Stadium crucial to NYC's bid for 2012 Olympics

Updated: April 1, 2005, 1:21 AM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The New York Jets' plan for a $1.9 billion Manhattan stadium that also could serve as the centerpiece of the 2012 Olympics cleared a major hurdle Thursday when its bid was approved by the state agency that owns the proposed site.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority board unanimously accepted a $720 million offer from the New York Jets to develop the site over a remote railyard on Manhattan's West Side, turning down two competing proposals worth more money.

The 75,000-seat stadium is backed by the city and state and would allow the Jets to play in New York for the first time in a quarter-century. The Jets currently play home games at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

Jets president Jay Cross said he hoped construction could begin in July, noting the NFL recently awarded the city the 2010 Super Bowl on the condition of a new stadium.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican, has made the stadium the early centerpiece of his re-election campaign, insisting it will create jobs and growth for years to come in a largely underdeveloped frontier along the Hudson River.

In a statement, the mayor praised the Jets for investing in the city's future and added, "But ultimately, New Yorkers will be the big winners if this project becomes reality."

Many New Yorkers do not share his zeal, opposing the plan by 53 percent to 38 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released before the vote. Some residents have said the stadium will cause too much congestion and cost too much money.

"Why are you doing this?" City Council speaker and Democratic mayoral hopeful Gifford Miller asked the MTA board during public comment before the vote. "This is not over. This is a terrible mistake."

Outside the hearing, anti-stadium demonstrators began chanting "Sweetheart deal!" after the vote was finished, while union workers backing the plan replied, "Jobs! Jobs!"

Olympic officials have said building the stadium is critical to New York's bid. The International Olympic Committee will award the Games in July. Paris, London, Madrid and Moscow are the other finalists.

Among those who submitted competing bids for the site was Cablevision, the company that owns Madison Square Garden. It fears the new facility, just a few blocks away, would compete with the Garden and drain its revenue.

"It is obvious the Bloomberg fix was in," said a statement from Madison Square Garden.

The stadium still must be approved by the Empire State Development Corp., which has already pledged its support, and by Republican Gov. George Pataki, Republican State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno and Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Bruno and Silver have expressed reservations.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press