Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Lupica: Silver Runs Out Schemers

From Mike Lupica in The Daily News:

"This is what the Assembly Speaker for the state of New York, Sheldon Silver, said yesterday when he spoke for the city of New York. This is what Silver said when he spoke for the city and against a football stadium for the New Jersey Jets football team on the West Side of Manhattan, what would have been the most expensive sports stadium ever built.

'For me this is a fight about restoring New York City's soul,' Silver said in Albany early yesterday afternoon. It's about honoring the sacrifices made on September 11th. It's about a moral obligation each and every one of us committed to when we saw those towers go down. For me, it's about lifting my community, my hometown, my constituents from a kind of devastation never before experienced in the United States of America.

'Am I supposed to sell out the community I have fought for and represented for more than a quarter of a century? Am I supposed to turn my back on Lower Manhattan as it struggles to recover? For what? A stadium? For the hope of bringing the Olympics to New York City?

'And to those who say 'What about the jobs?' let me point out that the mayor and governor have had almost four years to establish a construction schedule for Lower Manhattan.'

Those three paragraphs can be summarized today in these three words for the football palace Jets owner Woody Johnson imagined for himself on the Hudson Railyards:

Game, set, match.

Sheldon Silver stood up to the mayor and the deputy mayor yesterday. He stood up to Gov. George Pataki and Woody Johnson and Jay Cross, the Jets team president in charge of stadium building. In the process, Silver also delivered the speech of his life.

For this one day yesterday, about as good as a New York politician could have, you wanted it to be Silver running for mayor against Bloomberg and Bloomberg's money in the fall.

When he was finished with his prepared speech, someone in the crowd of reporters asked Silver if he thought the Jets stadium was dead and Silver allowed himself a smile and said, "It was never alive."

He does not care where the Jets football team plays football and neither should you. It is not his job to build Woody Johnson a football stadium, especially not at these prices. It was never yours, despite the fact that the biggest politicians in the city and state kept acting as if their constituents had some kind of moral obligation to help finance Bloomberg's vision for the West Side, and the outside chance that New York City was going to beat out Paris or London for the 2012 Summer Olympics.

The IOC issued a preliminary report about that yesterday. Paris and London got the highest ratings, next came New York and Madrid, with Moscow running out of the money. This of course was greeted as some sort of triumph by Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff and the NYC2012 people. We're running neck and neck! they proclaimed. Right. Like the Yankees are running neck and neck with the Orioles right now in the American League East.

'The question is not whether New York City should host the Olympics,' Silver said in his speech. 'The question is not whether New York City should host a Super Bowl or eight Jets home games every season. The question is, what do we address first, our moral obligations or our ambitions?'

Then Shelly Silver hit them with a left hook like something out of 'Cinderella Man.'

'Considering our constitutional obligation to provide each and every child with a sound, basic education, our moral obligation to rebuild and revitalize lower Manhattan, and our public obligation to provide a safe, affordable and efficient mass transit system, I cannot in good conscience cast my vote for the proposal before us today.'

Then he went in and abstained, which was the same as voting no, because Bloomberg needed a unanimous 3-0 vote from the PACB to get $300 million from the state of New York to help build Woody Johnson his football stadium.

So now, Silver's on the phone. He said he was hearing that Bloomberg, as a way of blowing off steam, was even threatening to go to the United States Olympic Committee and ask that New York's bid for the 2012 Games be withdrawn.

He was asked, 'So he can put it all on you?'

Silver said, 'And put it all on me.' There was a pause and then he said, 'It's all right. I have broad shoulders.' He was ready to shoot the thing out of the water on Friday afternoon, and let both the mayor and governor know that. Bloomberg and Pataki asked him to take the weekend. It gave them more time to throw money at Lower Manhattan, after having years to do that and still being unable to get a shovel in the ground. These guys think they can buy everybody.

'But I kept telling the mayor the same thing,' Shelly Silver said last night. 'Building that football stadium doesn't make sense. It just doesn't make sense. And at that point, he finally revealed himself, I thought. He said to me, 'I need the stadium to develop the West Side.' And I said to him, 'I have never believed that is true.'

It isn't true. It has never been true, no matter how many times the mayor said it. In the end, the shell game Shelly Silver was seeing was even more elaborate than we imagined. It wasn't just the Olympics being tied to the Jets stadium. It was his belief that Bloomberg really wants to shift the financial center of New York City from Lower Manhattan to the West Side. Silver would not go along.

'I like Mike Bloomberg,' Shelly Silver said last night. 'But none of this ever made sense.'"

Lupica has been on the right side of this story since Day 1. He, along with his fellow Daily News writer Juan Gonzalez, have exposed the sweetheart real estate wheeling and dealing and the complicated and corrupt financing schemes that underlay Bloomberg's Folly. Lupica more than anyone has articulated why it is not the "moral obligation" of New York City residents to build Robert Wood Johnson a taxpayer-subsidized, state-of-the-art football stadium.

Yesterday, Lupica and all of the other stadium opponents were vindicated by a politician who had the guts to stand up for what is right and who would not allow himself to be bought or bribed by Mayor Moneybags.

Again, I know Bloomberg will still be trying to bamboozle us behind the scenes. I don't think this stadium scheme is done yet, not until the IOC gives the 2012 Olympics to Paris on July 6 and kills Bloomberg's Folly for good.

But for one day, it sure felt good for the little folks, the folks without the money and without the political access and without the billionaire friends, to win one.

I repeat what I said yesterday afternoon after Silver's press conference. Let's savor this. These victories against the billionaire bamboozlers and the spoiled little rich boy politicians are coming few and far between these days.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?