September 14 th, 2004
Virginia Fields conducted her public hearing on Hudson Yards Environmental Impact Study last night at FIT, and the opposition, buttressed by a phone banking operation funded by the odious Cablevision, (See D-Day Coming) turned out 250 boisterous, and more than occasionally obnoxious, opponents to the stadium project. Considering the amount of time and money they poured into this event, their turnout was weak, but having said that, supporters of the project were clearly outnumbered by at least two to one. Chalk one up for Cablevision and the Dolan Gang.
In retrospect, we did not put in nearly enough effort in turning out our forces. I include myself in that assessment. I sent out one email, ten days ago, with no follow-up. Not a good idea in these heated times.
The demure Ms. Fields, who is soft spoken but clearly packs a wallop, kept the hearing orderly, though the opposition seemed bent on turning the event into a circus, as is their wont.
The evening began with a brief presentation from the city planning commission, interrupted repeatedly by jeers from the black, red and white clad opponents followed by the usual politicos, searching for the elusive TV camera. Richard Gottfried took only twelve minutes to make his three minute speech, a record of brevity for him. Gottfried avoids me like the plague, even though I am one of his constituents. Apparently, if you disagree with Dick, you ain’t worth jack. The impression I’ve had, one which was confirmed for me last night, is that Gottfried would oppose the stadium even if it was free. His interest is in keeping those rowdy little old ladies happy, not in what is best for the city of New York. As proof of that, I offer you his position, or should I say non-position, on the question of whether Cablevision should pay real-estate taxes on one of the most valuable pieces of property in the world, Madison Square Garden. If you press him or his representatives on the issue, their response is always, “The Jets won’t pay real-estate taxes, either,” a statement that is A, misleading (the Jest are in negotiations with the MTA over an annual payment to be made in lieu of taxes), and B, beside the point.
The point here, Dick, is not what may or may not happen in the future, but what is happening today. Cablevision is ripping off the city. You can do something about it by standing up and demanding that this tax scam ends, now. That is what I want my representative in the New York State Assembly to do. Or, you can be a puppet. The choice is yours.
After the politicos came we proles, each given our three minutes. I did my three minutes, to many catcalls and other animal noises produced by the opposition. In case they did not hear it, I print it, below.
My name is Tom McMorrow. I have been a resident of Chelsea for the past 30 years. I want to thank Borough President Fields for holding this meeting.
I am the founder of a citizen’s organization called WestSideStadium.org. We believe that it is in the best interest of the city as a whole, as well as the borough of Manhattan and, yes, the west side itself for this project to move forward.
We were very encouraged by the Environmental Impact Statement. It is exhaustively detailed, weighing the pros and cons of all eventualities. The opposition complains that it is too encyclopedic, which strikes me as rather odd. Apparently, according to the opposition, too much knowledge is a bad thing.
I was born in Manhattan, as was my father, and my father’s father. For one hundred years, my family has lived and worked next to this 26 acre hole in the ground called the Hudson River train yards. 26 acres which separates Hell’s Kitchen from Chelsea, and the people of Manhattan from our great underutilized treasure, the Hudson River. Finally, there is a plan to close this open wound, to bring development and life to this area. To bring parks and river access back to the people. And jobs for the people of New York.
I would like to say this about the opposition to this plan: Some of those in the opposition are my neighbors and friends. Even though I disagree with them, I respect them. However, they can not deny that they are being funded by a monopolistic corporation, Cablevision, which pays no real estate taxes on Madison Square Garden, yet has the audacity to spend millions of dollars, money that should be going to pay our cops and firemen, in an effort to stop a project which will produce hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues for this city.
There are other powerful institutions who have weighed in against this plan, The New York Times and the Shubert organization being notable in this case. Again, I admire and respect these organizations, but I believe they are acting out of self interest, and not out of what is best for the people of New York.
The challenge for you, in my humble estimation, Madame Borough President, is to see past the special interests, past those who simply want to maintain the status quo, and see, instead, the future, a future of growth and hope for all of Manhattan and this entire great city that we love so much. It will take strength and courage to stand up to these special interests, but history will look kindly on those with the vision to see the future and the will to make it so.
©Copyright WestSideStadium.org, 2004