The Hucksters

The people who tried to sell you the world's most expensive stadium

When Juan Gonzalez of the Daily News (ironically, one of the building's tenants) began questioning him this year about the investment, Doctoroff refused to provide specifics about how much he'd invested; his lawyers would only say it was minimal and that he had sold it after taking office under an agreement to dispose of his real estate holdings (which included four other West Side properties as well). But Gonzalez's research showed that Doctoroff's share wasn't sold until late 2003—after the building's owners had begun negotiating to have it included in the new Hudson Yards zoning changes. The Department of City Planning, which falls under Doctoroff's supervision, later granted zoning changes allowing the owners to build a monstrous 50-story structure on the site.

Doctoroff's spokeswoman said he had nothing to do with the specific rezoning. But the investment confirmed the suspicions of opponents that the stadium and attendant Hudson Yards rezoning smacked more of a real estate gold rush than a benign urban reshaping. Like Westway, the long-deceased plan to build a massive highway on the West Side, the stadium was always more about creating opportunities for real estate than civic enhancement.


Mayor Bloomberg
photo: © 2005 The City of New York
Mayor Bloomberg

Details

Stadium Fiasco:

  • Stopping a Stadium
    Heroes had different motives, but they shared scorn for the Jets deal
    By Jarrett Murphy

  • A Queens Ransom
    The Mets are in and the Jets are out, but where do the taxpayers fit in?
    By Neil deMause
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    When billionaire pharmaceuticals heir WOODY JOHNSON purchased the Jets in 2000, he did so with a vision of a shimmering, glass-and-steel 70,000-seat West Side stadium firmly in mind—with profits right through its government-financed, retractable roof. The stadium would allow the Jets to double the amount they charge for luxury boxes in the Meadowlands, to more than $230,000; in addition, it would let the team impose the NFL's most odious fan tax, so-called "personal seat licenses" costing up to $10,000 apiece—just for the right to buy a season ticket. Naming rights for the stadium, along with other corporate sponsorships, would be worth more than $50 million, the team estimated.

    The Times' Charles Bagli, who broke many of the key stories about the stadium, noted that even as the Jets were telling investment bankers how profitable their new home would be, at the same time they were insisting it couldn't be built without a minimum state and city subsidy of $600 million.

    Although the Jets used to play in Queens, Johnson and team president JAY CROSSboth dismissed suggestions that they consider sites there rather than the West Side.


    NYC2012 director JAY KRIEGEL was hired for his job by Doctoroff, who thought the former City Hall aide and television executive had the right combo of political know-how and pizzazz for the mission. While Doctoroff remained the group's top figure, Kriegel was the daily point man.

    The snowy-haired Kriegel was a perfect representative, intelligent and humorous, as long as he was fielding ground-ball inquiries about Olympic venues and procedures. But when reporters sought to ask him about the successful fundraising meetings he and Doctoroff held with firms that do business with City Hall, Kriegel dropped the charm act. He brusquely suggested that it might be unpatriotic to question the group's Olympic-fundraising methods. Moreover, Kriegel said that the notion that business leaders were making contributions as a means of gaining access to Doctoroff at City Hall was "outrageous."

    It wasn't the first time Kriegel was put on the defensive. Back in 1971, the Knapp Commission on police corruption looked into charges by a pair of young whistle-blowing detectives named Frank Serpico and David Durk that they'd warned Kriegel, then a top aide to John Lindsay, about corruption but that he had done nothing about it.


    Construction trades union leader ED MALLOY provided the muscle, manpower, and much of the money in the push to win political support for the stadium.

    There was no doubt the stadium would've generated many jobs—but so does every big project, like the still unbuilt Second Avenue subway or the cross-harbor rail freight tunnel, both much needed improvements. But while Malloy's troops never fought to win political backing for those projects, they pulled out the stops for the West Side stadium, adopting a carrot-and-stick approach, say political officials who got the full Malloy treatment. The carrot was in the form of union campaign donations that would "max out"—the most allowed under law—to those pols who agreed to endorse the project.

    The stick was a threat that the politician would not see another union dime, with the money going instead to fund potential opponents. Since re-election is goal No. 1 for every pol, the tactic won many converts. Although the evidence won't show up until next month's campaign finance filings, several pols who saw the stadium light will be displaying newfound union wealth in their campaign coffers.


    Ironically, some of Bloomberg and Doctoroff's most ardent support for a West Side stadium came from Queens pols like City Council finance committee chairman DAVID WEPRIN. While critics like Brooklyn-Queens congressman and mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner repeatedly promoted the idea of a Queens stadium, the hometown delegation steadily shot it down, making it impossible to build political momentum for the idea. As late as this March, Weprin, along with eight other Queens pols, wrote Bloomberg an open letter insisting their own borough would make a lousy site, citing, amazingly, traffic and costs. Jets president Cross demonstrated his thanks to Weprin last year, donating $2,000 to his campaign committee. Late last week, Weprin, of course, was backtracking, along with the rest of Team Bloomberg. "We're exploring all other options," he said.

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