by Jonathan Vatner | June 01, 2006

Rendering of the expansion to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center

Annex anxiety:
A rendering of the
planned expansion to the
Jacob K. Javits Convention Center

A dispute over a garage is the latest reason the long-awaited expansion of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center has not yet broken ground, according to insiders, raising doubts about when the work might be completed.

The center’s current marshaling yard, where trucks line up to unload, will be sold to finance the extension of the number 7 subway to the facility. In place of the yard, plans call for trucks to drive up a circular ramp inside the refurbished facility, an impractical move, said former center chairman Robert Boyle, who was asked to step down last winter when he accepted a job at a lobbying firm.

“It raises your freight rates beyond what anybody could afford,” Boyle noted. “You end up spending $2 billion to expand the place, and you have fewer shows than you had when you started.”

Boyle, who claims his ouster was tied to the garage flap, is not alone in his criticisms. In a statement, John O’Connell Jr., executive vice president/chief operating officer of Dallas-based exhibit firm Freeman, said his company has “concerns about the marshaling garage,” though he is optimistic about finding a solution.

Mike Petralia, president of the New York Convention Center Development Corp., said the city’s police department had asked that the garage be inside, because it would allow security to screen each truck without causing a traffic jam. As for the circular ramp, Petralia said it’s likely that a standard ramp will be used instead. “This is still in a preliminary design stage,” he noted.

The plan was still awaiting final approvals at press time, but Petralia hopes work on the site will begin this summer. So does Deidre Ross, director of conference services at the Chicago-based American Library Association, whose group heads to the expanded Javits in June 2010.

Ross said that while she is worried about high freight costs, her main concern is over the work being completed in time. “If they don’t start by the end of this year,” she said, “we’ll have to find a new place.”