2000-01-26 / Editorials


Bring Jets Back To Queens

Let’s bring the Jets back to Queens.

Robert Wood Johnson, the team’s new owner, is adamant that he wants his own stadium to house his $635 million purchase. The 53–year–old heir to the Johnson & Johnson health care products giant wants no band–aid solution, like sharing even a spanking new and modern Shea Stadium in Flushing Meadows—Corona Park.

Johnson says it’s time the Jets had their own playpen and got the home field advantage, which they’ve never had in their 40–year history. That home field advantage, he explains, is vastly important when a game hangs on the line in the closing minutes and the home crowd becomes sort of like a 12th player for the home team.

We agree with Johnson, not only on the point of helping the team to win more games. We want the Jets here because Queens football enthusiasts have earned the right to their own home team because of their unstinting support for a team whose sorry record at times made them hard to love. Through good and bad, Jet fans never abandoned the team but supported it on the field and at the box office.

We don’t buy all of Johnson’s "home field advantage" argument, of course. The Jets, who are locked in to their Meadowlands lease until 2000, have a lousy deal in New Jersey where they have to give most of the income their games generate to the Meadowlands operators and the Giants. We’re talking about millions of dollars in lost revenues and we suspect this is what’s behind Johnson’s statement that "eight years from now they (the Jets) will be playing somewhere else."

Since becoming the Jets’ owner last Tuesday, Johnson has given no indication that he’s eyeing Queens or anywhere else as a home location, except for Manhattan’s west side. The new owner, at a press conference following approval of his Jets acquisition by the National Football League, said he would be willing to talk to Mayor Rudolph Giuliani about the mayor’s proposal to erect a domed stadium in Manhattan. The mayor, who made the proposal in his recent State of the City address, responded that he was "anxious" to talk to Johnson about it.

This, of course, could put Queens drumbeaters at a disadvantage in their efforts to woo Johnson to our fair borough. But that doesn’t deter us.

First of all, let’s not waste our energy trying to coax Johnson into taking a tenant’s deal at a future new Shea Stadium. He would be in only slightly better conditions than he now has at the Meadowlands regarding giving up most of his concessions and parking revenues, as well as benefits derived from luxury suites.

We’ll have to find Johnson a new sight for a stadium exclusively for the Jets and we would expect the construction deal would be dictated by whatever sort of financial inducements the mayor is ready to give for a Manhattan stadium.

Ideally, we believe, the deal should be tailored along the lines of the Mets’ construction plans for a new Shea Stadium. In that deal, the Mets are paying most of the construction costs, with the city chipping in a few million, according to published reports. It seems to us that if Johnson is truly sold on having his own stadium, he should be willing to pay the lion’s share of building it.

As to where it should be, that will take some hard looking around the borough. There are few tracts of land available in the right place, i.e., a non–residential or commercial/industrial area. The first thing that comes to our mind is the auto junk yards in Willets Point near Shea Stadium. This would be ideal because it wouldn’t require Johnson to build a parking garage; he could lease the freestanding parking facility that the Mets are going to build on the present Shea Stadium site when they build their new domed stadium. Willets Point is also a good stadium location because of all the public transportation which serves the area and also the nearby highway facilities that motorists could use to reach a Jets stadium.

Two problems arise from this scenario: convincing the present business owners to leave voluntarily or evicting them, and finding a new home for this small industry.

It helps that Mayor Giuliani is anxious to have the Jets as a New York City team; that City Council Speaker Peter Vallone, a Queens lawmaker, responded to Johnson’s remarks about a new stadium with an enthusiastic "terrific, let’s talk, we’ve got a lot of great places" and that Queens Borough President Claire Shulman welcomed Johnson’s team to the new Shea Stadium.

A triumvirate like Giuliani, Vallone and Shulman can move mountains in Queens, so finding a site and working out a deal with Johnson should be a little easier. We think it can be done, so let’s do it. Let’s bring the Jets home to Queens.

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