Friday, March 17, 2006

"Stadium funds eyed" MetroNY 03/17/06

Stadium funds eyed
Council to hold hearing on Mets, Yanks finance plans after vote to approve new ballparks

by patrick arden / metro new york

MAR 17, 2006

MANHATTAN — Hearings into the funding plan to build new ballparks for the Yankees and the Mets will be conducted next month by City Council finance committee chairman David Weprin, D-Queens.

The hearings have not been scheduled yet, according to Weprin spokesman George Fontas, but will likely come after a public hearing on March 28 and a vote by the full City Council on April 5 on the land-use plan.

“The issue has to go through many hearings for it to be final — it’s not just land use,” said Fontas, who explained the finance committee will be looking at the teams’ use of payments in lieu of taxes, or PILOTs, to service their bond debt.

“We have to vote on the PILOTs,” Fontas said. “There’s concern once the land-use stuff happens it’s a done deal, but clearly it’s not.”

This week members of the City Council’s Bronx delegation were supposed to meet with police and transportation officials to discuss increased traffic caused by a new Yankee Stadium.

“The plan calls for taking lots and building multi-level structures that will multiply the number of cars coming into the same area,” said Bronx Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo. “Where now it’s 140 cars, it could be 400, 500 cars coming into the same lot. What traffic-management plans does the city have to ensure that traffic in the immediate community is not going to become worse than it is?”

Public transportation advocates have pushed for a new Metro-North station at Yankee Stadium, and during December’s transit strike the MTA had set up a makeshift stop at the location.

“There’s always been an interest on Metro-North’s part to have that station,” said Metro-North spokesman Dan Brucker, “but we needed to have absolute assurances that the Yankees and the stadium were going to stay there.”

The city has a 40-year non-relocation clause in its current agreement with the team, and Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion discussed the new station with Gov. Pataki in February. But even if a deal is reached to build a station, it could be years from realization.

“There is money for a study, but we haven’t even started,” Brucker said. “We still need the funds.”

The Empire State Development Corporation is investing $70 million in the parking garages, which are estimated to cost between $235 million and $320 million. The ESDC says the excess cost will be borne by a private developer “and/or the City.”

While taping WNBC-TV’s “News Forum” for this Sunday, ESDC chief Charles Gargano said the new Metro-North station is “not in the cards at this time.”

Taking stock of bonds

• Under the city’s scheme, the Mets and the Yankees would repay $1.4 billion in tax-exempt bonds with amounts equal to their property taxes. Critics have pointed out the teams do not pay property taxes and the amount of tax-exempt debt may be excessive.

• On Tuesday, city Comptroller William Thompson expressed “reservations” and asked for the IRS to OK the deal.


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