Friday, April 28, 2006

“Topping Protests Actions Of Moses” NY Times 03/02/60

"The Yankees for some time have been seeking the use of Macombs Dam park for parking space across the street from the Stadium. They say they are prepared to take it over under any terms and at no cost to the city....The park is now used for recreational purposes which, the Yankees charge, are inconsequential and which could easily be transferred elsewhere." NYT March 1960

That's what the Yanks were saying 46 years ago. Some things never change. Remember: Organized Sports = Big Money = Taxpayer Subsidies = No Respect for the Game and any Community.

Topping Protests Actions Of Moses” in NY Times on March 2, 1960

In Wire to Wagner, He Says Commissioner Obstructs Parking Aid to Yanks

St. Petersburg, Fla., March 1 – Dan Topping, the co-owner and president of the Yankees, revealed today he had asked Mayor Wagner again for help in increasing the parking facilities for Yankee Stadium.

At the same time Topping, in a sharply worded and lengthy telegram to the Mayor, complained about the latter’s failure to answer a letter that had been “prematurely released” by Parks Commissioner Robert Moses.

In this letter, written by the Yankee attorney, Arthur Friedlund, on Feb. 4, the Yankees had offered to lease or sell the Stadium to the city “in lieu of the expenditure of several million dollars of municipal funds to erect the proposed Flushing Meadow structure.”

The reference to Flushing Meadow concerns the stadium the city proposes to build for the New York entry in the newly organized though still undeveloped Continental League.

Request for Information

“Not having heard from you.” Topping’s telegram said, “I respectfully ask if this means you are not interested in discussing this matter further.”

The message, in addition to criticisms of Moses, also referred to a meeting on Jan. 3 “between yourself, Commissioner Moses and Yankee officials.”

At the time, according to the wire, “it was mutually agreed that Commissioner Wylie [Traffic Commissioner T.T. Wylie] and others would survey the situation surrounding Stadium parking and report on the same for further discussion within ten days.” This period, Topping noted, “also has elapsed without a reply.”

The Yankees for some time have been seeking the use of Macombs Dam park for parking space across the street from the Stadium. They say they are prepared to take it over under any terms and at no cost to the city.

The park is now used for recreational purposes which, the Yankees charge, are inconsequential and which could easily be transferred elsewhere.

Parting Shot at Moses

But the Yankees have been blocked by Commissioner Moses. Because of this, Topping concluded his message with a final reference to the Commissioner.

“Commissioner Moses’ recent derogatory comments on Yankee Stadium and the Yankee organization,” Topping’s ire said, “indicate an animosity inspired by some mystifying motives.

“How can a s-called public servant possibly justify statements in which he advocates spending millions of public dollars on one of his several unsuccessful projects and brag about its superior parking, approaches, and so forth, which he declares would be the means of luring attractions away from a taxpaying enterprise which has always tried to be a civic asset?”

Mayor Wagner’s office had no comment on Topping’s telegram, pointing out he was on vacation and had yet to see it. There is a possibility he may bring the problem of acquisition to the Board of Estimate.

Commissioner Moses could not be located for comment.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

"Council OKs teams’ financing schemes" MetroNY 04/27/06

Or you can say "City Council decides that corporate welfare for Steinbrenner's billionaire team is more important than funding fire, police and emergency medical services for the rest of us."

Council OKs teams’ financing schemes

by patrick arden / metro new york

APR 27, 2006

CITY HALL — Nearly $1.4 billion in tax-exempt financing to build new stadiums for the Yankees and the Mets was passed yesterday by the City Council. The Mets plan to break ground this summer, while the Yankees still need federal approval for its use of parkland.

But both teams also need the IRS to approve the legality of the city’s financing scheme, because tax-exempt bonds can’t be used to finance stadiums unless the debt is repaid with money that would normally go to the city. Under the current plan, the teams would service their tax-exempt bonds with payments in lieu of property taxes, or PILOTs, though they currently pay no property taxes. The city’s Independent Budget Office said this may not fly with the feds, and it wondered what city taxes could equal the large size of debt payments required from the teams.

Before yesterday’s vote, Speaker Christine Quinn recalled the Council’s fight last year for the right to approve the city’s use of PILOTs. In those debates the city’s corporation counsel testified that PILOTS “are not revenues to the city,” while the Council claimed otherwise. Quinn said, “It is an appropriate use of PILOTs to allow for both of these stadia to get tax-exempt financing.”

