Industry Pushes to Correct Flawed Javits Plan

HIL ANDERSON, SENIOR EDITOR
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New York, NY – A controversial marshaling garage that is part of the planned $2 billion expansion of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center is so flawed that it could actually strangle the trade show industry in New York rather than revitalize it, according to top organizers and general service contractors who have banded together in a group known as “Friends of Javits.”  The group is heavily engaged with the state redevelopment agency to convince the state and the city to re-draw the plans to include a separate marshaling yard. The group’s fear is that the multi-story garage would bog down the move-in and move-out processes to the point that union labor costs would skyrocket and ultimately drive a number of events out of the Big Apple. “The garage will increase the cost by about 40 percent over what it is now,” predicted Reed Exhibitions Senior Vice President Ken McAvoy.

The Friends of Javits urged the new leadership of the Empire State Development Corporation to reconsider their  idea of vertical marshalling for literally hundreds of trucks. They warned that while the addition of about 250,000 square feet of exhibit space would make the Javits Center more competitive, a logistical nightmare caused by traffic jams around the loading docks would lead to fewer shows and far less revenue for the center.

The preferred option is to continue to use the current “33/34” marshalling facility located on land between 33rd and 34th Streets. McAvoy said 33/34 would allow over-the-road trucks to stage until a loading dock opens up rather than simply having such vehicles line up at the Javits Center itself. “Moving those trucks to the 33/34 facility will work,” he suggested.

The collective hope among the trade show industry is that the ESDC will call for the changes when they release their final recommendation for the project sometime in May. Although the ESDC had originally backed the marshalling garage when the expansion plan was unveiled last year, there has since been a new governor sworn into office and new appointed leadership at the ESDC that has been more responsive to the industry’s concerns.

But there is also an element of fighting city hall. Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration sees 33/34 not so much as a marshaling yard but as prime real estate they have earmarked to sell to developers for residential use as part of the plan. The proceeds would, in fact, be used to finance the Javits expansion. The value of the land makes 33/34 an expensive parking lot and building an underground lot for trucks beneath 33/34 is not feasible  due to security concerns.

At the same time, a block-long parking lot for semi-trucks doesn’t fit into the city’s vision for a revitalization of the West Side neighborhoods around Javits Center. “They don’t want trucks all over the place,” McAvoy said.

In a written response to public comment on the project last Summer, city officials repeatedly noted that the proposed marshalling garage would indeed eliminate trucks parked on the streets around the center. They also said changes to the layout of the ramps inside the garage would make it easier to move the big trucks in and out of the center. Friends of Javits, however, see that as inadequate and will not overcome the fact that the “vertical” marshalling of trucks simply will not work.

Reach Ken McAvoy at (203) 840-5681 or kmcavoy@reedexpo.com