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After weeks of delays and three postponements, the state Public Authorities Control Board rejected a plan to fund a West Side stadium Monday, dealing a severe blow to the city’s chances of hosting the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.
The three-person PACB is controlled by representatives of Governor George Pataki, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. The board needed to vote unanimously to approve the $300 million funding plan, but while Pataki voted yes on the stadium, both Silver and Bruno’s appointees abstained, effectively killing the funding proposal.
Hours before the vote, Silver announced that he would vote against the proposal, saying, “This plan is at best, premature. I cannot in good conscience cast my vote in support of the proposal before us today."
The Assembly speaker spent part of the weekend in discussions with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has made the construction of the stadium a priority for his administration, but Silver remained opposed to the plan.
Silver says is he concerned about developing the far West Side of Manhattan at the expense of the redevelopment efforts at the World Trade Center site, which is located in a district he has represented for more than 30 years.
"The Olympic Games are being used in an attempt to force the Public Authorities Control Board into approving a multi-billion dollar project that includes and over $1 billion taxpayer subsidy for a stadium, 24 million square-feet of office space, a $2 billion subway rail line,” said Silver.
Bruno's representative attempted to introduce a motion that would make the stadium contingent on getting the Olympics. Bruno has repeatedly said the project is being rushed.
“This is not the way it normally works. Normally, the last stop before you go to a public market is the PACB,” said the majority leader.
Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Pataki weren't happy with Monday's outcome.
“The speaker wanted to continue to help Lower Manhattan, and we offered as many benefits to construction in Lower Manhattan as I thought was prudent,” said Bloomberg.
“At this point they have blocked it, the last hurdle that we have to overcome, and to me it’s extraordinarily disappointing,” said Pataki.
Both Bruno and Silver say they support the city's Olympic bid, and will do whatever it takes to build a stadium somewhere in the five boroughs if New York is awarded the games.
Ironically, the PACB vote came on the same say that the International Olympic Committee released a preliminary report indicating that New York City is apparently neck and neck with Paris and London in its bid to win the 2012 Games — pending the approval of an Olympic stadium.
The IOC site evaluation commission released the 123-page report on the five competing bids Monday morning, and despite speculation in a London newspaper over the weekend, New York City received high marks. Although the five bids were not officially ranked, experts say the report favors New York, London and Paris, with Moscow and Madrid slightly behind.
While the IOC report gave the city’s bid high marks in many categories, it also said the committee’s ultimate decision will hinge partly on New York’s ability to build a new stadium to host the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as track and field events.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding the stadium issue, Mayor Bloomberg and Dan Doctoroff, the head of NYC2012, were upbeat about the report's conclusions.
“We could not be more pleased with the report,” said Doctoroff. “In literally every single category, the evaluation commission praised New York City.”
"It's clear that if we get the Sports & Convention Center approved, we are in a terrific position to win the Games," Bloomberg said in a statement. "New Yorkers and Americans are counting on us, and it is imperative that the Sports & Convention Center is approved today."
The IOC will select the 2012 Olympic host from among the five candidates on July 6 in Singapore.
City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, who is also running against Bloomberg for mayor this year, seized on today's IOC report to blast the proposed West Side stadium. He also renewed his call to have it built in Queens instead.
In a statement, Miller said: "It's clear from the evaluation the mayor's obsession with a West Side stadium has seriously undermined our Olympic bid. We would be in better standing if the mayor listened to New Yorkers by moving to create a stadium the public can support."
In addition to its role in the Olympic Games, the West Side was proposed as the new home of the New York Jets football team. But whether the West Side stadium gets built or not, a majority of New Yorkers don't think the city will be selected to host the 2012 Olympics, according to a new NY1/Newsday poll.
When asked if they thought the city has a good chance of getting the Olympics if a stadium is built, city residents were less than optimistic. Fifty-three percent say even if a stadium is built, getting the Games is a long shot, and slightly more than a third say the city has a good chance.
The NY1/Newsday poll results are based on a telephone survey of 841 registered voters in the city. The poll was conducted last Tuesday through Saturday, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Do you think the city should continue its pursuit of the 2012 Olympics by building a stadium in another location outside Manhattan? Let us know by taking our NY1 online poll.