Another reason for the slow negotiations, though, is Silver’s skill in maximizing his leverage. The longer he strings out his demands and the closer the stadium decision gets to the International Olympic Committee’s deadline for awarding the 2012 Games, the more valuable the prizes he’s likely to gain. Last week, on the same day Bloomberg met with Ray Kelly, Larry Silverstein, and Governor Pataki to delay building the Freedom Tower, Pataki quietly slipped an item onto the agenda of the Public Authorities Control Board: a vote on financing the West Side stadium and convention center, scheduled for May 18.
It’s an impressive title, the Public Authorities Control Board. In reality, it’s “three men in a room” by another name. Pataki installed his budget director, John Cape, as one of the PACB’s three voting members. State Senate president Joe Bruno dispatched Owen Johnson, a loyal senator from Babylon. Silver, not messing around with phony intermediaries, placed himself on the PACB board. The PACB is such an insider’s game that its meetings aren’t even transcribed or recorded.
Whether approving financing plans for new state-university dormitories or water-filtration plants, the PACB three must vote unanimously. Pataki is on record as supporting the West Side stadium. Bruno is considered very likely, with the help of some funding for upstate development, to vote in the interests of fellow Republicans Pataki and Bloomberg. Which leaves Silver as the focus of intense lobbying by everyone from Al D’Amato (who’s on the Cablevision anti-stadium payroll) to Ed Malloy (the pro-stadium president of the construction-workers union).
“He’s used this as a chit to get what he wants, substance-wise, for his district,” says a stadium advocate.
“There’s gonna be a lot of horse-trading to get the stadium,” Malloy says. “Whatever Shelly Silver needs to jump-start lower Manhattan, I think the changes will be made.” An anti-stadium lobbyist scoffs: “The mess downtown works for us, absolutely. It shows that the priorities have to be focused downtown, which is what the commitment was after the attack.”
Silver is the rare person, in a process ingeniously designed to have no real public input, with the ability to make an actual democratic decision on the stadium. If he votes against the West Side development, it will be in part because he has calculated that it strengthens his Democratic majority in the Assembly. As a master of Albany delay tactics, though, his most likely play is to stall until after the International Olympic Committee meets in Singapore on July 6. The IOC’s decision would do Silver’s work for him, giving the stadium de facto approval or rejection. The only sure thing in the next two weeks? If Silver votes for the stadium, we know who’ll be picking up the billion-dollar city and state tab.