5.21.2005

a boondoggle of breathtaking proportions

With threats of losing the 2012 Olympics (as if we're getting them anyway!), New Yorkers are being held hostage to backroom brokering among Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Robert Wood Johnson IV (known as "Woody"), the mayor's good friend who owns the Jets football team, the MTA, and the construction industry.

What they are railroading us into is outrageous, even in this town. It's like something out of Tammany Hall days, but this time it's happening in public.

The Stadium plan is insane. The city can't afford it, doesn't need it, will lose money from it, won't benefit from it in any way, and will suffer long-term problems because of it. But it will create some temporary construction jobs and will make Bloomberg and Woody very happy, so who cares.

Please read what Bob Herbert has to say.
Trust me, it's going to be a boondoggle of breathtaking proportions.

Here's the first thing you need to know about the insanely expensive football stadium ($2.2 billion and counting) that Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. George Pataki want to build on Manhattan's West Side for Robert Wood Johnson IV, the billionaire owner of the New York Jets.

The rail yards on which the stadium would be built are owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and the development rights have been valued by the M.T.A.'s own appraisers at $923 million. But the M.T.A. has agreed to sell the rights to this publicly owned property to Mr. Johnson and the Jets for a mere $250 million. That's a subsidy of nearly $700 million for the mayor's fabulously wealthy buddy.

When you add that subsidy to the $600 million in public funds that the mayor and the governor had pledged from the beginning to hand to Mr. Johnson, we're talking about a giveaway of $1.3 billion. The rascals used to do this sort of thing in back rooms, while worrying about headlines, indictments and handcuffs. Now they've figured out how to do it legally.

. . .

That the M.T.A., which is hemorrhaging cash, is ready to give hundreds of millions of dollars to the Jets is beyond absurd. Over the past couple of years it has raised fares, reduced service on subway and bus lines, closed dozens of subway token booths, cut back on maintenance and cleaning, and treated its riders to a long succession of major fires, foul-ups and breakdowns.

That's the first thing you need to know.

The second thing is that hardly any of the ordinary taxpayers and transit riders subsidizing this glittering playground on the Hudson will be able to see the Jets play there. This is not like Yankee Stadium, where you can actually go to a game. Unless you've already got season tickets (or unless you're wealthy and can afford one of the staggeringly expensive luxury suites), you're out of luck.

The Jets' Web site couldn't be clearer about this. Under the heading "Waitlist Policy," it says: "The New York Jets are sold out on a season ticket basis. There are NO individual game tickets available. If you are not a season ticket holder, you may join our Waitlist. There are currently over 10,000 people on our Waitlist."

You have to pay $50 a year just to be on the waiting list. The wait is approximately 10 years. And after waiting 10 years, the maximum number of tickets you can buy is four. Does this sound like a good deal for a stadium that you're helping to pay for?
Full column here; all emphasis mine.

A real David and Goliath story is at work here, with Gene Russianoff, the heroic public interest attorney, filing lawsuits on the people's behalf, the residents of Clinton/Hell's Kitchen, whose already beleagured neighborhood would be completely destroyed by the proposed stadium, organized and fighting, and, oddly, another Goliath throwing in with them: the owners of Madison Square Garden seeking to protect their franchise. (That strange bedfellow has helped pay for some great TV ads, all of which are true.)

This is all Mike Bloomberg cares about these days. The rest of us can all go to hell, as long as Woody gets his stadium.

2 comments:

G said...

All that money because they're tired of sharing a stadium with the Giants.

Even as a football fan, I cannot see the logic nor the necessity in the stadium plan either.

It seems every few years, each major sport goes through a stadium boom where many are built/rebuilt in a 5 year span.

In football, the Bears just got Soldier rebuilt, the Eagles got a new home last year, Patriots did in 2002, Seattle was rebuilt not too long ago (remember when they played at Husky - shoulda stayed there), Arizona's got a new one on the way (to their credit Sun Devil is too small - but it's not like they get fans out anyway), Indy's debating a new one, St.Louis gets renovations this year, and with talk of a team in LA by 2010, sites are being looked at now for one out there. And,of course, now the Jets.

All those happened within 5 years of each other. When one team does it, all the other teams jump on the that's-a-great-idea bandwagon and the necessity part gets left out.

Baseball has a similar history. Can you believe that now they are talking about a "New" Yankee Stadium? Hey, if Fenway was successfully renovated, why can't Yankee Stadium be, George? Maybe a move will give them their own curse for the next 80 years. Given the rivalry, that would be rather fitting.

By the way - remember what I said long ago that the AL East would be one of the tightest divisions ...

L-girl said...

"Can you believe that now they are talking about a "New" Yankee Stadium?"

No. It drives me nuts. It's not even the original YS now. And you're right, it's definitely a bandwagon-snowball effect thing. Only Minneapolis had the guts to say no, and they are ridiculed for it.

"By the way - remember what I said long ago that the AL East would be one of the tightest divisions ... "

I still don't see it. Except for the race between Baltimore and Boston... ;-)

Just when are the Orioles gonna stop winning???