By Harry Langer
New York State’s latest expansion plan for the Javits Convention Center is another colossal waste of taxpayer funds and public property. Recently, NYS wasted $500,000,000 on the repair and expansion of this facility without meeting its needs.
Now NYS is wasting an additional $1,550,000,000. Which would have the same inadequate result when a bigger and better Javits expansion complex with or without a casino can be obtained COST FREE.
This latest scheme to expand Javits will only provide 90,000 sq. ft. of contiguous event space on a single level instead of the 1,000,000 sq. ft. which is essential to accommodate and attract the biggest and best conventions; fails to provide the amount of ancillary facilities necessary to meet its needs; and greatly underutilizes public owned property and air rights – all at excessive cost.
Fortunately, there is a superior COST FREE ALTERNATIVE:
A Javits Center/Casino Complex Proposal (which can also be done with or without a casino component) that will meet all of Javits’ needs; maximize the use and value of public property (a fiduciary duty on the part of all elected and appointed public officials); provide many more millions sq. ft. of mixed use space (convention center, casino, ancillary facilities, hotel, office, retail, conference, and residential). It utilizes government owned air rights and property; would generate Billions of Dollars in annual revenues (for public transportation, education, infrastructure, and budget balancing); create many thousands of quality construction and permanent jobs; and facilitate the growth of midtown Manhattan for years to come. Manhattan growth must be vertical and utilize air rights because it is an Island with limited land area and must grow and preserve itself as the world’s business and cultural center.
Time is of the essence to stop this expensive Albany boondoggle.
Following is a copy of a superior alternative proposal:
A COST FREE JAVITS CENTER/CASINO PROPOSAL
IT WOULD GENERATE $BILLIONS IN ANNUAL REVENUES AND THOUSANDS OF JOBS. This Javits/Casino proposal would create a world class mixed use complex: an architectural gem in an unrivaled location, a national and global tourist magnet, and an extraordinary revenue and job generator with the ability to attract and keep the biggest and best convention events, and
(a) preserve and expand the award winning Javits Center utilizing publically owned Air Rights and property without government outlay and investment;
(b) produce more high value development, greater annual revenues, and many more thousands of jobs than if Javits Center was demolished and replaced in an outer borough. Relocation would forfeit Javits’s incomparable advantages (world’s leading business and cultural center (theatre, arts, music, opera, dance, etc,) dining, hotel accommodations, entertainment, museums, Lincoln Center, UN, etc.), and void the convenience and accessibility of Javit’s incomparable Manhattan location;
(C) would save billions of dollars in replacement, reconstruction, and infrastructure costs (utilities, transportation and police and fire department services already in place).
The inclusion of a casino in the Javits convention Center Expansion would generate $billions of additional annual revenues ( and thousands of jobs) in addition to the funds obtained from the sale of leasehold development rights, and revenues from rents, PAYMENTS IN LIEW OF TAXES (pilots), and sales, corporate and individual income taxes.
This project would also have a multiplier effects on neighborhood property values, local jobs, and borough businesses. These revenues would keep NYS and NYC budgets in balance. There would be a unique symbiosis between the convention center, the casino, and tourism. Also the javits casino would not compete with upstate casino plans because it has different national, global, and local markets. This million square foot single level convention center portion of javits would be unrivaled. Also, the casino could have multiple levels.
THE PROCESS: Separate requests for proposals for long term leasehold(s) for many millions of square feet of developable air rights would be issued in accordance with pre- zoned, preset overall site plans and specification (including green requirements), and preapproved environmental impact and ULURP approvals, prepared and obtained by Javits Center Authority and/or the Empire State Development Corporation in consultation with City Planning. In addition, consideration might also be given to site, buildings design, and engineering plan competitions between professional architectural and engineering firms, as well as, U.S. architecture and engineering colleges with course credits, honors, scholarships, tuition reimbursement, and/or employment guarantees with leading professional firms as student prizes.
AIR RIGHTS DEVELOPMENT OPTIONS:
(1) over Twelfth Avenue, its parallel Service Road and the unused air rights of the Twelfth Ave. side of the Javits building;
(2) over the two adjoining city blocks owned by Javits to its north, their adjoining roadbeds, their parallel sections of Twelfth Avenue, and the surplus air rights over the Javits Center itself. The low rise of existing Javits Center in the middle would allow views, light, and air and permit the use, sale or lease its surplus air rights.
(3) a combination of (1) and (2) above.
(4) Option: Incorporating the MTA’s Quill Bus Garage (40 to 41 Streets, Eleventh to Twelfth Avenues) – an underutilized site – and its air rights for an independent casino/hotel/retail complex. This bus storage and repair facility could be replaced on one or more nearby piers and possibly on underutilized or surplus railyards under and east of Eleventh Avenue. The Ferry Terminal could jointly serve as a Bus Terminal for this project.
- a) Each bid package would be for a mix of millions of sq. ft. of high rise buildings (office, showroom, conference/training center, hotel, trade center, residential, and/or entertainment/training/banquet facilities developed on air rights over a self-contained Javits/Casino base section with or without a retail component.
(b) Each bid package would be conditioned upon the Developer(s) building out the base levels and tower structures of each air rights development option to Javits’ specifications at developer’s sole cost and expense. This would include all utilities (heat, air conditioning, electricity, plumbing, elevators, etc.) required for the new expansion structures and any additional heating, air-conditioning, and power requirements needed for the original Javits Center building.
