| June 8, 2005
The Politics of the hole
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 10 a.m., I have a call
with David Weiss, Executive Director of CINE, and the organization
of which I am President.
We were chatting today and he told me he had read last weeks
column and was wondering if it was true that New Yorkers REALLY
think about 9/11 everyday.
Sadly but realistically, I had to say yes. I gave him the
example of the last few days.
New York has been a contender city for the 2012 Olympics
and contingent to the city being a player in that arena, it
was necessary for us to have a signature stadium to host major
events. Out of that need was born the West Side Stadium, to
be host to the Olympics and home to the Jets.
New York, being New York, is never easy and the decision
to build the stadium has been hotly contested on virtually
every front. The folks who own Cablevision, one of the two
primary cable operators in New York City, also own Madison
Square Garden and they have been FIERCELY opposed to the stadium
as it could cut into their lucrative venue business for everything
from concerts to political rallies.
The war was waged in the newspapers, on the airwaves and
with a series of television spots, pro and con, that were
a comedic counterpoint to each other. Were the firefighters
in which ad real or actors? Who was going to win? Mayor Bloomberg,
who was the strongest proponent of the West Side Stadium or
Jimmy Dolan, CEO of Cablevision, both men of healthy egos.
The West Side Stadium went down to defeat this week. And
the defeat had nothing to do with the very public battle between
Jimmy Dolan and the Mayor. It had to do with the city and
the politics of 9/11.
It came down to this: to the get the stadium build, a two
billion dollar enterprise before cost overruns, it was necessary
to get a 300 million dollar infusion from the State of New
York, which required the State Legislature to vote approval
of it. But at the end of the day, Sheldon Silver, the VERY
powerful State Legislator from the Lower Manhattan District
of New York balked at the Stadium because he felt it would
divert attention in construction from the rebuilding of Downtown
Cablevision and everyone else ignored lower Manhattan while
they argued over the Stadium and THAT, at the end of the day,
was the key to the issue. Sheldon Silver was not going to
see a two billion dollar project go ahead while disarray surrounded
the re-building of lower Manhattan. [Though, of course, this
being NYC, nothing is dead until it is absolutely, really,
unequivocally dead and the stadium is not there yet though
it is looking like the Olympic bid is.]
Washington, D.C. has rebuilt the Pentagon; it is virtually
impossible to find evidence of physical wounds there. In New
York, the hole has become a tourist attraction
and every forward step seems followed by two very public steps
backwards. The Pentagon was patched up in a year; the World
Trade Center site may still be in disarray in the next decade.
Everyone, this being New York, has an opinion and has no
inhibition about voicing those opinions. Donald Trump? Of
course. Man in the street? Of course!
So, yes, New Yorkers think about 9/11 everyday. It infuses
the politics of today and that infusion is reported upon diligently
in the papers and on the airwaves. We have a hole that is
a tourist attraction and a painful wound in the civic psyche.
The mistake made by proponents of the West Side Stadium was
that they did not factor into their plans the emotions around
the hole while Dolan and Cablevision wasted millions
of dollars in unnecessary ads, failing to comprehend and to
capitalize upon the political realities of New York in 2005.
This is a city that will think about 9/11 constantly until
the hole is filled and it feels it can surrender
the sense it is still the biggest terrorist target.