On May 25, Governor George Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg made the rounds in lower Manhattan, announcing an $800 million plate of improvements for downtown neighborhoods, including a waterfront park, money toward a new public school and a Chinatown business-development group.
Democratic Assembly leader Sheldon Silver, who also represents the district, remained in Albany, purportedly too busy to make an appearance.
Mr. Pataki and Mr. Bloomberg took their show on the road on the heels of a series of articles that seemed to suggest the two had abandoned the redevelopment and revitalization of lower Manhattan in their frenzied push for a West Side stadium.
And now Mr. Silver is one of two men standing in the way of making that stadium happen.
Mr. Silver, along with his counterpart in the New York State Senate, Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, and Mr. Pataki, each controls one of the three votes of the Public Authorities Control Board, which would give approval to the $300 million in bonds that the state would issue for the stadium. (Another $300 million would come from New York City.) Each man has veto power as well. A unanimous decision would have to come before the weekend to help the stadium’s boosters, as well as boosters of the 2012 Olympics-many of whom are one and the same.
So Messrs. Bruno and Silver must get on board with the plan for a $2.2 billion Jets stadium on the West Side, and they must do so before the International Olympics Committee makes a hash of the proposal to use the stadium as the centerpiece of the city’s 2012 Olympics bid in an interim report scheduled to be released June 6.
Perhaps Mr. Silver found last week’s display to be a bit too little, too late. After all, the money is simply being allocated from federal grants promised to the city more than three years ago, in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. What could Messrs. Bloomberg and Pataki offer downtown that hadn’t already been offered by someone else?
And for Mr. Bruno, the issue of whether any benefit will accrue upstate from the development of the Jets stadium on the West Side, insiders told The Observer, is also a burning question.
Neither Mr. Bruno nor Mr. Silver has said publicly what they want from the Governor and the Mayor. Albany is a rough place, but it’s not that brazen. Officially, the two men say they’re still looking for answers about the stadium’s financing, but insiders say that they want to make sure their districts benefit from any outlay the state makes.
“One of the issues that Senator Bruno is concerned about is whether other parts of the state share equally in the benefits of economic development,” said Lou Colletti, the director of the New York City Building Trades Employers Association, who met recently with Mr. Bruno. “The number I hear is $300 million-if $300 million has been allocated for stadium funds, the same amount should be allocated for other projects as well.”
A state official confirmed Tuesday that Mr. Pataki and Mr. Bruno are discussing dedicating $300 million to economic-development projects upstate and on Long Island, with the details to be determined later. A similar deal preceded Mr. Bruno’s support for state funding for the expansion of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center last year.
What Mr. Silver wants is less clear. It is likely, however, to go beyond the $800 million in grants announced last week for his district in lower Manhattan, since that money has always been destined for those neighborhoods.
“He’s not going to specifically ask for projects,” one political strategist said. “He’s a smarter politician than that. But will he get something? Of course.”
And so, over the past week, Jeff Lovell and Adam Barsky, senior staff members in the Governor’s office, and Marc Shaw, a deputy mayor, have been talking to the staffs of Messrs. Silver and Bruno, trying to hammer out a deal.
But before that happens, one other piece has to fall neatly into place: On Thursday, a state judge will rule on several lawsuits that could postpone or even nullify the sale of the land on which the stadium will be built. The same judge, State Supreme Court Justice Herman Cahn, could also rule on two other related cases that challenge the study that the city undertook before rezoning the West Side. So far, Mr. Silver and Mr. Bruno have been able to use the lawsuits as an excuse for not making up their minds earlier.
According to accounts from both sides, Judge Cahn has shown himself to be a fair and independently minded judge who has asked tough questions at hearings on the issue. He’s been following the case ever since he was presented with the first anti-stadium lawsuits last year-one from Madison Square Garden, which sees a football stadium as competition in hosting rock concerts and large events, and another from two nonprofit advocacy groups, the Tristate Transportation Campaign and the Straphangers Campaign, that challenged the environmental-impact statement filed by the city.
