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N.Y. Board Nixes Funds for Manhattan Olympic Stadium

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

New York news: In a blow to the city's mayor, to New York's Olympic bid and to the New York Jets football team, a proposed Manhattan stadium has not been approved by lawmakers on a state panel. Now what this means for the future of the city's Olympic bid and for pro-football ambitions, we will find out from New York correspondent Mike Pesca.

Mike, what happened up there in Albany?

MIKE PESCA reporting:

Well, the deal was to have the state and city pay 300 million for the Jets to build a stadium in Manhattan. The Jets were going to be spending over a billion of their own dollars, but first, the plan had to clear some hurdles, as you can imagine. Two months ago, they cleared the first hurdle. Since they were going to be building the stadium on top of what's now railroad yards, they had to buy the land from the MTA. When the MTA approved it, Mayor Michael Bloomberg declared, `The public has spoken,' even though the MTA board is just a collection of political appointees. So of all these hurdles, by the way, a public referendum was never part of them.

So here comes the next hurdle, which was this vote yesterday. It was to come from the Public Authorities Control Board, and we found out that approval was not forthcoming.

CHADWICK: You know, I'm not that familiar with the Public Authorities Control Board, and to say I'm not that familiar, actually I've never heard of it.

PESCA: Let me explain it this way. You've probably heard of the parliamentary system...

CHADWICK: Yeah.

PESCA: ...and you've heard of republican democracy.

CHADWICK: Yeah.

PESCA: Here in New York, we do things by the `three men in a room' system. The three men, the leaders of the state Senate, the Assembly and the governor, sit down and they basically decide everything. These three men through their proxies are the three votes on this board. The vote did not break down along party lines. The governor, Republican Governor George Pataki, wanted the stadium, but Joe Bruno, a Republican from upstate, did not. Sheldon Silver, a Democrat from Lower Manhattan, did not. Dead stadium. The three men in the room have spoken.

CHADWICK: Well, there is a mayor's race going on, and maybe that's got something to do with this broken stadium deal.

PESCA: Yeah, this is an irony, I think, in that Bloomberg was on the losing side of the stadium deal but it may wind up helping him. Now think about it. If the stadium is off the table as an issue, will voters really punish the mayor for an idea that's come and gone?

CHADWICK: Mike, beyond the city's politics and beyond its football team, wasn't this stadium--didn't it have an important role to play in the city's bid for the Olympic Games, which is something the whole country might get behind?

PESCA: It did. It did. It was of national importance mainly for that and also because it was to have been the most expensive stadium ever built, three times as expensive as number two, but as far as the question, `What does this do to the Olympics bid?' let's let Mayor Michael Bloomberg answer that.

Mayor MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (Republican, New York City): If we don't have a stadium, we cannot get the Olympics.

PESCA: But Bloomberg says he'll keep trying. Maybe he can get a stadium built in Queens. All along, Queens was seen as the Solomonic solution. The Jets used to play in Queens until 1983. The last game there they lost to the Steelers, 34-to-7, and a young boy named Mike Pesca stole a tuft of grass from the field.

CHADWICK: Aww.

PESCA: Up until now, the Jets said, `We're not going to Queens,' but you have to understand from a negotiation standpoint, they'd have to say that. Otherwise, Manhattan would never be in the picture. But now that Manhattan's out of the picture, maybe the Jets will move. Maybe Olympic organizers will try to build a stadium and lure a pro franchise later, but that's a real long shot because you have to realize with the Olympics bid it's not happening in a vacuum. Paris got a glowing report from the International Olympic Committee. They're the overwhelming favorite. Ladbroke's, the English bookmaker, earlier had New York at 12:1 after the IOC report and the stadium unraveling. You can now get 33 quid for a one-quid bet on New York to get the Olympics right now.

CHADWICK: I'm not taking that bet. NPR's Mike Pesca. Thanks, Mike.

PESCA: You're welcome, Alex.

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Man: (Singing) When you're a Jet, you're a Jet all the way from your first cigarette to your last dying day. When you're a Jet, let 'em do what they...

CHADWICK: DAY TO DAY returns in a moment. I'm Alex Chadwick. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mike Pesca first reached the airwaves as a 10-year-old caller to a New York Jets-themed radio show and has since been able to parlay his interests in sports coverage as a National Desk correspondent for NPR based in New York City.
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