A Stadium Story
The Battle for New York’s Last Frontier
In New York City, where real estate is as valuable as oil in Texas, development
battles take on a unique intensity. New Yorkers have a special pride in their city,
but opinions vary on what makes it great. Residents of Hell’s Kitchen, and much
of the rest of Manhattan, were not happy about a proposed stadium to be built
over the Hudson River Train Yards on the island’s far west side.
Development battles typically involve the disenfranchised many fighting the
influential few. In this case, however, there were internal divisions, resulting in an
intra-class struggle for the future of a neighborhood. Union workers, many who
live in the outer boroughs, saw the promise of thousands of jobs in the
revitalization of the far west side. Many of their legislative leaders in the City
Council supported the project. Westsiders, predominately liberal and supportive
of labor interests, found themselves opposed to the unions they would otherwise
support. The Bloomberg administration and Woody Johnson, owner of the New
York Jets were not the only gorillas in the room. Cablevision, owner of Madison
Square Garden, entered the fray on the side of the opponents to protect their
interest, some would say monopoly, in the event business. With elites and
working class on both sides, and with the conflicting interests of city and state
politicians, this is a political battle unlike any other in New York City history.
With billions of taxpayer dollars and the future of a neighborhood at stake, the
battle over a west side stadium consumes New York City for two years. The New
York Jets want to build a new home over the Hudson Rail Yards, the last frontier
for Manhattan development. The Mayor wants to catalyze the transformation of
the far west side, and his Deputy Mayor, Daniel Doctoroff, needs a marquee
venue for a bid to win the Summer Olympic Games. Opposed to competition,
Madison Square Garden wages a 50 million dollar war against the proposal.
Hell’s Kitchen residents struggle to preserve their community in the shadow of
midtown, while the city’s construction unions, confronted with a post-911 lull in
building, fight for the promise of thousands of new jobs. With New York’s biggest
players at the line of scrimmage, what follows is one of the most bitterly
contested political brawls in the city’s history.