Councilman Charles Barron disagreed. “At a time when they’re increasing rent in public housing, the Mets and the Yanks get free rent,” he said. “In the long run, the only people that are going to benefit tremendously from this are the Mets and the Yanks.”

Jeff Wilpon, chief operating officer of the Mets, was grateful for the city’s subsidy, and said an 11th-hour community partnership agreement the team reached with Queens Councilmen was “fair.”

“I think it’s good to spend money on the poor, but it’s also good to spend money on the stadiums,” said Wilpon.

And what if the team doesn’t get its tax-exempt bonds?

“We’ll be fine if it doesn’t go through,” he said, “but we’re hopeful.”

City’s budget priorities

Top 10 “highlights” in the mayor’s 2006-2010 capital plan (in millions).

• Bridges: $2,521

• Affordable housing: $1,980

• Croton water facility: $1,050

• Street reconstruction: $864

• Transfer stations: $483

• Street resurfacing: $432

• New stadiums for the Yankees and Mets: $265

• Fire and EMT facilities: $215

• Dam reconstruction:$210

• Police facilities: $133

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

"Time to Unionize Communities" Norwood News 04/20/06

Norwood News Editorial, April 20 - May 3, 2006

Time to Unionize Communities

We New Yorkers live in a place where people identify themselves more often by the streets they live on or near than by the borough or the city they call home. That’s both good and bad — good because it reflects a very local sense of community, but bad because it can limit our connection to most of our fellow New Yorkers.

We were thinking about this during the recent Yankee Stadium debate. Last June, the City Council and the state legislature barely batted an eyelash before voting to allow a private company to take over more than 20 acres of public parkland. No public hearings were held. Then, when the city’s land use review process finally kicked in, and public hearings were held, local residents were at a severe disadvantage. Labor unions bused in their members to pack the hearing rooms.

It’s a strength of unionism that workers, acting together, can accomplish more than they can individually.

But the interests of labor unions, particularly the construction trades, don’t always coincide with those of neighborhoods.

Community organizations, however, rarely reach across geographic lines to offer a hand to groups facing similar challenges. But there’s no reason why they can’t.

What if every time parkland was threatened in the Bronx, concerned residents of Queens and Brooklyn showed up in solidarity? When the next poorly conceived development confronts say, Staten Islanders, what if Manhattanites and Bronxites took the ferry over to lend their support?

There are strong civic and grassroots groups in all the boroughs. We hope they begin talking to each other more to figure out how they can swap expertise and people power to stop ill-conceived projects like Yankee Stadium before they are rammed through by private developers and city officials.

Something sort of like this has begun to take shape. It’s called the 4-Borough Neighborhood Alliance and it started about a year ago when the borough historians of Queens and Brooklyn decided they had had enough of development devoid of community input.

The group is interested in changing how planning is done in the city. It favors a bill that Queens councilman Tony Avella will reportedly soon introduce, which would give more teeth to community district planning efforts — known as 197A plans — which are now mostly just advisory. “Our idea is to make the plans binding and to require the city provide policy input into them …,” said Robert Furman, a founder of the Alliance. “That way what’s produced is a policy document that everyone can live with and has some teeth, and will result in a development policy that’s consistent with the plans.”

The Alliance is also assisting communities around the city in their efforts to protect neighborhood character through rezoning.

But it is steering clear of controversies surrounding specific projects like Yankee Stadium for fear of alienating politicians whose support they need to enact systemic change.

That’s fine, but it leaves a clear opening for neighborhood-based grassroots and civic groups around the city to begin getting each other’s back on current boondoggles that don’t make good planning sense.

Unions have a right to organize and take action in solidarity with one another. But so do neighborhoods. They should exercise it.


By the way, Furman says the Alliance is having trouble recruiting Bronx members. He welcomes e-mails at

"Jane Jacobs, author and activist, dead at 89" MetroNY 04/26/06

Dear Jane Jacobs, our city and nation will miss you. Thank you for being a voice of reason and encouraging citizens to fight for livable cities. May your spirit live wherever people unite against taxpayer-financed boondoggles that destroy communties and enrich out-of-touch politicians and greedy outside developers.

