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Jets stadium should be at Willets Point: Weiner

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By Cynthia Koons

Using numbers from a study he commissioned, U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Kew Gardens) said the West Side Jets Stadium plan would be the costliest sports development in history and contended Queens would be a far more practical site.

With a total cost of $1.4 billion and the public footing $600 million of that bill, Weiner's study's calculations prompted him to endorse a stadium project in Willets Point instead.

He maintained that the Jacob Javits Convention Center should be expanded in the vicinity of where the proposed stadium would be built. But he suggested the Jets should move back to their home in Queens, where they played at Shea Stadium in Flushing.

A new stadium in Willets Point, Weiner believes, would be a more financially reasonable proposition for the team that is currently playing in Giants Stadium in New Jersey but wants to move to New York City.

"This is a plan that is everything the current proposal is not," Weiner said. The congressman said he still endorses the expansion of the Jacob Javits Convention Center, but does not believe that is the best location for a stadium.

"(Willets Point) is a better site for football and better for all of New York City," he said. "It is clearly cheaper."

The West Side stadium would require $600 million in city and state funds to be built on the existing rail yards on the site alongside the Hudson River. The remaining construction costs would be picked up by the Jets.

The plan calls for the construction of a deck over the existing rail yards. But Weiner pointed out that a new stadium in Willets Point "can be built faster because it does not require the exceptional foundation that the rail yards would need."

Weiner's statements, made Sunday at the site where the proposed West Stadium would be built on 34th Street between 11th and 12th avenues, elicited a harsh response from Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The mayor, following on the coattails of former Mayor Rudy Giuliani who was a staunch advocate for a West Side stadium to attract business to Manhattan, recently endorsed the West Side project.

"Clearly Congressman Weiner doesn't have much of an understanding of economics and he clearly doesn't see the finances of this deal," said Chris Coffey, a spokesman for Bloomberg. "Part of the contingency of the Jets moving to New York was moving to Manhattan, specifically to the West Side."

A small group of dedicated borough residents that call themselves the Queens Olympic Committee still hold onto the hope that the Jets will be brought back to Queens where they played until 1983.

Now Weiner's support will accentuate their efforts to see a stadium built in Willets Point, an area that is already serviced by the No. 7 subway line and Long Island Rail Road.

The study, compiled by data from the National Football League, media accounts of projected costs and a study conducted by a Rutgers University professor, points to the Willets Point alternative.

According to the study, "Willets Point already contains the parking facilities to accommodate increased traffic and congestion that would tie up Midtown each time a West Side Stadium hosted a major event."

Weiner said he commissioned the study in order to compare how the proposed Jets stadium would compare with other facilities built in the last 14 years.

The study concluded that Soldier Field, built in Chicago in 2003, cost $644 million - $440 million of which was funded publicly. Invesco Field, built in Denver in 2001, ranked second behind the Chicago project with a total cost of $539 million - $399 of which was be publicly funded.

The figure for the Jets stadium was a cut above at $1.4 billion total.

"We're about to make the single largest investment in the history of the National Football League," Weiner said.

"I think Queens is a venue that the administration should look at. They should get out of their mindset that it's the West Side of Manhattan for this entire project or bust," he said. "They say a stadium doesn't make money in Queens. I think that's insulting and it's wrong."

Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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