FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 13, 2004
Schumer Testifies Before City Council In Support Of Mayor’s West Side Rezoning Plan
Testimony focuses on implementing recommendations of Schumer’s 2001
"Group of 35 Report" emphasizing the importance of extending the 7-train westward and creating millions of square feet of office space and apartments
Senator’s endorsement of Javits Center expansion last weekend seen as key step toward passage of that landmark State law last week
US Senator Charles E. Schumer today testified in support of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s re-zoning plan for the West Side of Manhattan before the New York City Council Committee on Land Use. The Senator’s testimony focused on implementing recommendations of his 2001 Group of 35 Report – emphasizing the importance of both extending the Subway 7-train westward and creating millions of square feet of office space and apartments. Last weekend, Schumer endorsed the Javits Center expansion, which was seen as key step toward passage of that landmark State law last Monday.
The full text of Schumer’s testimony follows:
Let me first start by complimenting Council Speaker Gifford Miller, Chairwoman Melinda Katz, Subcommittee Chair Tony Avella and the Land Use Committee for their consistently solid work on behalf of all New Yorkers. I appreciate you having me here today to participate in the public debate about how we best ensure our region's future economic growth.
I also want to commend Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff and their team for their commitment to positive growth for the city. For reasons I will articulate shortly, I am pleased that they have put forth a rezoning proposal forward for the Far West Side.
As I have articulated elsewhere, while I believe the city has moved boldly and earnestly to advance a vision for growth for the coming decades, when it comes to the development of the Far West Side, my priorities are somewhat different.
We agree that the extension of the 7 line and the zoning changes are critical, but for me, it is the number one and most important issue that will unlock the exciting potential of this underdeveloped part of our city. We do agree that the expansion of the Javits Center, approved by the state legislature and signed into law by the governor just yesterday, is a job magnet that is key ingredient to the areas future success.
Finally, with regard to a potential stadium, which provokes great passion for and against, I have, and will continue to reserve be agnostic. The stadium is very controversial and I don't want either my support or opposition to the stadium to get in the way of my effort to focus on extending the 7 line and achieving rezoning and attracting development partners which I believe is the most important part of West Side expansion.
Our city is booming. Between 1990 and 2000, New York City's population grew by about 800,000 people and the metropolitan area grew by over 1 million people, more growth than our region had seen in decades.
I see it when I take my frequent bike rides through our numerous diverse and great neighborhoods. Everywhere I go I see new housing construction in some of the most unlikely spots, like Brownsville. I see commercial strips in transformation and I also see bustling streets and playgrounds. There are times during this busy holiday season when the crush of shoppers and tourists in Manhattan makes it almost impossible to even walk on the sidewalk. The newcomers have spurred a fantastic renaissance of so many of our City's neighborhoods - Harlem, Green Point, Williamsburg, DUMBO, Red Hook, Bedford-Stuyvesant and even the South Bronx.
While there are major issues that arise from this growth - affordable housing, mass transit, job creation and more - this growth, in the grand scheme of things, is good. And in the context of what we suffered on 9-11, it is close to miraculous. But to keep this city big and bustling and grand; to solidify our unique status as the cultural and economic capital of this nation; and to ensure that, above all, it remains the job creating epicenter for all peoples, we must continue to grow. This growth must be bold, but it must also be smart and farsighted - and it must be collaborative.
To make sure these newcomers succeed, our City must grow and must create new jobs. And I believe that we cannot grow without significant new investments in transportation, without which we will literally and economically stand still. The history of New York and all other great cities show that if we don't grow we die.
I believe that we cannot grow without significant transportation investment. To start, we must think big. Every 40 yrs New York starts to shed its skin and grow anew- the subways from the 1810s-1920s, the highways built in the 1940s 50s and 60s are examples. It is time to grow again.
Rarely does a City have the chance to remake itself, to make fundamental and long-lasting changes. We can continue to use our funds to pursue small, but worthy projects, or we can do something grand keep our City competitive for the next generation. Developing the Far West Side takes us into the next generation.
As I mentioned above our first concern must be even more on job creation. We must not only regain the jobs we lost after 9/11, but keep pace with national job growth in the coming years, instead of lagging behind as New York does now. This rezoning project could bring more than 230,000 jobs to the city and another 50,000 to New Yorkers who live outside the city. That would be an extraordinary achievement. The fact that we are an ideas city and that people are flocking to New York gives us a chance to create these jobs and accommodate our new citizens.
To say that the vacancy rate is now 15% and we should wait until it gets down to 5 or 6 to plan for new growth shows little faith in the future of the city and furthermore if we wait for there to be a shortage of office and residential space before building new space, supply and demand will cause prices to go so high that we will lose our potential to grow. The West Side, presents the greatest opportunity in New York to create new jobs.
We must extend the #7 Line, with a full consideration of the best possible alignments and station locations and we must not let the debate about the stadium crowd out our deliberations on this important project. I truly believe that nothing is more essential to the long-term growth of the Far West Side than improving subway access. II. Group of 35
As many of you here recall, several years ago I helped create a task force, called the "Group of 35," which included chief executives and leaders in business, real estate, academia, labor and government. At that time, New York's real estate market was booming and the Group's mission was to identify areas within the City where we could build new office space to both attract and retain businesses. When the Group released its report in June of 2001, it projected the City would need 60 million square feet of new office by 2020 to keep pace with projected job growth of almost 300,000 new office sector jobs.
