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Jets fire final salvo in NYSCC battle.

The Jets threw a "Hail Mary" pass this week to save what had seemed like a sure thing for the football team to build the New York Sports and Convention Center on Manhattan's West Side.

Just five days before the MTA deadline to submit an RFPs for the development rights to the Hudson Rail Yards, the New York Jets organization filed suit in the United States District court for the Southern District of New York against Cablevision Systems Corporation, the owner of Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall, for engaging in unlawful and anticompetitive actions in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

"Cablevision has made clear it will stop at nothing, including suppressing New Yorkers' fundamental right to information, to defend its stranglehold on Manhattan's sports and entertainment facilities--a monopoly which has allowed it to charge the public inflated prices and to limit the quality and quantity of events offered to the public," said Jets president Jay Cross.

Specifically, the suit alleges that Cablevision has illegally maintained its monopolies in the markets for enclosed large-scale spectator events and the rental of private spectator suites in Manhattan to control prices and exclude competition, thereby providing New Yorkers with fewer choices and higher prices. The lawsuit further alleges that Cablevision has engaged in an unprecedented anticompetitive campaign to deprive New Yorkers of the benefits of fair market competition.

Cablevision, while not directly denying the Jets' allegations, said the lawsuit is a futile attempt to stop a fair decision by the MTA to choose between the companies that have bid to develop the rail yards.

"We consider this nothing more than a desperate publicity stunt by the Jets and their fresh batch of lawyers to try to improperly influence the MTA's competitive bid process with lies, disinformation and lawsuits that will fail," said Charles Schueler, spokesman for Cablevision.

"More than two thirds of New Yorkers have spoken loudly against the football stadium," said Schueler. "What are the Jets going to do next, sue every one of the millions and millions of New Yorkers who oppose their attempt to grab more than $1 billion tax dollars to build themselves a stadium?"

Cablevision's comments were echoed by Joe Restuccia, a member of the New York Association for Better Choices, a broad coalition of elected officials, community leaders and groups, residents and businesses that are opposed to the stadium.

"The smokescreen of this lawsuit, filed just days before bids for the rail yard land development are due into the MTA, does not change the fact that the Jets had a sweetheart deal and are now trying to taint the bidding process," said Restuccia. "Never before has three blocks of prime waterfront property in midtown Manhattan been available to a sole-source, no-bid offering to a private company. Shame on the Jets, this discussion should be about a public process, not frivolous litigation."

The MTA has received three bids so far. Another bid was expected before the March 21 deadline, according to published reports.

The Jets' offer includes $100 million for the development with the city and state kicking in $600 million for a platform over the yards and the retractable roof over the stadium for convention events. Cablevision, attempting to block competition for its MSG arena, has offered $600 million for the rights to the site, which would be used for offices and housing. TransGas Energy's offer is $700 million.

Jets officials say it is not about the bid process for the air rights.

"This lawsuit is not about the RFP for the West Side Rail Yard," Cross said. "We understand that others must be allowed to compete fairly for the site in the RFP process, just as we will, with a very competitive bid that we believe will be superior to any others and ultimately be in the best interests of the MTA, the City, and the State."

Construction industry leaders want the thousands of jobs the stadium project will create.

"Cablevision has certainly spread false information, and erroneous information about the project," said Lou Coletti, president, Building Trade Employers' Association. "They have also controlled information over their airways, which I think should be a [ violation of their franchise agreement. I hope they lose."

The Jets will continue its fight.

"In the coming weeks, we plan to show New Yorkers how committed we are to building a facility that will introduce price competition into the market, while bringing thousands of jobs, hundreds of millions of dollars of tax revenues, and hundreds of millions of dollars of economic activity and development to New York City," Cross said.

"And we are confident that when all of the facts get out and New Yorkers get the opportunity to hear what the Sports and Convention Center stands for and what it means to this City and to this State, they will overwhelmingly support it."
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Title Annotation:Construction & Design; New York Sports and Convention Center; New York Jets
Author:Nelson, Barbara
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 23, 2005
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