The West Side's Yours, Ground Zero Mine
By JENNIFER STEINHAUER
Published: March 27, 2004
It is not exactly a municipal version of Yalta. But through a deal made for two politicians with pressing political needs, shared electoral constituencies and eyes on the history books, Gov. George E. Pataki and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg have each carved out a piece of Manhattan on which to fasten their economic development visions, with one another's blessing.
Mr. Bloomberg has laid claim to the development of the far West Side. Mr. Pataki wants credit for the rebirth of Lower Manhattan.
The deal holds the opportunity for each man to secure a lasting political legacy involving some of the most prestigious and valuable real estate in the world, in a city that favors largeness and vision.
The deal became slightly more overt this week when Mr. Bloomberg served as master of ceremonies to announce plans to greatly expand the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center and build a 75,000-seat stadium.
"It is a fair to say that the governor has taken more of a lead on the World Trade Center site," said Deputy Mayor Daniel L. Doctoroff. "And the mayor has taken more of a lead" with the nuts and bolts of developing the far West Side, he said.
Since before he ran for mayor, Mr. Bloomberg has been a proponent of creating housing and office space and generally revitalizing one of the last remaining corridors of Manhattan that development has forgotten, the neighborhood in the West 30's, from Ninth Avenue to the Hudson River. He has said on multiple occasions that he believes improving the Javits center will bring about all of that, while creating jobs and stimulating tourism.
Governor Pataki, according to people who have worked closely with the governor on the issue, is focused on Lower Manhattan, specifically the site of the fallen World Trade Center, which he believes will bring international attention to the city, and by proxy, himself. He also is said to feel that he has been the continuous governmental link in the city since the terrorist attack of 2001, and has said on many occasions that the site - along with the memory of the day - has profound personal meaning for him.
While the two have not actually taken out a map and divided up the city with tiny push pins, their staffs have come to an agreement that each will do much of the work - and, their aides hope, get the credit - for their area of interest, said several people involved in both projects.
At a meeting last month between Mr. Pataki and several of his senior aides, Mr. Pataki said, "I've made a deal with the mayor to support him on the West Side," according to an aide who attended the meeting. Part of that deal, the aide said, was that Mr. Bloomberg would give the governor a free hand in Lower Manhattan, which he has largely done since the earliest plans were discussed.
According to the aide in the meeting, Mr. Pataki urged his staff members - some of whom were reluctant to get on board with the stadium plan for myriad complex reasons - to get united behind the West Side projects.
And though both men attended the announcement of the stadium and Javits plans this week, it was Mr. Bloomberg who served as host. Mr. Pataki played the central role earlier this year to announce the plans for the memorial to World Trade Center victims in Lower Manhattan.
While Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Pataki are far from close friends - they have clashed over everything from taxes to federal aid to the city - they have put their differences behind them for mutual benefit to their own legacy projects. "I think they really see each other as partners," Mr. Doctoroff said, a notion echoed by three aides to the governor.
Sometimes, that can simply mean staying out of each other's way. Other times, it means lending significant material support and showing a public face of unity. In terms of developing the West Side, the state had to commit to significant financing, and expanding the Javits center requires state legislation, which the governor has already said he will support.
Stretching out the No. 7 train line to the far West Side, which is far from a fait accompli, and building on the Long Island Rail Road yards there require the acquiescence of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, an agency controlled by the governor. At the mayor's behest, Mr. Pataki also has freed up his chief economic development official, Charles A. Gargano, to help get things moving.
Mr. Pataki has spent far more time in meetings with the various interests in the Lower Manhattan site than Mr. Bloomberg, and he devotes far more of his speeches and other public remarks to discussing Lower Manhattan than the mayor.
The mayor has helped the governor in small but significant ways, appointing minorities and women to the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, deflecting criticism building against the governor that the board was too white and male.
For several months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Mr. Pataki was largely in the shadow of former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. But after Mr. Bloomberg took office, Mr. Pataki easily found a way to become front and center in the rebuilding process. The board charged with leading rebuilding - the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation - is an adjunct of the state, controlled by Mr. Pataki.
Further, he has been much more successful than the mayor at getting along with the more outspoken family members of those killed in the attack than Mr. Bloomberg, who has at times antagonized them.
Even in his remarks during this week's news conference, Mr. Pataki took pains to mention Lower Manhattan, too.
"The governor considers it both an honor and an obligation to rebuild Lower Manhattan in honor of those we lost during the greatest attack on American soil," said Lynn Rasic, a spokeswoman for the governor.Mr. Bloomberg's interest in the far West Side dates back to his involvement in luring the Olympics to the city. He was a board member and contributor to NY2012, Mr. Doctoroff's organization created to bring the Olympic Games to New York, and spoke about the issue during the mayoral campaign.Mr. Bloomberg has mentioned the convention center expansion idea in all three of his state of the city speeches.
Edward Skyler, the mayor's spokesman, said, "There's no doubt that he has the longest personal involvement in the far West Side and that the transformation of this neglected area is going to be the backbone of the city's economic growth in the 21st century."