The Group's main recommendation was the creation of three new and expanded "Central Business Districts" in Downtown Brooklyn, Long Island City and most importantly a plan to develop the Far West Side of Manhattan. For the Far West Side, the Group specifically proposed creating at least 20 million square feet of new office space within the area west of 9th Avenue between 28th and 42nd Streets, expanding the Javits Center, rezoning the area, assembling development sites, creating open space and pedestrian-friendly corridors, creating an Urban Business Campus, and extending the #7 Line to connect with Grand Central, Penn Station and the Port Authority Bus Terminal.
When the Group of 35 report, entitled "Preparing for the Future: A Commercial Development Strategy for New York City," was released in June of 2001, there was general agreement that many of recommendations were urgently needed and both the public and private sectors should create a partnership to pursue them.
III. September 11, 2001
Three months later our City was attacked and the country's economy started to slow, with New York being especially hard hit. As we all know, New York is estimated to have lost approximately 250,000 jobs after 9/11 and I, and so many others, have made it our number one mission to help the City not only recover all the jobs lost after that horrible, tragic day, but to create even more jobs. With the $20 billion in Federal funds we were able to obtain to speed New York's physical, emotional and economic recovery, we have embarked on an extraordinarily ambitious effort to rebuild and remake Lower Manhattan in the wake of that terrible day.
But Lower Manhattan alone cannot fulfill New York's economic recovery. In fact even if we rebuild all the office space lost on 9/11 we would not create room for any new growth. In addition Lower Manhattan is evolving into a beautiful community of mixed use where there is far more residential construction than any one expected. We must look for new opportunities for growth and nowhere seems more prime for development than the West Side.
V. Long-Term Vision for the West Side
I believe that much of the Mayor's plan for the Far West Side will be immensely beneficial to the City and region. The plan is very similar to the group years ago and both the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor have credited the Group of 35 for its vision. The plan is estimated to bring more than 230,000 jobs to this city- and tens of thousands of more jobs to New Yorkers living outside the city. This alone gives me hope that we are on the right track with this proposal.
In today's discussion you have heard that the project includes a mix of residential and commercial development. I think those elements of the plan will benefit from further input from the business and residential communities. The Group of 35 grappled with the question of reaching the right mix of business and residential, a central issue in urban development, found that at least 20 million square feet should be used for commercial space. This proposal calls for 26 million square feet. While the Group of 35 only propose 20 million sq feet, the 26 million sq feet that has been proposed seems reasonable particularly in light of the need for financing the extension of the #7 train.
It is important to ensure this project helps New York tackle its housing needs. It is remarkable that one of the best locations in New York-between 28th Street, 42nd Street, 9th Avenue and Hudson River there are only approximately 5,000 people who live there. We desperately need new housing if we are going to create the new jobs.
In addition, housing provides the 24-hour activity that makes an area attractive, and I pleased that the proposals being discussed here will add well more than 10,000 new housing units, including affordable housing units. Many have argued that housing can often drive commercial development, as in the case of Battery Park City spurring the World Financial Center, and I support encouraging as much residential development as is feasible. But I also recognize that, given its proximity to the Midtown Central Business District, the Far West Side is uniquely situated to attract commercial development and that this entire venture requires such development to self-finance.
In addition, I think the financing plan for the commercial and residential portions of the plan seems reasonable and I credit the City with looking at creative financing mechanisms.
Now, let me say a few words about what I view as the key to this proposal. As I mentioned right up front, I am a zealous and passionate advocate of extending the Number 7 Subway Line. It is my number one goal for the development of the Far West Side and, given that other parts of the Mayor's proposal have strong boosters, the #7 is element to which I intend to devote my energies. It is also the part of the plan that I fear is not getting adequate discussion and attention.
And I want to make it clear here today that if any element of this plan proceeds without a strong commitment to extending the #7, I will not be able to support the plan overall.
Ever since my work with the Group of 35, I have been convinced of the absolute importance of connecting that underdeveloped portion of Manhattan with the City's subway system. I also see such potential to further connect the major transportation facilities - Grand Central Station, Penn Station, the new Farley Building Station and the Port Authority Bus Station. Unfortunately, the MTA and the City report that it appears operationally difficult and prohibitively expensive to extend the #7 from Times Square down Eighth Avenue to Penn Station and then over the Javits Center, although they have not provided detailed cost estimates.
But I would like to propose that we take another look at this element of the proposal. The benefits of connecting Grand Central and Penn Station, as well as perhaps our beautiful monument to the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the Farley project, and then on to the Far West Side strike me as very significant and potentially worth the higher pricetag. If for instance it cost several hundred million dollars more to connect the Grand Central and Penn Station, it would seem to me well worth that pricetag because the failure to connect them is one of the great gaps in our transportation infrastructure. If on the other hand it is financially not feasible or will delay by several years, it may not be worth it. I would suggest that the council do a quick study and the mayor to see if a connection is feasible, quickly make a decision and move forward.
In addition, I feel we need a robust and detailed but speedy discussion of other possible alignments for the #7 extension and how and where to put the stations, as well as a detailed look at the project's financing requirements.
VI. Conclusions In conclusion, let me say that this is a crucial time to take stock of our post 9/11 recovery efforts and then look to New York's future. If we join together we can create jobs and build the necessary transportation infrastructure to ensure our City and region's long-term economic growth and competitiveness. And I want to praise Mayor Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff for their important vision on this project.
To simply say that we should rebuild Lower Manhattan and limit our vision to the horizon of what existed before 9/11 is not good enough for the greatest city in the world.
We are potentially facing a once-in-a-lifetime chance to expand our City- add 230,000 jobs and create something of lasting value for generations of New Yorkers to come. This week we finally finished the expansion of the Javits Center and I hope that it will be only the first one of many achievements for opportunity on the Far West Side of New York.