Since the Spitzer administration revealed its plans for a Javits Center expansion/renovation last month, the state has been clear that funding for the governor’s new $300 million downstate affordable-housing initiative, along with funding for two parks, will have to come from the sale of two unused land parcels to the north and the south of the convention center.
Joining the two separate projects, the state seemed to be saying that only with the $900 million or so raised from the Javits land sale could it afford the housing plan. “Want a housing plan? Support the Javits proposal,” the Spitzer administration implied.
The land-sale proposal became an instant lightning rod, drawing fire from most anyone and everyone involved with Javits, particularly over the sale of the northern parcel. Selling it would foreclose the possibility of expansion forever, critics charged. (Mr. Spitzer has said the price will forever be far too great to expand there, so selling the parcels makes sense.)
But it now appears there’s been something of a shift, housing advocates say.
Earlier this month, in an amendment to the budget, Governor Spitzer tied the $300 million housing fund to the first $300 million to come from any sale of Javits Center property [PDF document here]. Thus, even if the state did not sell the northern parcel, only selling the southern lot, the housing plan would see full funding.
A spokesman for the state Department of Budget denies a shift, saying the ammendment was a "technical clarification" customary in the governor’s ammended budget plan.
Mayor Bloomberg opposes selling the north parcel but is not against the sale of the south parcel. However, others, such as Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, are against the sale of either parcel.
The alteration in the budget came after housing advocates expressed worries to the governor’s office about the funding method, said Assembly Housing Committee Chairman Vito Lopez.
“It was an outcome of concern by some people, including myself, that if there was a controversy there, and if it was long-lasting, where would we get the funds?” Mr. Lopez said.
Mr. Lopez also said he is pushing the Assembly to put up about $120 million in capital spending for affordable housing, as the sale of even one Javits parcel could take months; the housing plan does not get funding until the sale is completed. A Democrat from Brooklyn, Mr. Lopez also said he is supporting the sale of at least one parcel of land at the Javits Center, urging housing advocates to do the same.
The money from the first parcel to sell would also go toward funding Hudson River Park and Governors Island, to which the state has committed to giving about $45 million.
If the northern parcel is not sold but the southern parcel is, it is clear how that would affect the state’s plans for the convention center. The state had hoped for a modest expansion of mostly meeting space; though, without funding from a land sale, the state would be about $340 million short of the $1.68 billion budgeted, according to the facility’s 2006 General Project Plan. One outcome, perhaps, would be for the state to just do a major renovation, estimated to cost somewhere around $1 billion.
The state is due to pass its budget by March 31.