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The Manhattan Jets? Plan in works

NEW YORK -- The New York Jets have never had a stadium to
call their own. But new plans to redevelop the far West Side of
Manhattan could change all that.

Momentum has built recently for a long-discussed scheme to
transform the neighborhood with new office towers overlooking the
Hudson River, a vast convention center and a riverfront stadium for
the Jets -- and possibly the 2012 Olympics.

Earlier this week, officials announced preliminary details for
$2.77 billion worth of infrastructure improvements, including a
subway extension, and for an expansion of the area's 18-year-old
Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

The Jets have been promoting a stadium in the area with a
retractable dome for the past year. No financing plan has been
announced for the $1.5 billion project, but public speculation has
suggested the city and state could kick in about $600 million.

Since 1984, the Jets have played at the home stadium of the New
York Giants in East Rutherford, N.J. Before that, they played at
Shea Stadium from 1964-83, where they shared with the New York
Mets.

Getting a stadium of its own has been a focus of the
organization since owner Woody Johnson bought the team in 2000.

Returning to New York also is important to the franchise. The
far West Side extends from roughly Eighth Avenue westward to the
Hudson River and from 28th Street to 42nd Street.

Jets President L. Jay Cross said moving to Manhattan makes sense
because 70 percent of fans would use public transportation.

"Every week that we play (at the Meadowlands) we force 30,000
cars onto the road, and that's not necessarily a good thing,"
Cross said.

The stadium also is a key component in the city's bid to host
the summer Olympics in 2012. The city will have to show some
progress toward building a stadium by the time the International
Olympic Committee announces a choice in July 2005.

The West Side will not be won over easily.

Local activists oppose the plan, saying such extensive
development will destroy a neighborhood also known for its shops,
taverns and human-scale housing. And some development experts
question whether the demand for office space will ever meet the
city's ambitious predictions.

"If the city goes forward with these plans, there will be
lawsuits filed," said Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, whose
district includes the proposed redevelopment zone. He said his
constituents are "overwhelmingly opposed to a stadium as well as
to the city's development plan"

Business leaders spelled out plans Thursday to add thousands of
square feet of convention space to the glass-walled Javits Center.
The plan would cost an estimated $1.5 billion to $1.7 billion just
for the first of two phases, said Charles Gargano, chairman of the
Empire State Development Corp.

New York officials have long complained that the Javits Center
lacks the space to attract the biggest conventions. At 814,000
square feet, it ranks 14th among the nation's convention centers.
The biggest is Chicago's McCormick Place, with more than 2 million
square feet.

Daniel Doctoroff, the city's deputy mayor for economic
development, cited a report prepared by real estate giant Cushman &
Wakefield that estimated the metropolitan region will need 110
million square feet of new office space between 2005 and 2025.

Others say that projection is too optimistic.

M. Myers Mermel, who operates the commercial real estate firm
Tenantwise, said the city's goal is unrealistic and would compete
with the rebirth of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan.

"It should logically occur after lower Manhattan is
redeveloped," he said.

But Steven Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New
York, called the plan terrific.

"It's probably the best planning the city has done, to my
recollection," he said. "It is thorough, it's thoughtful and it
will really permit the city to grow in the future and to be
competitive."