SportsProf

(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.

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Monday, September 27, 2004

The Proposed Football Stadium in NYC

I've followed this project with some interest, as the adds in opposition and support of this stadium on WFAN in NYC are at times compelling and at times comical. I believe that the "anti" ads are better, as it's hard to justify billions for a stadium with limited possible uses when a bunch of that money can be used to improve the city's infrastructure, some of which is crumbling. The "pro" ads quote either real or ersatz firefighters, among others, touting how many jobs will be created because of the new stadium. While I'm sure that for a time construction jobs will be created, once the stadium is built I doubt seriously that a meaningful number of careers will be created because of the erection of a monument to our preferred gladiators of the moment.

To me, it's usually a better idea to use public monies on things the entire public can benefit from, such as public parks, where everyone can play, exercise and stay in shape, and public libraries, where people can expand their minds and continue to make informed decisions. Frankly, I don't see a compelling reason to devote so much time and energy to giving the New York Jets a home within the cozy confines of Manhattan. You can read more about this whole controversy on the Field of Schemes blog, which devotes a lot of time and energy to proposals to build municipal sporting venues.

New York should be particularly careful with respect to this particular project. One of the best biographies ever written is entitled "The Power Broker" (by Robert Caro). Caro won a Pulitzer Prize for this book, which chronicled the life of Robert Moses, who held various titles in and around New York City and who was the person responsible for any and all public works projects in NYC. Moses ruled with an iron fist -- mayors bent to his will, governors feared him, and even Presidents couldn't get their way with him. Moses, and Moses alone, decided what would be built, and where, and the shape of New York today (and particularly its traffic patterns) is a result of Moses's decisions. Caro, for one, and many others, for that matter, thought that Moses' decisions led to the decline of New York. For example, instead of enhancing urban life by improving public transportation, Moses insisted upon building road after road after road. The result: more traffic, worse public transportation, and, perhaps, that everyone who commutes into the business districts of New York, even from within the city, has a "bad" commute.

My point is that New Yorkers who want this project to happen should be careful what they wish for. Do they really need this monument? Does it really make a difference that the Jets play in New York City to anyone other than the Jets? Doesn't it matter more to NYC that businesses still find it an attractive place to keep and create jobs? Doesn't it matter more that public structures that can do a lot of good -- such as the school system -- get more attention, not less? The NFL is perhaps the most successful sports league in the world, and, somehow, it will survive not having a team physically within NYC the same way it has survived for years not having a team in Los Angeles. Yes, the new stadium could be one of the wonders of the world, a tourist attraction, but at what cost?

Sports are a great release, but there should be a line where our pastimes end and our priorities begin.

And New Yorkers should take a stand and draw that line. Hard, fast, and very clearly.

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