For more than 10 years, Daniel L. Doctoroff has worked to win the 2012 Olympic Games for New York -- first, as the founder of NYC2012, the bid committee, and now as Mayor Michael Bloomberg's deputy mayor for economic development. Both Doctoroff and Bloomberg have insisted that a $1.4 billion stadium on Manhattan's West Side -- financed with $800 million from the New York Jets, and $300 million apiece from New York City and state -- must be approved before the International Olympic Committee makes its decision in July.
BusinessWeek Staff Editor Brian Hindo spoke with Doctoroff about the plan. Edited excerpts of their chat follows:
Q: Why was a decision made to have the bid centered around a new West Side stadium?
A:We didn't have to make a decision. We looked at six different locations, and the only one that actually worked was on the West Side of Manhattan. That's true for a variety of land-use reasons and for financial reasons. For example, everybody says: Well, you could just put it in Willets Point in Queens. Sounds good, but when you consider the fact that you have to spend a couple of hundred million dollars to get people out of there and remediate the land, and then another hundred-or-so million dollars to drive piles into the marshland, and then you don't have a tenant for a building there.
The last thing I want to do from an Olympics perspective is to make it harder, but the truth of the matter is we didn't have a choice. Now I happen to believe that New York Sports & Convention Center as structured -- both financially and physically -- is a great thing for the city and should happen whether we have the Olympics or not. And I believe we'll be successful because of that. But at end of the day, we didn't have a choice.
Q: Has the IOC given you any indication that it won't award New York the Games unless a stadium is approved prior to their decision?
A:The truth is, we're in a competition with other cities that have -- at least in three of the four cases -- that centerpiece facility already in place. We just won't win.
Q: Critics claim that, because there's an urge to get a future Olympics games in Africa and South America, it might send the wrong message to award the games to a bid that has as its center a $1.4 billion stadium.
A:No, I disagree completely. What the IOC has said is they don't want facilities that are going to be white elephants after the Games. They should be appropriate for the communities and every facility ought to have a valuable after-Olympics use. The beauty of this building is that it's not going to be used just 8 to 10 days a year for the Jets. It will have uses everyday and play a critical role in our ability to turn the area around the Javits Center into a great place. So the IOC doesn't care how much you spend. The question is: Is it appropriate, and does it make sense for the community?
Q: Why wouldn't you go to the IOC with alternatives, in case support didn't come through for the West Side plan?
A:We don't have an alternative. That's just the reality. There's not a feasible alternative in New York City or in the metropolitan area. It's nice to say it would have been great to put it in Queens or somewhere else, but without a tenant prepared to make an investment in the facility...you can't make it work.
Q: A place such as Shea Stadium wouldn't work?
A:It'll cost hundreds of millions of dollars to convert it for a one-time event. We don't have that money available, given everything else we have to do to have the Olympic Games here. We're running a privately funded Olympic Games. We're relying on the resources from the Games to pay for it.
Q: Did you take any lessons from Atlanta's experiences?
A:Unlike Atlanta, where the vast majority of the planning was left until after they won the bid, we've taken a totally different approach -- which is to do the detailed work upfront to make sure that everyone has signed off in the event we're selected, and we can move forward with construction right away. We're prepared to take a little bit of a hit upfront, go through some of the controversy, because we want to be able to look to the IOC...and say we're going to deliver on what we said. Many bid cities make promises. We're not taking that approach.
Q: Some politicians have wondered why the stadium needs to be approved by July, when the Games are still seven years away.
A:Politicians may say that. I have to tell you over the last year and a half, I've had 300 meetings with members of the International Olympic Committee, and I know that perhaps their most important factor is trust and credibility. They want to know we're going to be able to deliver, particularly on a project that's as big and clearly engenders such strong feelings.
Q: Cablevision, which opposes any Manhattan competition for Madison Square Garden, on Feb. 4 offered the Metropolitan Transit Authority $600 million for the land on which the stadium would be built. Are you treating that as a serious offer?
A:It's very easy to toss in a letter on a Friday afternoon to disrupt a process. You've seen it in the corporate world where people do that. They used to do it with hostile takeovers. But let's see the meat behind the proposal.
All that said, we think the MTA has an obligation to receive the highest and best value they possibly can. It does have to take into account the interest of the city as well.