Our politicians need to get together and decide which endangered development enterprise has priority in Manhattan. Will it be Downtown, the redesigned (or de-designed) Freedom Tower, which seems destined to be occupied only by New York State and Port Authority workers when finally built, since practically no one else seems likely to move in? Or perhaps the Barons or New York will want to put the full weight of their development muscle behind the fabulous Jet’s stadium on the West Side, where paralyzing Midtown traffic, while draining the Metropolitan Transit system of hundreds of millions in cash to give the property to a football team that seats only the wealthiest (see Bob Herbert) ticket holders is on tap?
The cinch is they can’t do both without killing one project’s chances at the expense of the other. Mayor Bloomberg seems to have all his chips on the table for the stadium, in the hopes that NYC will attract the Olympics by having a stadium in Midtown. Governor Pataki has dispatched his chief of staff to see that the Freedom Tower is thrown up, whatever the consequences. But no one seems ready to discuss the insane competition between the two for funding and infrastructure support that has been set up by this dynamic.
It's clear that the two development schemes are in trouble and that both of their cornerstone edifices are probably more trouble than they’re worth. But both together are completely insane for New York. Isn’t it time we started asking our leaders to choose between their sandcastles?
At least the plans for downtown have been developed in a pseudo-open process and address the gaping hole that September 11th left in our city. The plans for the West Side seem more motivated by needing a larger scheme that will satisfy the main goal of having a glistening stadium that the Mayor can call his own. While not a fan of the redesigned Freedom Tower, I can at least get behind the rest of the plan to build a memorial, a museum , and an arts center, along with accompanying office space and housing that will make Downtown whole again, not to mention bringing improved subway and rail transit back.
What will happen to the push for attracting tenants and services to the Ground Zero area when the West Side Stadium plan begins to siphon off more and more development money? What will happen to subway rehabilitation and metropolitan rail work when demands for a subway extension to the Stadium in time for the hypothetical 2012 Olympics ramp up (while the West Side sale gives the MTA only a bargain basement price for their land there)? What will give? How much of what has to give will come out the pockets of New Yorkers who will benefit the least?
As for developing the West 40’s, wouldn’t it make sense to let that area remain open for discussion long enough to entertain plans other than a stadium and to get something approaching the value of the property currently owned by the MTA there in return for letting it go? Can no one think of concepts that could benefit the whole city more than putting a sports arena there? Surely an open competition would generate some options to choose from.
But hey, I’m not running for office, so probably I’m missing the big picture. No doubt I’m missing out on some major contributions as well.