The stadium’s opponents, meanwhile, are continuing to sow doubts about the stadium’s financing and its connection to the Olympics. It is not an Olympic stadium-in fact, NYC 2012 expects to pay an additional $143 million in privately raised money to increase the stadium’s length for the track and field events, and it may need additional land-use approvals as well. And while the state and the city would each contribute $300 million, the Jets would use what otherwise would be sort of property-tax payment to the city to pay off $450 million more in bonds. Stadium supporters argue that the stadium, which would double as an extension of the Javits Convention Center next-door, would raise much more from conventioneers than it would cost the city.
The Jets can count black and Hispanic legislators, eager to bring jobs to their district, as well as the construction trades among their supporters. Meanwhile, legislators on the West Side, whose constituents would be hampered by traffic and construction, as well as lawmakers upstate, whose constituents wouldn’t benefit much at all, could still play a large role in dissuading Messrs. Silver and Bruno from backing the plan. Madison Square Garden lobbyists, and stadium opponents like Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, are telling the legislative leaders that the vote shouldn’t be rushed. If the triumvirate’s vote is delayed until after the I.O.C.’s report comes out next week, New York’s chances at hosting the games could be so low that all the urgency to get the stadium subsidy approved would be lost.
“This effort is happening on two levels: It’s about Shelly and Bruno, but it’s also about continuing to make sure there is pressure coming from different levels,” a stadium opponent said. “Presumably, the voices of people who are near them still matter.”
Regardless of what happens this week, New York is still a long way from winning the Olympics. The final vote takes place during an I.O.C. meeting on July 6 in Singapore. Right now, Ladbrokes, an online betting house, is giving 21-1 odds for New York-odds that undoubtedly factor in the lack of clear state support for the stadium. Even if the Public Authorities Control Board endorses the project, New York’s bid still has a lot of ground to catch up. The favorite, Paris, has 1.2-1 odds. London and Madrid fall somewhere in between.
“We know the stadium is the big risk factor of the bid,” said NYC 2012 executive director Jay Kriegel. “It was named that when the I.O.C. was here, and it continues to be. If the stadium is not approved in a short time, the bid will be severely damaged.”
The Olympic stadium is not the only area of uncertainty. Several other venues-including the Nets basketball arena in Brooklyn, which is supposed to house the gymnastics competition in 2012, and the swimming center in Williamsburg, Brooklyn-require various approvals and land purchases, sometimes from reluctant sellers. But nothing compares to the stadium deal in terms of complexity or symbolism.
Mr. Kriegel is busy shoring up confidence among Olympic supporters, and he’s started e-mail campaigns aimed at Mr. Silver and Mr. Bruno. On May 25, Mr. Kriegel sent out an e-mail to “NYC 2012 Board and Friends,” asserting that New York would win under the I.O.C.’s peculiar voting system.
“There will be growing talk about Paris as the ‘front runner,’ anointed by the media,” he wrote. “But in recent history, so-called front runners have won only three of the last nine times.”
The final voting will take place over several rounds, with the last-place finisher eliminated in each round. Members cannot vote in a round if their country is a contender, so in the first round, only 100 of the total 117 committee members will be able to vote. By the final round, when the delegations of just two countries are excluded, 108 members will vote.
“That is why the key to the process is to be the second choice of voters,” Mr. Kriegel wrote. “The city that is the second (or even third) choice of more members usually wins.”
But reporters from Le Parisien and The Daily Telegraph mapped out scenarios for how the voting would likely go, round by round. Their tallies were unscientific, based on informal polling of I.O.C. members and discussions with Olympics experts, but both showed New York losing on the second round, after Moscow.
Mr. Kriegel discounts all such speculation. “This is truly a case where the only vote that counts is the one at 7:30 a.m. EST on July 6,” he wrote.