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Carter's View

New York State Senator John J. Flanagan has scheduled a public hearing February 28 at 10 AM to study plans for the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

Mr. Flanagan is chairman of the Senate Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions and the hearing will be held in the Senate Hearing Room, Room 1920, at 250 Broadway.

In a press release today, Mr. Flanagan said that the hearing was "to protect the interests of all New York State residents and the financial future of the tourism, hotel, restaurant, entertainment, and trade show industries of our region."

The Spitzer administration has stated that a significant expansion on the site does not make economic sense, and that a ideal expansion would cost would cost around $5 billion, compared with the $1.68 billion approved in 2006 for expansion.

"A main focus of the hearing," his statement maintained, "will be the status of the expansion and renovation of the center and will probe into the future prospects of this vital exposition center. Specifically, the committee will look into the recent proposal by Governor Eliot Spitzer's administration to sell state-owned land that would have been the grounds for the expansion of the center. Any sale of the two parcels of land that border the current center on the north and south would render any future expansion of the convention center, which currently ranks as the 16th in size in the nation, nearly impossible."

The proposed sale of this state-owned property is in contrast to Governor Spitzer's 2007 call to make the Javits Center the "thoroughbred" of convention centers. Senator Flanagan and the committee will be examining the rationale of selling the land and the impact that the sale would have on the future of any development at convention center.

The committee will also look into the question of where the revenue from the sale would be targeted.

"The reality is that the sale of this land," Senator Flanagan declared, "will basically eliminate any chance of future expansion of this important tourism hub and the administration needs to proceed with caution and with full disclosure."

The Javits centered opened in 1986 and was designed by James Ingo Freed of I. M. Pei & Partners. The "crystal palace" design was then widely praised. In 1989, Paul Goldberger, then architecture critic of The New York Times, described it as a "stunning palace of glass that has spectacular lobby spaces and public areas, but exhibition spaces and meeting rooms that are no more appealing to spend time in than those of its lesser competitors."

In 2005, the state selected Renzo Piano in 2005 to design an expansion that would significantly alter its front and press reports have recently documented its leaking roof. Construction costs for the expansion, however, have since soared incredibly.

In their fine book, "The A.I.A. Guide to New York City, Fourth Edition," Eliot Willensky and Norval White wrote that "this shiny black multifaceted set of forms conjures thoughts of geodes, those geological broken remnants that are wondrous but opaque," adding that "at night, glowing lights give a sense of the Center's sometime transparency; by day the building might just as well be a set of opaque obsidian prisms."

When it was built, the major competition for large conventions, the object of great desire by many cities for their economic impact, came primarily from Chicago and Las Vegas.

Mayor Bloomberg has indicated that he is opposed to the Spitzer Administration's plan to sell off the two land parcels as such a sale would preclude significant future expansion of the center, which is at the heart of major development for the Far West Midtown area.
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Architecture Critic Carter Horsley Since 1997, Carter B. Horsley has been the editorial director of CityRealty. He began his journalistic career at The New York Times in 1961 where he spent 26 years as a reporter specializing in real estate & architectural news. In 1987, he became the architecture critic and real estate editor of The New York Post.