NEW YORK -- If you can't beat 'em, outbid 'em.
Madison Square Garden, the highest-profile and highest-decibel
opponent of the proposed $1.4 billion West Side stadium, announced
Friday that it was offering $600 million for the Metropolitan
Transportation Authority-owned property targeted for the project.
"Please let us know as soon as possible if the MTA is prepared
to proceed with this exciting proposal," said an out-of-the-blue
letter from Hank Ratner, vice chairman of Madison Square Garden,
L.P., to MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow.
The value of the property has become a huge sticking point in
negotiations between the MTA and the New York Jets, the team that
hopes to become the stadium's prime tenant at the start of the 2009
But the Garden, owned by the Dolan family, proposed a "dynamic
mixed-use community centered on residential development" as
opposed to the NFL stadium that would also serve as the centerpiece
of the city's bid for 2012 Olympics. The Dolans fear the new
stadium could draw events away from the Garden.
The new proposal was quickly hailed by state Sen. Tom Duane, one
of the more vocal opponents of the stadium.
"I'm happy to have other options on the table," said Duane,
whose district includes the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood. "We
really want to see a variety of proposals so we can see the best
one. Everything's been geared toward giving this to one
organization, the New York Jets."
Jets spokesman Matt Higgins dismissed the Garden's bid as "a
desperate ploy and a PR gimmick by a company that will do anything
to hold onto its monopoly. At least now their true motives have
been revealed to everyone."
A spokesman for the NYC2012 Olympic organizing group had no
immediate comment. Tom Kelly, spokesman for the MTA, said the
Garden's bid came as a surprise.
"This is first indication we have received from Madison Square
Garden, after months of public discussion, that they are interested
in our property," Kelly said. "We will review the proposal."
The Jets and the MTA were at an impasse over the worth of the
property that currently serves as a rail yard.
The MTA's appraisal set the site value at $923 million for 6.8
million square feet of development rights. Since the proposed
stadium would occupy only 2 million square feet, the appraisers
subtracted about $600 million.
The end value, according to the MTA: $330 million.
The Jets appraiser came up with a price tag for the property of
$36.9 million -- the presumed worth of the site minus the $316
million cost of building a platform over the rail yards.
Politicians immediately questioned why the Jets would receive
credit for building the platform, considering that the city and
state had agreed to pay $600 million for it and a retractable roof
for the stadium.
The MSG bid came one day after state legislators grilled Kalikow
over a plan to have former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell act as an
arbitrator in determining the worth of the stadium.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg supports the stadium as a key component
of his plan to redevelop the far West Side of Manhattan, and he has
warned that the Olympics bid will be doomed without it. Bloomberg's
office had no immediate reply to the proposal.
Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff in a statement called MSG's offer
"a desperate, last minute attempt to derail a project that will
create thousands of jobs, more than $1 billion in tax revenue and
allow New York to realize its Olympic dreams by building a world
class sports and convention center.
"A Friday afternoon press release doesn't replace years of
planning, design, negotiation, and public review from which this
project has benefited," he said.