Contentious west side stadium battle continues despite Jets victory

NEW YORK: The New York Jets cleared a major hurdle in their quest to build a new stadium when the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) accepted their bid for a rail yard on Manhattan's west side. But the game is far from over.

NEW YORK: The New York Jets cleared a major hurdle in their quest to build a new stadium when the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) accepted their bid for a rail yard on Manhattan's west side. But the game is far from over.

Although the MTA board voted unanimously on March 31 to sell the land to the Jets, both sides in the battle say that their PR campaigns are still running at full steam.

Whit Clay, an MD at Sloane & Company who has been serving as Cablevision's spokesman on the very public, very contentious stadium battle, pointed out that the Jets still have several hurdles to clear, including approval of hundreds of millions of dollars of city and state financing for the stadium, and the approval of the state's Public Authorities Control Board, both of which are far from certain.

Madison Square Garden (which is owned by Cablevision) and Cablevision itself have also filed two separate lawsuits challenging the stadium. In the most recent, Cablevision sued the MTA, the Jets, and the city of New York, alleging that the bidding process was unfair. Sloane & Company is handling the company's communications for the lawsuit, Clay said.

The Jets immediately released a statement calling the suit "frivolous."

Clay said that Cablevision's communications campaign will continue to exert pressure on politicians and "motivate public opinion, which is clearly opposed to the stadium."

The New York Association for Better Choices, a Cablevision-funded group that mobilizes community opposition to the stadium, is still active as well, Clay said. He also denied charges that NYABC is a front group for Cablevision.

Jets VP Matt Higgins acknowledged that Cablevision's opposition has not flagged since the MTA vote, but called it "irrelevant."

"More support is gonna build at this point, especially in the aftermath of the [2010] Super Bowl being awarded," Higgins said. "I think you're also gonna see over the coming weeks more endorsements."

Recently released state lobbying figures show that Cablevision spent more than $20 million fighting the stadium, while the Jets spent nearly $7 million. That number is sure to rise as both sides struggle to position themselves as the true representatives of the public good.

Clay responded that considering the level of public opposition, "Higgins clearly faces a very uphill battle."

Higgins said, "Sloane & Company are paid shills. They're gonna continue as long as they can draw a check from Cablevision."

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