Back in the 1970’s, when I first moved into the West Side, jobs were as tough to find as apartments were easy.
Apartment hunting had consisted of picking a block that looked okay, knocking on a few doors, and saying yes to a third floor two room half-a-railroad flat. The rent was high, about a hundred bucks a month, and the place needed a good paint job, but there were no junkies or needles in the hallways, the apartment looked like it had never been broken into, there was a nice greasy spoon on the corner named Mi Chinita, and the owner of the building was a sweet old lady named Mrs. Guttman.
Now I needed to find a job. Trouble was, there weren’t any to be found, at least not the kind of job you’d write home about. Fortunately, though I wasn’t a tough guy, I was big, and could take a punch. With those two sterling assets, I wound up working in a dive in the East Village, where the rats were as big as German Shepards, with matching dispositions.
If the West Side was tough back then, which it was, the Lower East Side was hell. East of A, entire blocks were run by drug dealers. Order was maintained by organizations like the Hell’s Angels. Gun play was common place on the streets.
About those rats. When this certain dive I worked in was full, which it was nightly, the rats would stay away. It was only when the customers had left, a little before sunrise, and the staff was sitting around a table, having a goodnight drink, that the rats would come out. They were bold, they were brazen. They would climb the bar, cross the counters. The kitchen belonged to them. I guess that was one way to clear the employees out. Let the rats have the place. It was time to go home to bed, anyway.
What does all this have to do with a stadium on the West Side of Manhattan? Plenty. Those rats weren’t coming out of thin air. They were coming out of the Second Avenue Subway. That’s right. There is a Second Avenue Subway. They’d started digging the holes and trenches in the early ‘70’s, and had actually finished several sections of the tunnel, both uptown as well as down in the East Village outside my place of employment.
But the TA had run out of money, and had abandoned the project, leaving the newly formed tunnels empty. Nature, abhorring a vacuum, had a ready answer, in the form of the giant rats, the same rats who gave us our nightly cue that it was, truly, closing time.
Those tunnels are still there, now sealed off. And this is the point. The city should have finished the job. Yes, New York City was broke. But no matter what the cost, we should have finished the job. But, we didn’t. Instead, we got a tunnel full of rats.
The price of that much needed subway line just keeps rising. Every day that we put it off, it rises. But once the momentum of the project was broken, it became impossible to form the political alliances needed to make such a huge endeavor happen. Once you get the machinery started, never turn it off.
Right now, the machinery has been set up to build a stadium. But, there is one problem: the Olympics.
Both the stadium opposition and the stadium supporters have managed to paint themselves into a corner. In the middle of the floor, the wet paint, if you will, is the July deadline for the IOC to announce its decision on which city gets to host the 2012 Olympics.
The stadium opposition, knowing this, and believing that New York will lose out in the competition, want to delay the construction of the building until after the deadline. They are helped along greatly in this effort by Dan Doctoroff and the administration, who insist that 2012 is the only possible year that New York can hope to host the Olympics. It is a notion that is fast becoming a self-fullfilling prophecy.
Remember the lesson of the Second Avenue subway. What is at risk now is not the 2012 Olympics. What is at risk now is New York City’s ability to ever host the Olympics. Ever.
Without the Jets, the city will not have a partner willing to pony up the cash to build a stadium. As long as the Jets guarantee that the stadium can be expanded to Olympic size, an expansion that would be done through private funding, while it would be nice to get the games in 2012, ultimately, who cares if we get the Olympics now or in, say 2020. Once we have the stadium, future mayoral administrations can bid on the games, as they please. I can envision Mayor Christine Quinn now, in 2013, cutting the rug with the IOC.
If we have a stadium. But if the Jets leave the picture, the price to the city for a stadium goes up through the stratosphere. There is no other partner out there, in the foreseeable future, for the city to join forces with.
I said that the stadium opposition has painted itself into a corner, as well, and they have. But the administration hasn’t figured out the easy pivot. Because, if you say that we should wait until the IOC decides the fate of the 2012 games, you are making a tacit admission that the games themselves are worth having. Having made that admission, you then have to deal with building a stadium at some point. Without the Jets, it will simply be too expensive, period.
No stadium, no games.
Yes, I know some point to the Greeks, and the 2004 games. Sheldon Silver pointed out on the Mike and the Mad Dog show on April 6 th that the Greeks built their stadium at the last moment. What Mike Francesa and Chris Russo failed to point out, and what Silver apparently does not realize, is that the Greeks lost billions of dollars on the deal, primarily because they waited until the last moment. Chaos (a Greek word, no less) is not the path to follow.
The argument that the Jets should be making now is that this stadium allows the city to bid on the games, not just for 2012, but for decades to come.
The cost of stadium construction is only going up. Without a partner, in the future, New York would have to come up with billions for a stadium, if it wanted to host the games.
The stars are aligned to build this stadium now. Or, we can put it off and see what happens. Ask the rats that still reside in the tunnels below Second Avenue. They’ll tell you.
Tom McMorrow, Jr.
©Copyright WestSideStadium.org, 2005