Jane Jacobs, author and activist, dead at 89

by hillel italie / ap national writer

APR 26, 2006 12:00 AM EDT

NEW YORK (AP) -- Jane Jacobs, an author and community activist of singular influence whose classic "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" transformed ideas about urban planning, died Tuesday, her publisher said. Jacobs, a longtime resident of Toronto, was 89.

Jacobs died in her sleep Tuesday morning at a Toronto hospital, which she entered a few days ago, according to Random House publicist Sally Marvin. Jacobs' son, James, was with her at the time. The author, who would have turned 90 on May 4, had been in poor health.

A native of Scranton, Pa., Jacobs lived for many years in New York before moving to Toronto in the late 1960s. She and her husband, architect Robert Jacobs Jr., were unhappy that their taxes supported the Vietnam War and turned to Canada as their permanent home. Robert Jacobs died in 1996.

Jacobs, who based her findings on deep, eclectic reading and firsthand observation, challenged assumptions she believed damaged modern cities -- that neighborhoods should be isolated from each other, that an empty street was safer than a crowded one, that the car represented progress over the pedestrian.

Her priorities were for integrated, manageable communities, for diversity of people, transportation, architecture and commerce. She also believed that economies need to be self-sustaining and self-renewing, relying on local initiative instead of centralized bureaucracies.

"She inspired a kind of quiet revolution," her longtime editor, Jason Epstein, said Tuesday. "Every time you see people rise up and oppose a developer, you think of Jane Jacobs."

"Death and Life," published in 1961, evolved from opposing the standards of the time to becoming a standard itself. It was taught in urban studies classes throughout North America and sold more than half a million copies. City planners in New York and Toronto were among those who cited its importance and her book became an essential text for "New Urban" communities such as Hercules, Calif., and Civano, Ariz.

Jacobs also received a number of prizes, including a lifetime achievement award in 2000 from the National Building Foundation in Washington, D.C.

With her bangs and owlish glasses, and her look of cheerful curiosity, it was easy to mistake Jacobs for an idle eccentric, the kind of woman to be found late at night in the research room of the public library.

But Jacobs was a dedicated, even iconic activist. In the 1950s, her loyalty was questioned by the U.S. government, and in the 1960s, she was arrested for protesting Vietnam. She successfully opposed a Toronto highway project not long after moving there and was a distinctive presence at public hearings.

"You sort of fell in love with Jane when you met her," Epstein said. "She was exuberant, original, strong-minded and a very kind woman."

Her most famous confrontation came in the early '60s, when she helped defeat a plan by New York City park commissioner Robert Moses to build an expressway through Washington Square. During a 2000 interview with The Associated Press, Jacobs recalled the city hearing where she first laid eyes on the mighty Moses.

"He was one of the first speakers," she said. "He was furious and he stood up there, inside the railed enclosure, and not where most speakers spoke -- outside where the public microphone was. He was privileged.

"He gripped this railing and he said, in dismissing scornfully our plan to have no more than the existing road and better not even that, he said, 'These protests are just by a bunch of ... a bunch of mothers!'"

Robert Caro, whose classic biography of Moses, "The Power Broker," was often taught alongside "Death and Life," said Tuesday that Jacobs was a "far-sighted genius who guided cities in new directions." He called her battle with Moses "one of the truly heroic sagas in the history of New York."

Jacobs, born in 1916, was a doctor's daughter with a compulsion to question authority and find answers for herself. During the Depression, on days when job hunts went nowhere, she would invest a nickel in the subway and explore a neighborhood: the diamond district, the garment district, the meatpacking district. Soon, she made money out of her passion, writing articles for various magazines.

"Death and Life" emerged from her reporting. Not only did it attack canonical beliefs in city planning, it attacked such canonical figures as Moses, for his dogmatic attachment to the automobile, and historian Lewis Mumford, author of "The Culture of Cities," for his misguided attachment to the anti-city philosophy.

Jacobs thought cities suffered from an anti-city bias among planners, the romanticization of a more rural way of life. Because of this, she wrote, vital communities were being torn down simply because they were "crowded," other neighborhoods were fatally isolated and parks were being constructed without regard to their surrounding environment.

