April 7, 2004

Jets Need Stadium

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A week ago, my colleague in the opinion section Jake Honigman discussed the benefits of the City of New York’s proposed plans to expand the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center and build a new football stadium on the West Side of Manhattan. I agree wholeheartedly, but for some slightly different reasons.

Like Jake, I am a Jets fan, and I would like nothing more than to see my team return to New York City from its now 20-year long stay as a second-class citizen in the swamps of New Jersey. My family has owned Jets season tickets since before the Jets were even in the NFL, and quite frankly, the weekly commute to New Jersey is slightly played.

But much worse than that, the Jets play in a facility called “Giants Stadium,” the seats are painted Giant red and blue, and the atmosphere is decidedly generic. It is pretty clear that the Jets need and deserve — for the first time in their 44-year history — a home of their own. And what better place than atop an abandoned rail yard in an underdeveloped part of the city from which the team pulls the vast majority of its fan base?

The arguments against a new stadium in midtown Manhattan are reasonable, but they are ultimately wrong.

Any time the City proposes any type of substantial changes to its infrastructure, there are bound to be detractors. Jake referred to it as NIMBY, or Not-In-My-Backyard. But the fact of the matter is that the residents don’t have any decent claim to this argument in this case whatsoever. They don’t oppose the expansion of the Javits Center, rightly recognizing it as a long-overdue investment in New York’s tourism industry. But they do oppose the construction of the stadium, which would be located directly on top of an old rail yard. They think that this project will detract from their neighborhood and cause undue burdens on their privacy and increase the noise factor and traffic situation to an intolerable level.

Newsflash, people, you live in Manhattan. Noise and traffic are facts of life. Even still, these concerns will not be nearly the issues that local residents make them out to be. The Jets will play about 10 home games per NFL season. Those games, combined with potential other events in the new stadium will total up to about 30 days in the course of a year. Hardly a constant hardship.

Furthermore, detractors argue that the stadium will be expensive and the City could better allocate its resources on projects such as schools and police and fire protection. While this argument is absolutely correct, one must remember that the Jets, not the City, will be paying the vast majority of the tab for this new stadium. The costs to taxpayers will be restricted to necessary improvements to public transportation in the area, which, by the way, should also help reduce traffic on game days.

Additionally, the new football stadium would become the centerpiece of the 2012 Summer Olympics, should New York be awarded the Games next July. The benefits of a New York Olympics are quite numerous.

For one, every city that has ever hosted a Summer or Winter Olympiad has seen tremendous, permanent improvements in its infrastructure as a result. Among the permanent improvements in New York will be a brand-new residential area on the shores of the East River in Long Island City, Queens, and the most comprehensive and efficient public transportation system in the world.

The city has the added advantage that it can give more to the Olympics as an institution than any other host city before it. New York is the quintessential international city, the home to people of virtually every ethnicity on Earth. It is a world-wide capital in finance, media, the arts, and athletics. If there is any city that perfectly exemplifies the ideals of the Olympic movement, it is the home of the United Nations.

But New York can’t wait until the International Olympic Committee makes its decision next year. If the city is to be considered a serious candidate to host the Games — and if it is serious about bringing professional football back within its geographical limits — it must move forward with the stadium project sooner rather than later.

Owen Bochner is the Sun Sports Editor. In the O-Zone will appear every other Wednesday this semester. He can be contacted at [email protected].

Archived article by Owen Bochner