(c) The Title to each self-contained Javits expansion and Casino development and other project components would be transferred to the Javits entity or the Empire State Development Corporation upon completion.
(d) The ownership and control of the Convention Center and Casino portions of the development would be retained by the State which could either operate or long term net lease them to qualified and experienced operators.
(e) Each developer/operator/lessee would be responsible for construction and maintenance costs of its project(s) at its sole cost and expense as a condition of any deal(s).
(f) The development of the two city block site north of the convention center and over Twelfth Av. would have a four story self-contained interconnected base section with floor sizes of about 500,000 sq. ft. each. They would be interconnected with the first, second, third and fourth floors of the existing Javits Center (and/or the redevelopment of the Quill Bus garage site) to create separate 1,000,000 sq. ft. (approx.) single level convention and casino facilities with separate entrances if desired.
(g) The Javits Center’s existing ground and basement convention levels would be retained to accommodate smaller multiple events, exhibitions, and functions simultaneously.
(h) The ancillary needs of Javits (exhibition/training facilities, conference rooms, ballrooms, and administrative offices) could be retained in the original Javits structure or incorporated into the 12th Ave. air rights expansion or adjoining towers to the north.
(i) Javits would have the option of remaining in or leasing out all or part of its new
Facilities over 12th Ave. after it relocates to its new 1,000,000 sq. ft.(approx.) single level
convention hall upon the completion of the development phase between 38th to 40th Streets.
(j) Then its vacated space over 12th Ave. could be net leased for the Casino (as an alternative facility) or for other uses (for additional revenue) or net leased or sold back to the developer(s).
(k) Each segment of the Javits/Casino complex could be completed in multiple phases or reversed in development order and the Javits Center would continue operating without interruption or loss of revenue, markets and workforce during construction of the expansion facilities.
(i) As an alternative, the MTA’s Quill bus garage and repair facilities could be jointly used for truck staging and marshaling or both uses relocated to nearby piers. This property could then be redeveloped using the same process.
SUMMARY of BENEFITS, ADVANTAGES, REQUIREMENTS and OPTIONS:
(1) provide a nearly 1,000,000 sq. ft. (approx.) single level, premier Convention Center (plus adjoining conference and related facilities) and a premier Casino of the same size-all cost free;
(2) create a world class air rights complex containing millions of sq. ft. of convention, casino, office buildings, hotel, showroom, conference, training and banquet facilities, trade center, residences, restaurantS, and retail components on free State owned and controlled air rights over the adjoining city blocks owned by Javits and over Twelfth Avenue;
(3) Construction would be staged to meet and correspond with Manhattan’s
growth needs and market conditions and to avoid competing with other midtown west projects;
(4) Projects of this scope and complexity typically take years to complete. By the Javits/Casino project staged completion, market and economic conditions would likely have improved and the timing ripe for its success. Planning for this development project could start immediately, RFPs prepared, and preliminary deals simultaneously explored.
(5) SINCE NEW YORK STATE OWNS these properties and their air rights (which are vacant or marginally occupied by javits and the quill bus garage) and has jurisdiction over their zoning, building code requirements, and development timetables. Costly delays would be avoided. Also, there would be no site acquisition, condemnation, and tenant relocation costs.
(6) There are several qualified major developers and/or gaming companies that would be interested in either individually or jointly undertaking this project.
(7) The ownership of the land and air rights would be retained by Javits and/or the Empire State Development Corp. and made available on long term development leases.
(8) These air rights deals would be subject to the Developer(s) providing all the expansion space, including all utilities, for the Javits Center at the Developer(s) sole cost and expense;
(9) Also, below grade space at said adjoining entire city block bus terminal development site (40 to 41 Streets) could be used for truck marshaling and staging and/or parking for the convention center as could the first 250 feet ground floor area in from the Twelfth Avenue frontage beyond Javits’ present grade level Twelfth Ave. loading docks could be extended to 40th St. to better serve Javits.
(10) One or more dual exit and entrance ramps for the delivery and removal of convention exhibition displays and goods could be provided from the Twelfth Avenue access road for the entire length of the expanded Convention Center. Restrooms and restaurant facilities for the Hudson River Park and the Hudson River Ferry Terminal could be provided under this ramp.
Recently, there has been some talk to replace Javits with a new convention center at the Aqueduct Racino, the Sunnyside Rail Yards, or Willets Point in Queens. This would be a tragic mistake. Event organizers and conventioneers also come to New York City to enjoy Manhattan’s incomparable cultural, entertainment, shopping, sightseeing, dining, and its business opportunity and networking advantages.
Consequently, the isolation and inconvenience long, crowded round trip commutes to Queens by public transportation or long expensive taxi rides would be a put off and a risk to such a project’s success. Besides, these sites are essential for the future residential, commercial, retail, and job creation needs of Queens and must be preserved for those purposes. Likewise, the same goes for the Bronx rail yards.
Unquestionably, this cost free Javits/Casino project is the best expansion, jobs, and revenue option and should move forward without delay.
It would be one of the best, most beneficial, rewarding, and lasting economic legacy projects of NY State and City.
Preliminary Site Plan:
The current Javits expansion plan must be stayed and withdrawn and a replacement RFP should be immediately reissued based upon the above terms and conditions to comply with fiduciary duties and responsibilities and the law.
(It would also pre-empt a New Jersey casino complex opposite Javits to exploit proximity to Manhattan and its advantages.)
Harry L. Langer is a retired NYC real estate exeutive. You can reach him at [email protected]