In later works, she examined the ideas outlined in "Death and Life" from other perspectives: "Cities and the Wealth of Nations," the economy; "Systems of Survival," morals; "The Nature of Economies," science and ecology. Her final book was "Dark Age Ahead" in 2004.

Jacobs is survived by three children, James, Edward and Mary.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

"Audit Faults Staten Island Yankees" NY Times 04/25/06


New York Times, April 25, 2006

The Staten Island Yankees owe the city $570,202 in utility fees and late payment charges, according to an audit issued yesterday by City Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr. The audit also accused the minor-league baseball team of failing to properly count and report attendance. The team has a 20-year lease with the city's Economic Development Corporation for exclusive use of the Richmond County Bank Ballpark. The audit noted that the comptroller's office and the team disagreed on how to properly count attendance. Josh Getzler, an owner of the team and its chief operating officer, said the team has "been working closely with the E.D.C. to satisfy all of the comptroller's concerns."


"S.I. Yanks balked on bills, audit finds" NY Daily News 04/25/06

Maybe Hal Steinbrenner can ask for a subsidy from the city just like his daddy, George, does?

S.I. Yanks balked on bills, audit finds

NY Daily News, April 25, 2006

Their season hasn't even started yet, but the Staten Island Yankees took a pounding yesterday - in a city audit claiming the team owes $570,202 in unpaid utility costs and other bills.

The money is owed for electricity, sewer and water charges, Controller William Thompson said in the audit, who also smacked the team's methods of counting attendance, which determines how much rent it pays to the city for its stadium.

The team's majority owners are Stanley Getzler and his son, Josh. A 49% interest is held by Hal Steinbrenner, son of George Steinbrenner, principal owner of the New York Yankees.

Frank Lombardi

"Stadium costs out of the park" MetroNY 04/25/06

Stadium costs out of the park

my view by neil demause

APR 25, 2006 Metro NY

Anyone who’s tried to follow the twists and turns of the Yanks’ and Mets’ stadiums will be forgiven for wanting a scorecard. First the Yankees claimed Yankee Stadium would be preserved as a “heritage field” and museum; then it turned out the House That Ruth Built would be razed to make way for replacement softball fields. And now, after Mayor Bloomberg insisted no public money would be spent on new stadiums, the Independent Budget Office reports that city and state taxpayers would actually be on the hook for about half a billion dollars.

What’s going on? In part, the funny numbers reflect a shift in the stadium game as it’s been played the last two decades. Hitting up taxpayers for stadium cash, it turned out, wasn’t too popular with those stuck with the bills. Instead, teams have increasingly made use of hidden subsidies so convoluted that it’d take a fleet of economists to decipher them.

Pennsylvania introduced “tax-increment financing,” where teams take money they normally would pay in sales and property taxes and instead use it on stadium costs. (As one legislator quipped: “It’s not a grant. It’s not a loan. It’s a groan.”) The St. Louis Cardinals negotiated a $45 million public “loan” that they can repay by deeding their new stadium back to the county — in 30 years, when it will likely be ready for the wrecking ball anyway. And new Oakland A’s owner Lew Wolff has declared he’ll do without stadium subsidies if he instead is granted lucrative development rights to build condos.

Likewise, for the Yanks and Mets, Bloomberg ditched Rudy Giuliani’s promise to pay up-front stadium costs, but has instead piled on goodies at the back end. The teams would pay no property taxes, no sales taxes on construction materials and no mortgage recording taxes; where under Giuliani the teams would have paid a share of gate receipts as rent, the city would now get bupkis. The Mets would no longer have to share parking revenues with the public, even though cars would use the same Shea Stadium lots. And access to cheap city-floated tax-exempt bonds alone would save the teams a combined $277 million.

In the end, all the under-the-table subsidies could stick the public with just as much of the bill as George Steinbrenner and Fred Wilpon. And while taxpayers would get next to nothing in return — the IBO says there’s “little reason to expect a large gain in local economic activity” — the teams would reap all the new revenues from luxury boxes, concessions malls and the like.

It’s a stunning turn of events, especially when you consider these are two of the most valuable teams in baseball — the Yanks are No. 1, the Mets are No. 3, according to Forbes’ latest rankings — thanks to being able to tap the enormous New York media market. But even though the city holds all the cards, it’s nonetheless bent over backwards to hand over the keys to the treasury.

