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Letter from New York
Mathew Tombers is Managing Director of Intermat, Inc., ( a television company which executive produces programs and consults with industry companies on a variety of issues. Intermat, Inc. is currently involved in approximately thirty hours of television in various stages for a variety of networks. He is one of the Executive Producers of OFF TO WAR, a ten hour series for Discovery Times and for a one hour on international adoptions for Discovery Health. He has consulted a variety of companies, including Ted Turner Documentaries, WETA, Betelgeuse Productions, and Creation Films, Lou Reda Productions as well as many others.
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 week’s 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 New York.

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.