W. SIDE WASTELAND
By STEVE CUOZZO
June 8, 2005 -- A GUY like me who covers real estate — and any New Yorker who cares about the city's future — should be tickled pink by the demise of the West Side stadium and convention center scheme.
That's because its collapse leaves so much more to look forward to — namely, a batch of sparkling new towers with 5,800 apartments, a spectacular park, library and a "performing arts enclave" with Hudson River views.
In case you forgot, that's what Cablevision promised in its runner-up bid to the MTA, when the Madison Square Garden owners pledged to put up $400 million to buy development rights and to construct a $300 million platform over the MTA rail yard at its own expense.
Now that the Jets stadium has been deep-sixed, I can't wait to see the Dolans step up to the plate. Build, boys!
What's that, you say — they were just kidding?
Well, of course they were. Not just because they only meant to kill the stadium, but because no builder in his right mind would put up so much as a tin shack on the site where the Jets were ready to put up a 70,000-seat arena and convention/exhibition center — not even if you spotted him the platform for free.
Both sides lied during the propaganda war — the stadium would neither have sucked taxpayers dry nor catalyzed nirvana nearby — but it had one undeniable beauty:
It got rid of the exposed western rail yard, an irredeemably forlorn and desolate place where only a self-contained project like a stadium and convention center made any sense.
The Jets themselves knew that — Mike Bloomberg and Dan Doctoroff made a much bigger deal than the team did about the stadium's supposed synergy with the area around it or with the Javits Convention Center.
Models shown to me by Jets president Jay Cross betrayed how disconnected the scheme was to anything nearby: Floors full of restaurants and shops made clear that game- and convention-goers were not expected to leave.
Nor would they want to. To understand why, just take a stroll around the vast open train yard. No Manhattan site is as hemmed in by bleak, impassable barriers as the western train yard between 30th and 33rd streets.
It's blocked on the west by the West Side Highway and on the north and south by vast parking lots for trucks. Even more forbidding is the eastern yard between 10th and 11th avenues, for which no plan for a platform or any kind of development exists.
The train yard is an open sore in the city fabric. The New York Sports and Convention Center would have closed up half of the wound right off the bat.
It would also, inevitably, create momentum to build over the eastern tracks as well and link the stadium to far-away 10th Avenue — ridding Manhattan of its worst eyesore and linking the Hudson to the civilized West 30s. But as long as the eastern yard is exposed, the western one too will remain a windswept no-man's land unsuitable for life, leisure or work.
That — not fears of ticking off Bloomberg, as The New York Times repeatedly claimed in its anti-stadium propaganda — is why no real-estate companies had any interest in bidding on the site and maybe never will.
The far West Side might yet be nicely redeveloped, thanks to insatiable demand for new housing and rezoning that permits larger buildings. But we're stuck with the train yard forever — unless Cablevision comes through. Charles, Jim — tell us you guys weren't kidding.
©Copyright WestSideStadium.org, 2004