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Editorial: First you build it, then you plan it

Almost two months after the maiden voyage of the AirTrain, officials are desperately searching for a way to connect the train to Lower Manhattan without forcing passengers to switch from the modern high-speed light rail to a subway or Long Island Rail Road car.

Last week the officials released four possible plans — three utilizing pre-existing tunnels connecting Brooklyn to Lower Manhattan and one that calls for building a new tunnel. Each plan would cost about $5 billion and will take nearly a decade to complete. The proposals would enable passengers to go from Kennedy Airport to Fulton Street in downtown Manhattan in about 15 minutes.

There is a problem. The cars purchased for the AirTrain will not run on the tracks that already exist connecting Brooklyn to Manhattan. This, of course, begs the question: why didn’t the Port Authority see the importance of a one-seat ride to Manhattan when it was planning for the AirTrain?

We did. We said repeatedly that the AirTrain, as it now exists, will not attract enough riders. And we were right. Backpackers from Sweden may like it, but business travelers are not using and will not use the AirTrain until it offers a one-seat ride.

Talk about bad planning and a lack of vision. This may be one of the most costly mistakes in the history of municipal government. Nevertheless, plans should go forward to create a connection to downtown Manhattan. Late is still better than never.

Editorial: West Side story

The mayor is still hoping to build a 75,000-seat stadium for the Jets on the West Side of Manhattan. He’s in for a rumble. The activists who successfully blocked the building of the West Side Highway for a decade citing concerns for the tiny Snail Darter fish that fed off the rotting piers could easily tie the city up in court for years. By the time he wins – if he wins – it may be too late to host the 2012 Olympics.

There is and has always been a better plan for building a state-of-the-art stadium. There is plenty of area near Shea Stadium in Flushing to build this stadium. This location has everything going for it. The city would easily win the fight to relocate the scrap yards and auto-repair shops in Willets Point. Like Shea and the tennis center, the new stadium could easily be reached by the No. 7 train and the Long Island Rail Road. And it will be much easier to get to this area by car for residents of all five boroughs and Long Island.

We understand why the mayor favors the West Side location. This part of Manhattan could use a shot in the arm and there are benefits in linking the stadium to the convention center. But there is no guarantee that the mayor can win this fight. Time is of the essence. The Olympic Committee must be convinced that the city has a viable plan that will not be torpedoed by the Friends of the Snail Darters.

On the other hand, building the new stadium in Queens would make Flushing the sports Mecca of the northeast. We hope the mayor will take a second look at Queens.

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