info 11.18.04

The Stadium

We were going to present this as a straight, here-are-the-two-sides look at the stadium controversy. But now that we've reread everything we could get our hands on about the New York Sports and Convention Center, as it's formally called, it strikes us that it is the wrong idea at the wrong time in exactly the wrong place.

Deputy Mayor and stadium point man Dan Doctoroff may be a sincere crusader for the grand plan of the Hudson Yards project, but the fact is that the West Side doesn't need it and it is likely to do more harm than good. Common sense, the market, and history have shown that the undeveloped land would get developed anyway. There simply isn't an irrefutable claim for that use on that land.

Supporters of the plan take a Swiss Army knife approach to urban planning. The stadium, they say, will solve the Javits Center's deficiencies, serve as bait for the 2012 Olympics, and create, if you accept the Empire State Development agency's figures, 5,685 permanent new jobs in the city and state, 7,287 construction jobs, generate nearly $500 million in city tax revenues and more than $592 million in state tax revenues. The Jets owner would pay $800 million toward the $1.4 billion stadium price tag. The rest — $600 million — would be split by the city and the state, financed through bonds. Sounds good, but the devil being in the details, City Comptroller William C. Thompson's assessment of the details of the stadium financing plan as "extremely risky" should give even true believers pause.

There are other solutions to the Javits Center. As for the Olympics, the Mayor says we must have the stadium to be in contention. You can make that argument, but it seems more reasonable to wait until we actually win the bid before we build. And have a look at the Ladbroke odds for the 2012 cities:

Paris 1/2
London 3/1
Madrid 4/1
New York 14/1
Moscow 33/1

But wait, there's more! The stadium plan is going to solve the city's office shortage. And add more affordable housing. And parkland. And it would extend the 7 train. (And make your teeth seven shades whiter.) Have a look, though, at the Department of City Planning study and see if it doesn't strike you, as it does us, as a piece of very phony baloney. As an example of precedent for the Hudson Yards project, the study cites…Park Avenue. That's because the city covered railroad tracks there and a grand boulevard came into being. Ergo? Ergo, bupkis. When did you last go to a football game on Park Avenue? And we haven't even touched on the negative environmental impact of the plan, unmanageable traffic being only one of the problems created.

We're not anti-development, anti-progress, or anti-grand thinking. The stadium, though, seems less a bold, imaginative leap than shooting first, aiming later. We'd love to see a creative, farsighted, fiscally sound plan evolve. After all, how many chances in a lifetime does the city get to pave a parking lot and put up a paradise?
Today, we discovered that the Mocca Hungarian Restaurant, 1588 2nd [82nd/83rd] 212.734.6470, will be closing its doors at the end of the month. The 70-year-old owner is throwing in the towel after the latest rent hike squeezed his profit margin into nonexistence.

My wife and I love the Mocca. As former ex-pats, who lived and worked in Ukraine for 5 years, we really dig the authenticity of this Old Yorkville institution. From the gruff but kindly-under-the-surfacewaitresses, to the Soviet cafeteria atmosphere, the sprinkle of CentralEuro pensioners, and just-off-the-plane young turks who make up the clientele, and the simple-but-hearty food, there are few places like it left in the U.S., much less New York. All that for a prix fixe lunch of under $10. And don't forget to ask for the extra-strength redtable wine — Bull's Blood (sold only by the bottle).

We thought the discerning readers of MUG might also want a last chance to experience Mocca before it disappears forever.

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