The City Council has one last chance to demand that these deals be reworked, or stop them entirely, when it votes on the bond issues later this week. Let’s hope that this time our elected officials mind the fine print.

Neil deMause is the co-author of “Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money Into Private Profit.”

Monday, April 24, 2006

"Taxpayers to foot demolition bill" amNY 04/24/06

Taxpayers to foot demolition bill


April 24, 2006

The city of New York owns Yankee Stadium and taxpayers will be paying to take it down.

The original estimate was $23.9 million, but Parks Department spokesman Ashe Reardon said that's been revised to $15.6 million for the demolition of the stadium and some buildings along the Harlem River waterfront.

Shea Stadium, on the other hand, will be demolished by the Mets rather than the city, Reardon said.

The Yanks will play their last season at the old stadium in 2008. For the following nine to 12 months fans will get a different kind of show as cranes get to work taking down the upper decks and the rest follows. Asbestos and lead paint removal are expected to last a month, and the stadium's steel frame will be salvaged for scrap.

The demolition company will be chosen at a future date by a competitive bidding process, Reardon said.

An icon vanishes
In the original plan, released last year, some of the field-level seats would have been preserved as well as the field itself. But in order to connect the field to adjacent parkland, the original field and other remnants of the stadium will disappear. The field is currently about 10 feet below the level of the sidewalk and will be raised, and a new baseball field put on top. The new park will open in 2010.

A collector's bonanza
Posterity's loss will be the collector's gain as the city sells off every salable piece of the stadium. Want to watch the game in the same seat you saw A-Rod hit that homer? The almost 57,000 seats will be on sale. According to the New York City Industrial Development Agency, the city expects to get $10 million by selling off parts of the storied stadium.

"No landmark status for Yankee Stadium" amNY 04/24/06

No landmark status for Yankee Stadium


April 24, 2006

Despite the decades of history attached to Yankee Stadium, including the distinction of being the first ballpark to be called a "stadium," rather than a "field" or "park," the structure has never been designated a historic landmark.

Landmark status would have protected it from demolition, but state and city agencies agreed last year that a major renovation during 1974 and 1975 had drastically changed the stadium from the 1923 original.

The renovation caused the stadium to lose its signature facade. The playing field also was lowered. Ten rows of seats were added to the upper decks, and three escalator towers were installed on the exterior.

With these and other renovations, officials said the stadium had lost its historic significance and any chance at government protection from demolition

"Are Yankees courting their own curse?" amNY 04/24/06

Are Yankees courting their own curse?


April 24, 2006

The house that Babe Ruth built by hitting balls out of the park now has a date with the wrecking ball, and demolition plans have set off a backlash that has little to do with the loss of parkland or increased traffic, and everything to do with nostalgia.

Having cleared all but a few financial and legal hurdles, the Yankees are planning to build a new stadium across the street from their 83-year-old home. The structure should be finished for the 2009 season, and the most tangible symbol of four generations of Yankees fans will be eradicated soon afterward.

"If there are baseball gods the Yankees will be punished for this," said Jim Bouton, a Yankees pitcher from 1962 to 1968. "The curse of Babe Ruth is going to come visiting on them, saying, 'You've paved over my hallowed ground for a few bucks.'"

Although a number of high-profile players such as Reggie Jackson have come out in favor of the new stadium, other players and baseball historians, not to mention fans, are talking as though the family dog is going to be put down.

"Nothing in athletics compares to Yankee Stadium," said Ron Blomberg, whose new book "Designated Hebrew" talks about his experience as a Jewish player for the Yankees from 1971 to 1976. "For me, it's the most nostalgic place in the whole world."

Nor is the enchantment of playing at Yankee Stadium lost on younger players like Alex Rodriguez.

"You're entrenched in the history of the franchise here," he said.

"[Playing here] is a great responsibility," he said in 2004 when Newsday asked him about playing in the stadium that carried the Yankees to 26 championships wins, and where Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio pranced in center field.

The team said it is unfeasible to rebuild or renovate the stadium on the current site. Some observers say a 1970s renovation stripped it of its architectural worth.

The New-York Historical Society is hosting a program on Yankee Stadium history this Thursday, and among the speakers is Bert Sugar, author of 10 books about baseball.

