The New York Times

August 28, 2004

Police Union Joins Opponents of West Side Stadium Project


The union representing New York City's police officers has joined with opponents of a football stadium on the West Side to create a televisiovertisement that seeks to block the project.

The union, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, has been lock

n aded in contentious contract talks with the Bloomberg administration over raises and other benefits. In recent weeks, off-duty officers have held rallies, posted billboards and even shouted at Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg at his public appearances.

While the union has previously opposed the stadium, which is a pet project of the Bloomberg administration, this is the first time that it has collaborated with the New York Association for Better Choices, a group of elected officials, residents and businesses fighting the project. The group includes Cablevision, which owns Madison Square Garden.

The advertisement, which was paid for entirely by Cablevision, began airing last night on NY1 and other local channels. Whit Clay, a spokesman for the association, declined to say how much it cost, or how long it would run.

In the 30-second spot, "Cops," police officers are shown helping children and working at crime scenes, while a narrator says that "they risk their lives every day, they're there when it matters," in the face of declining recruitment for a force that is smaller than it was four years ago.

The narrator concludes: "Now comes a proposal to spend $600 million on a football stadium in Manhattan - that's the wrong priority. Paying to build a police force is more important than paying to build a football stadium."

Edward Skyler, the mayor's press secretary, said that the ad was misleading and sought to confuse the issues. He said that money for the stadium construction, and money for the police union contracts, came from separate funds that could not be interchanged. "It's illegal to pay city salaries out of the capital budget, so they're misinformed or downright lying," he said.

Patrick J. Lynch, president of the Patrolman's Benevolent Association, said that the union had agreed to do the television ad as part of a "strategic move to get our message out by joining with like-minded people." He said that the union had previously objected to the stadium on a billboard in Times Square.

"It's absolutely hypocritical to say they can't find money for the people who keep us safe, but they can find money to build a stadium to play games," Mr. Lynch said. "Both our messages are the same: Do what's right for New York City."

Mr. Skyler criticized the police union for opposing an economic development project that he said would generate tax revenues that could pay for the very raises that the union wants while creating new jobs.

Matthew Higgins, a spokesman for the New York Jets, which would use the stadium, criticized the alliance between the police union and Cablevision. He suggested that if Mr. Lynch wanted to look out for his officers, "he should demand Cablevision start paying millions in taxes on the Garden to fund the raises he wants, and he should support a project that will create income for hundreds of on- and off-duty police officers."

Al O'Leary, a spokesman for the union, said that the new ad would help reinforce the union's message to the public that the city's police officers deserved to be paid a fair salary. He said that union officials were not concerned about whether the ad would anger the mayor.

"We have only one interest here," he said. "And that is to get a fair contract for our police officers who can't afford to live in the city they protect."