toward building the world class convention center that New York City needs and deserves," Pataki said.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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