A conversation with Tom McMorrow

An outspoken advocate for construction of a Jets stadium on Manhattan's West Side, Chelsea resident Tom McMorrow is founder and editor of westsidestadium.org. This year, McMorrow has become a familiar face on local television, engaging in lively debates with stadium opponents -- most notably New York City Councilwoman Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) -- on such shows as Fox5's Good Day New York.<p>

McMorrow has been especially busy this summer, attending a series of meetings relating to the proposed stadium, which is sited for a tract of land owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and adjacent to the Jacob Javits Convention Center at 31st Street and 11th Avenue.

Jets Confidential caught up with McMorrow this week for an update on the continuing campaign for the new stadium.

JC: You attended the recent Community Board 4 meeting (held August 3) on the new stadium. What went on there?

TM: It was very interesting. Community Board 4 is against the project and mostly allowed only opponents to the project to speak -- but I would say that three-fourths of those in attendance were trade unionists in favor of the stadium. One-quarter of the people there were opposed to the stadium.. Some real funny stuff went on. Abe Hirschfeld, the colorful real estate guy was there -- but I really couldn't tell what side of the issue he was on. Abe said that when he was made Deputy Mayor of Miami Beach, 'The average age of the city was deceased.'

There was another guy, an old-time socialist opposed to the stadium project, who said: 'If you want to create jobs, why not create a hydrogen bomb factory. We'll have lots of jobs.' But there was also a very eloquent address on behalf of the stadium by a Violetta Savic, a Yugoslavian immigrant and a union member. Violetta was compelling -- she said the stadium would bring jobs to the area, and noted that when she came to America 10 years ago she got a union job and was able to get health benefits. She thought the stadium was a good idea because the project would bring much-needed jobs to the area.

JC: What politicians opposed to the project were at the Community Board 4 meeting?

TM: New York State Assemblyman [Richard] Gottfried and New York City Councilwoman Christine Quinn. When Gottfried got up to speak he started piling it on -- speaking a bunch of [nonsense]. He was going on and on and he started to get heckled. Quinn was not so vociferous. She showed why she is a good politician.

JC: You also attended two other recent meetings relating to the stadium proposal. Tell us about them.

TM: I was at a meeting sponsored by the Jets on August 4 at the Sheraton Hotel. They had 13 or 14 players there, including Joe Namath, and they joined Jets President Jay Cross to speak on behalf of the stadium. The Jets management seemed disappointed about the size of the crowd, and I don't know why, because 600 season ticket holders were there. And, don't forget, this is the middle of the summer, when a lot of people are on vacation. The fans' questions were tough and very good. One was complaining about the team's 'Stub Hub' -- the on-line service sponsored by the Jets where season-ticket holders can sell their tickets to games they can't attend. He wanted to know why he had to pay a 10-percent service charge every time he wanted to sell his tickets via 'Stub Hub' -- when the whole idea of the plan was to get Jets fans into the building. Jay Cross said it is a concern and that the team would 'look at it.'

The fans also asked questions about tailgating at the new stadium and the possibility of having to purchase a private seating license. The Jets said there might be some tailgating allowed. My idea is, why not just have one park on the [Hudson River] where people can grill? The way I understand it, some tailgating will be allowed -- but not on the scale that it has been done at The Meadowlands. It's a tough one. The trade-off is having a stadium in Manhattan. Your wife can go to the game with you and after the game you can do something in Manhattan. You're in the greatest city in the world -- the party capital of America. Certainly, there's plenty of things to do in New York City after a football game.

JC: And what about the other meeting?

TM: On Thursday, August 5, I was at a breakfast meeting at the Hilton, sponsored by the Association for a Better New York. Chicago Mayor [Richard] Daley and other movers and shakers from Chicago and New York were there. Mayor Daley embraced the Jets' stadium plan -- in fact, he loves it and he said it makes sense. He talked about the renovation Chicago did at Soldier Field, and said that their plan emphasized 'parks and people' and gave the fans access to Lake Michigan. We should do the same thing here with the Hudson River.

JC: What do you think of the results of the recent Quinnipiac Poll -- which revealed that most New Yorkers would support the West Side stadium project if it 'paid for itself' with the tax revenue it generated?

TM: I thought it was interesting. I did some research on Quinnipiac [polls] after a preceding poll showed opposition to the stadium project -- and I also went back to the week before the last mayoral election...They had [Democratic candidate] Mark Green ahead by 15 points. But I think the way they worded the question about the stadium, this time, was more direct.

JC: Aside from the opposition from politicians and neighborhood activists, are there any other roadblocks?

TM: The MTA is the tough one, I think. The MTA is open to public pressure but they should get a good deal from the Jets. All the zoning stuff is not a key issue. I think the local politicians are using zoning as a wedge issue. I think the zoning thing is going to happen, although Community Board 4 is against it.

JC: In addition to your website reporting on behalf of the stadium proposal, what other avenues are you taking to generate public support?

TM: We started selling our 'Build It' t-shirts at the August 4th meeting at the Sheraton and sold over 100 at that one meeting. I'm very happy with the initial response from the public.

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