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Queens officials question latest Jets stadium study

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"These reports remind me of the phrase, 'whoever pays the piper calls the tune,'" state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Whitestone) said of the study released by Tishman Construction. The company, commissioned by the Jets, found a West Side stadium would be more profitable for the city than one built in Willets Point near Shea Stadium.

Stavisky raised the question after City Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis) endorsed the Tishman study as a further reason for the city to build the stadium on the West Side.

"I think we've got to sit down with the individuals involved and take a look at the proposals, see the benefits of what can be done for Queens," Stavisky said.

Ever since talk of the Jets' potential move to New York City, interested parties have been pulling for either a sports arena on the West Side of Manhattan over the rail yards at 30th and 33rd streets and 11th and 12th avenues or on the rundown parcel of land west of Flushing known as Willets Point.

Both projects would require the city to stabilize the land with either a platform over the rail yards or piles built on the wetlands of Willets Point.

"What we've got to do is have an independent analysis of the cost and the benefits of putting a stadium in Queens," Stavisky said.

Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing), who works closely with Stavisky on projects involving downtown Flushing, expressed the same sentiment, but he wondered if objectivity was really attainable at this point.

"Ultimately, we're all looking for what's best for the city," Liu said. "One of the key ingredients has to be an independent study and I don't know if you can categorize the Tishman study as such."

The Tishman Construction study, released in May, was commissioned by the Jets as was the Ernst & Young study that was released when the Jets originally expressed their intention to move to the West Side of Manhattan.

The Ernst & Young report, issued in March, only weighed the economic benefits of the West Side stadium and expansion of the Javits Center, indicating the project could bring $75 million in new revenues to the city as well as 6,700 jobs.

The Tishman study projects that a West Side stadium would generate $30.5 million in revenues for the city annually while a Willets Point arena would lead to an annual citywide revenue loss of $8 million.

Between the release of the two Jets-supported studies, U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Queens) commissioned a study conducted by a hybrid group of professors and economists who found that a Jets stadium on the West Side of Manhattan would be the costliest athletic development in history.

Based on those findings, he announced that the West Side project would cost the city $600 million in public money - to be split by the city and state for the construction of the deck over the rail yards - and that the entire price tag would come in at $1.4 billion total.

State Assemblyman Barry Grodenchik (D-Flushing) said the city's bid for the 2012 Olympics also complicates the issue because the location of the stadium could affect how the games are handled in the city. There has been talk of using the West Side stadium for the Olympics, but at present the 2012 plans only include Giant Stadium for soccer.

"At this time, I am not advocating for it because the city wants to put it on the West Side of Manhattan," Grodenchik said. "I think Willets Point would be a fabulous site for an Olympic stadium."

But he said the city should consider the fact that Giants Stadium in New Jersey, where the team currently plays, stands empty when the teams are not playing or concerts are not being held.

"That's not what we want to see," he said.

Stavisky said the push to promote tourism in Flushing and Queens in general should be considered in the reconstruction of Willets Point.

"Too often people will come to Shea Stadium on the subway, on the railroad or in their car and after the game jump in their car and go home," she said.

"What I would prefer to see is a stadium that has other ingredients in the plan," she said. "Just to have a stadium that's used seven or eight times a year makes no sense."

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

Posted 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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