What now for West Side?
BY GLENN THRUSH
June 12, 2005
It seems that reports of the West Side's demise have been greatly exaggerated.
Despite claims that the defeat of Jets/Olympic stadium could doom development in the neighborhood, the trash-strewn streetscape is destined to be transformed in the next few years, thanks to major changes enacted to ease the way for the stadium, according to state officials and development experts.
"The stadium leaves a major hole in the ground but I do expect development to proceed strongly on the West Side without it," said Steven Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, which represents landlords and developers.
Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, the Bloomberg administration's development czar and pitchman, has relentlessly argued that defeating the Jets/Olympic stadium would effectively cripple all development on Manhattan's far West Side.
But in the months leading up to the stadium showdown, two key parts of the West Side plan were enacted that set the stage for development even without the sports complex. They are the planned $1.4 billion overhaul and expansion of the
Jacob Javits Convention Center and a sweeping City Council-approved rezoning of the area that clears the way for 24 million square feet of office space and 13,600 badly needed apartments.
It's widely acknowledged that still-hot demand for Manhattan real estate means the housing will be developed faster than anything else.
"There are several residential buildings that are being planned and a bunch of companies that are putting together parcels to develop more," said Spinola. "There are no commercial buildings in the works, but they would have taken a long time to develop even if we had a stadium. ... I'd expect with no stadium that the office buildings will take a couple of extra years to develop."
Calls to Doctoroff weren't returned.
Rockrose Development Corp. and The Related Companies are reportedly planning new projects in the 10th to 11th Avenue corridor, which was rezoned from 34th to 42nd streets. Rockrose has a pair of buildings in development and Related has one, according to a real estate executive with knowledge of the situation.
The Rockrose proposal, which includes 1,400 apartments on 10th Avenue between 38th and 39th streets, is proceeding as planned, said company spokesman John McMillan. The project can go ahead as planned as long as the city fulfills its commitment to improve infrastructure around the development. McMillan said city officials have assured him the improvements will be made.
Anna Levin, co-chair of Community Board 4's land-use committee, said she has been inundated by requests from residential developers seeking tours of the neighborhood.
Commercial development may be hindered by the fact that the $2 billion city plan to extend the No. 7 line to 34th Street and 10th Avenue is imperiled, but residential development won't skip a beat, Spinola added.
The $1.4 billion expansion of the Javits Center and construction of an adjacent hotel would have been major news were it not overshadowed by the stadium.
"The Javits Center is the most important short-term development initiative in the city," said Kathryn Wylde, president and chief executive of the Partnership for New York City.
Doctoroff has long maintained that the 70,000-seat stadium, with its state-funded $300 million retractable roof, was merely an extension of Javits center and needed to be officially linked to the convention center's expansion.
But that argument was decisively rejected in December by Albany legislators who gave the go-ahead only to the popular, if long-delayed, Javits overhaul.
The expansion, which is expected to take at least five years, will update the center's facilities and nearly double its total floor plate from 760,000 to 1.4 million square feet. Plans also call for a 1,500-room hotel at 42nd Street and 11th Avenue that is expected to house the largest ballroom in the city.
About $500 million of the project will be funded by a hotel-room surcharge in the city.
Last week, Empire State Development Corp. chairman Charles Gargano put out a request for a project architect. "We want to build an icon for the West Side," Gargano said.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has repeatedly said there are 30 to 40 conventions that would go elsewhere if the stadium were killed.
ESDC officials maintain that the scheduled expansion, even without the stadium, will allow New York to attract "virtually any convention and trade show" and make the city competitive again, according to the state's published description of the project.
The Hudson Rail Yards, which were to be the site of the stadium and an Olympic park, are in limbo. Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman Peter Kalikow has said his agency is still hoping to sell development rights at the site to the Jets for $250 million, although state and city officials concede that isn't likely to happen unless the stadium plan is somehow revived.
And then there's the last-minute appearance by Donald Trump. Trump, who interjected himself into last month's scrap over Ground Zero development, has been contacted by Cablevision about possibly developing housing for the yards. Charles Schuler, a spokesman for Cablevision, which spent $30 million on anti-stadium ads, wouldn't provide details, saying only that "we're exploring our options."
Cablevision put in a competing bid to buy the rail yards from the MTA for more than $400 million, to place residential towers around the perimeter of the site.
One top state official, speaking on condition of anonymity, had another opinion: "Donald's grandstanding again. It's bull."
Calls to Trump weren't returned.