published in Newsday, April 6, 2004
Best site is
Willets Point, not the West Side
Bearak, an attorney, writes a weekly column for TimesLedger
Newspapers in Queens. He is on the board of The Flushing Meadows
Corona Park Conservancy, a nonprofit group.
the hoopla by the governor, the mayor and his deputy, and the Jets
owner over the proposed Olympic-Jets Stadium on Manhattan's far West
Side might mislead anyone to think the deal done.
from the Central Labor Council's president to the City Council
Finance Committee chairman seems to be on the same team. But this is
just the opening kickoff. Let's call a time-out and reconsider the
Although George Pataki, Michael Bloomberg, Daniel
Doctoroff, Woody Johnson, Brian McLaughlin and David Weprin may
sincerely believe in this $2.8-billion grand scheme, severe problems
with its financing and siting invite serious scrutiny, offering hope
to those of us stung by Mayor Bloomberg's outright dismissal of the
best place for the Jets to play: Willets Point in Queens.
the mayor and the governor have indeed squirreled away hundreds of
millions of dollars for subsidizing a new Jets stadium in Manhattan,
scrutiny of upcoming state and city budgets offers the opportunity to
undue this shocking waste of taxpayer money.
Let's not forget
the issue of our taxes supporting a private, for-profit venture when
our city so desperately needs schools, affordable housing, more
teachers and police officers. The plans for this Manhattan project
threaten to divert funding for the Second Avenue subway. The city's
existing mass transit service needs all the help it can get.
city or state legislator should approve any budget that gives our
funds to a billionaire sports owner. We know Bloomberg and Pataki
hope to be sitting high up in a luxury box at the new Manhattan
grandstand. But what about those would-be mayors and governors? A
plan this big deserves to be an election issue.
Independent Budget Office documented the risks of tax increment
financing, public borrowing based on anticipated growth in property
taxes. City Hall's involvement with this new domed stadium and the
expansion of the Javits Convention Center relies on a
payment-in-lieu-of-taxes scheme that acts like tax increment
financing. This means that taxpayers will foot the bill.
project of this magnitude competes with rebuilding lower Manhattan as
well as providing office and retail opportunities in the other
boroughs. Why should Queens be ignored? The National Tennis Center's
success with the U.S. Open makes plain that the well-heeled and those
of moderate means will flock to a Queens venue. Didn't the Jets draw
well when they played at Willets Point, the home of Shea
This part of Queens has what the far West Side lacks:
two interstate highways (the Van Wyck and the Long Island
Expressway), one limited-access highway (the Grand Central), subway
and rail, and even ferry access. Mets owner Fred Wilpon has already
envisioned a baseball stadium invoking Ebbets Field to replace the
aging Shea Stadium. Adjacent facilities for football and baseball
would help the city promote its Olympic bid and provide an
appropriate New York home for the Jets and a new field for the
No public financing would be required. The $800 million
the Jets propose to spend on the West Side facility more than covers
a Queens state-of-the-art football stadium. Public investment could
expand parking there and make the Willets Point station part of the
IRT No. 7 express route. The city planners can already see Willets
Point without junkyards and body shops. Why not look further at other
infrastructure investments such as a one-seat ride linking Willets
Point with LaGuardia?
The restaurant, theater and museum
complex advanced by the Jets for the far West Side certainly works
better nestled north of Flushing Meadows Corona Park. New stadiums
and related construction in Queens could provide just as many union
jobs as the far West Side development.
Shift the Olympic
stadium plans to this Queens site and you'd realize a dream that I
and many others have long had for improved city-wide amateur and
professional sports facilities. And isn't that what the effort to get
us the Olympics should be all about?
It's time that the mayor
think outside Manhattan and go deep like a Chad Pennington to Santana
Moss pass - to Queens.'Let's not forget the issue of our taxes
supporting a private, for-profit venture.'