Cutthroat local politics may have spelled doom not only for a proposed $2.2 billion stadium for the New York Jets but also for New York’s fading hope that it will get the nod as host city for the 2012 Olympics.
The media mogul most gleeful at the rejection of the stadium is Chuck Dolan, chairman of Cablevision, who spent millions of dollars on a scorched-earth ad campaign whose overt message was that the minimum $600 million in taxpayer money earmarked for the arena could instead be used for things like schools, hospitals and subways.
Dolan was hell-bent on getting rid of a potential competitor to his Madison Square Garden, an arena that the city and the NFL’s Jets would’ve constructed on the West Side of Manhattan, only a few blocks from the Garden.
But Dolan was not involved in the events of Monday that delivered such a setback to the Jets. The antagonist was Sheldon Silver, speaker of the New York State Assembly, who exercised his veto as one of three members of the board empowered to authorize the government funding. All three have to say yes for the stadium to get the go-ahead; only one of the three, Gov. George Pataki, was completely in favor of the plan.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, founder-owner of Bloomberg News, made construction of the stadium one of the biggest issues of his administration, claiming that failure by the city to support it would sound a death knell for Gotham’s application to host the 2012Olympics.
The Intl. Olympic Committee bolstered the mayor’s conviction in a report issued Monday, declaring that lack of a commitment to a stadium will count against the city.
A formal decision on the host city will come during an IOC meeting in Singapore on July 6. Informal consensus is that Monday’s report leaned toward Paris as the city with the best and most buttoned-down proposal, with London in second place and Gotham a respectable third. (Madrid and, particularly, Moscow brought up the rear.)
Buffeted by Monday’s bad news, New York has become panic city. Local officials favoring the West Side stadium said they were so confident they’d get the votes that they failed to come up with an alternative plan for a new arena that could serve as the chief location for the Olympiad. The IOC will surely take note of the city’s poor planning.
Silver’s opposition was mainly political: His assembly district represents downtown Manhattan, where the World Trade Center is located. He became convinced over the last few months that all of the development scheduled to be built around the West Side stadium would come out of the hide of downtown, which is still economically hurting since the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001.