- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 10, 2005

NEW YORK (AP) — It’s the mayor’s visionary project — or his $1.4 billion boondoggle. It’s a boon to construction unions — or the bane of New York’s police and firefighters. It could help bring the Olympics to New York — or ruin one of the city’s great neighborhoods.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is pushing to build a 75,000-seat stadium for football’s New York Jets over a desolate train yard in Hell’s Kitchen, a gritty section on Manhattan’s West Side once known for Irish mobsters and union longshoremen.

The project would accomplish at least one thing: It would return the Jets to the city from the New Jersey Meadowlands, their home since they abandoned Shea Stadium in 1984.

But it has touched off a furious debate over jobs, parking, traffic and the propriety of spending taxpayer dollars on a sports facility for a team with one very rich owner while New York’s teachers and other public employees are feeling unappreciated.

A decision on the project along the Hudson River could answer questions both large and small: Can New York City host the 2012 Olympics? Who will be the city’s next mayor? And is Hell’s Kitchen any place for a tailgate party?

“I think it’s a bad move,” said Jets fan Tom Cantlon of Chester, N.J., a 20-year season ticket holder who threatens to surrender his seats if the team bolts his home state for a stadium without a parking lot. “What are we supposed to do — tailgate in Hoboken?”

Under the plan, the city and state would contribute a combined $600 million toward the stadium, while the Jets would put up the remaining $800 million.

The mayor, a financial-news magnate whose Democratic opponents in the November election are against the stadium, argues the project will boost the city’s economy and its hopes of landing the Olympics.

A December public hearing, however, deteriorated quickly into a screamfest between job-hungry construction workers and angry Hell’s Kitchen residents.

The debate has even pitted the head of the firefighters union against a member of the rank and file. Jets fan Ed Anzalone, a Harlem firefighter who never misses a home game, did a commercial supporting the stadium. Uniformed Firefighters Association head Stephen Cassidy went the other way.

Mr. Cassidy, with the police union, neighborhood groups and many other critics, object to the cost to the taxpayers.

State Sen. Thomas Duane of Manhattan complained that other proposals for the site could generate more money for the cash-strapped city. “Everything’s been geared toward giving this to one organization, the New York Jets,” he said.

Hell’s Kitchen residents have complained that the stadium — which would be near the Lincoln Tunnel and within walking distance of the Empire State Building — could paralyze neighborhood traffic. The Jets, trying to pacify the neighborhood, recently unveiled a design incorporating stores and a TV studio.

The opposition extends well beyond the neighborhood. A poll released last month showed that 58 percent of New Yorkers are against a new stadium.

But the stadium funding is structured in such a way that New Yorkers will not vote on the project. The key decisions rest with the mayor, Gov. George E. Pataki and leaders of the state Legislature.

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