The Wild West Developing Manhattan’s Far West Side

After what seemed like years, the wrangling over the proposed West Side Stadium in Manhattan and the city’s bid for the 2012 Olympics is over. A new stadium will now be built in Queens, not Manhattan; New York wasn’t chosen for the Olympics in 2012; the Jets, sans Chad Pennington, are still in New Jersey; Chelsea residents like this reporter no longer get “No Stadium!” flyers under our doors, and opponents of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg must now find new issues to fight over.

What Now?

Whatever one’s opinion of the doomed stadium project—and of the somewhat less-controversial Hudson Yards plan for developing the surrounding area—the Far West Side of Manhattan, encompassing streets in the upper 20s, the 30s, and the lower 40s clearly needs something. The area is dominated by three huge open-air sites used by the Long Island Railroad: one in the lower West 30s between 9th and 10th Avenues which contains switching tracks leading into Penn Station; one between 10th and 11th Avenues that’s called the East Rail Yards; and one more between 11th and 12th Avenues called the West Rail Yards. All three are sunk below street level, and none have anything built on or near them.

A walk around the immediate neighborhood finds bus and taxi garages, parking lots, and a few industrial facilities such as UPS warehouses and the like, interrupted only by the Jacob K. Javits Center, the city heliport, and a few diners and nightclubs. All in all, it seems tailor-made for development. But what, exactly?

That’s the question that remains now that the stadium idea has been defeated. The overall Hudson Yards plan has been approved, according to Councilwoman Gale Brewer, D-6, who represents Manhattan’s Upper West Side/Clinton, but part of the idea—a greenway that would have led up to the proposed stadium—must now be reconfigured. The project’s intent, according to the city’s Department of City Planning, is to transform the area so that medium- to high-density development is permitted, and a mix of uses, including commercial, residential, open space, cultural and entertainment activities, are provided. The plan would also include creating a convention center and extending the No. 7 subway line.

As far as plans for the rail yards themselves, things are less concrete. One plan, devised by the Newman Real Estate Institute at Baruch College, would build a new convention center over both the East and West Rail Yards between 10th to 12th Avenues, from 30th to 34th Streets. Unlike the Javits Center, the plan would not wall off the waterfront—a key complaint with the stadium proposal—and would give the state the impetus to knock down the too-small Javits Center and sell the property. Doug Turetsky, chief of staff at the city’s Independent Budget Office says, “You constantly hear that the Javits Center is too small, that it can’t compete for many of the conventions.”


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