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NEW YORK CITY-The opening minutes of an Empire State Development Corp. public hearing on the proposed New York Sports and Convention Center featured a near five-minute long outburst that interrupted an introduction from ESDC chair Charles Gargano. Proponents of the plan were chanting “build it now,” while opponents countered with “we want a vote.” Gargano called the plan, “a sound economic project.” Later testimony was interrupted by a group of anti-stadium carolers.

The ESDC board of directors recently adopted the general project plan that would add space to the existing Jacob K. Javits Center and create the multi-use stadium that would be a home for the New York Jets. A key factor in the approval was that the Convention Corridor will double convention center capacity, enabling New York City to vie for hundreds of events–and millions of dollars in economic activity–currently lost to other cities. The NYSCC will double as a 75,000-seat stadium and a 180,000-sf exhibit hall and is a key component in the city’s effort to host the 2012 Olympic Games.

“We believe there are viable alternatives that will provide better waterfront access and increase the likelihood of development in the rest of the district,” said Robert D. Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association, which supports the Javits Center expansion and the Hudson Yards revitalization plan. “We must undertake a full bidding process to determine the best possible use and design of the site and the highest possible return on investment for the city, state and MTA.”

“This project has the potential to fill in a gaping and long-standing hole in the rail yards,” said Vishan Chakrabarti, director of the New York City Department of Planning. “A stadium should be built in a community that wants it and that is not the West Side,” State Sen. Thomas Duane testified, calling it “the sweetheart sale of air rights.”

The Jets have agreed to fund some public infrastructure, including creating public access to the waterfront along 33rd Street, a 33rd Street pedestrian bridge and a portion of a 39th Street pedestrian bridge. Funding for the project includes $600 million in state and city financing as well as an $800-million investment by the football team. A 30-day public comment process follows the hearing.

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