"Business-wise it makes sense to put up a new stadium," he said. "George Steinbrenner knows how to maximize profits … But imitations of any kind in life are not the same."

Still, Sugar predicted that fans will come to love the new stadium if the Yanks start winning championships. He said new stadiums have a way of bringing good luck to teams.

"Suppose they open a new stadium and start winning big. The old stadium will be in the rear view mirror before you know it."

Plans for the new stadium include restaurants and a Yankees museum that would be open on non-game days. The famous Monument Park that pays homage to Yankee greats will be moved over to the new stadium, and the original façade will be recreated. The dimensions and direction of the playing field are going to be the same.

"In the design there is a great respect for the history and tradition of the original stadium," said Alice McGillion, a spokesperson for the stadium project.

But for countless fans like Louis DiLullo, who edits, any new stadium will always be second best.

"When you tear it down there will be no more Babe Ruth, no more Lou Gehrig. no more Joe DiMaggio," he said. "They can move all the stuff over to the new stadium, but when you're are sitting at Yankee Stadium now, you're sitting where Babe Ruth sat."

Sunday, April 23, 2006

“Eastment Heads Protesting Group” NY Times 02/23/60

That is no typo. This article from 1960 shows how the Yankees are not and were not the warm, fuzzy romantic all-American image of baseball. Let's face it, baseball is organized sports; it's a business. It's all about the GREEN, money. Our centralized Macombs Dam and John Mullaly Park held world-class and neighborhood sports events since its conception. The NY Times index is full with articles about sports events in Macombs. Even this 1960 article reveals how important the park is to our children and city residents. Some things never change -- until we were sold-out by our Bronx council members and borough president.

Eastment Heads Protesting Group” NY Times Feb 23, 1960

Macombs Dam Park Needed by City for Recreation, Manhattan Coach Says

By Joseph M. Sheehan

Strenuous objections were filed yesterday against proposals that Macombs Dam Park br converted to use as an auxiliary parking area for Yankee Stadium.

George Eastment, the track coach at Manhattan College and a member of the coaching staff for the 1960 United States Olympic team, presented the protest as spokesman of the Metropolitan track Coaches Association.

“I don’t think a problem of private enterprise should be solved by depriving youngsters of an opportunity for recreation,” said Eastment at the weekly track writers luncheon at Leone’s Restaurant.

Track Heavily Used

Probably no track in the United States is used as heavily as Macombs Park. It’s a fair estimate that on any given day during the training season 2,000 grammar and high school, college and club athletes work out there.

“In addition, the park facilities are used extensively for baseball, softball, football and soccer by schools, clubs, industrial leagues and such organizations as the Little League, Babe Ruth League, Police Athletic League and Catholic Youth Organization.

By reason of location, it’s the most convenient all-round sport facility in the city. Even if substitute facilities were provided, losing Macombs Dam Park would put a lot of deserving young people to extra trouble and added travel expense.

“The Metropolitan Track Coaches Association is drafting a letter to Mayor Wagner and Robert Moses emphasizing these points and putting our opposition on the record.”

The New York Yankees, concerned over the lack of parking space in the vicinity of their 67,000-seat ballpark, had proposed to city authorities that Macombs Dam Park, which is adjacent to the Stadium be made available as a parking area.

Officials of the ball club have argued that, as an established organization, the Yankees deserved at least that much consideration in view of the endorsement by municipal officials of the plan to build at public expense a $20,000,000 stadium in Flushing Meadow for New York’s proposed Continental League baseball team.

Friday, April 21, 2006

"Yankees hit a billion" NY Daily News 04/21/06

Congrats, George! You have a billion-dollar enterprise in the poorest congressional district in the country but are not ashamed to ask for $480 million in taxpayer subsidies, steal our Macombs Dam Park, and tear down the House-That-Ruth-Built.

Yankees hit a billion

Friday, April 21st, 2006

George Steinbrenner now has a billion reasons to be happy he's the Boss of the Yankees.

The Bronx Bombers have become the first Major League Baseball franchise to be valued at more than $1 billion.

Forbes magazine crunched the numbers and found the Yankees' value increased 8% over the past year to $1.026 billion to be exact. "The numbers speak for themselves. That's a good score," Yankees spokesman Howard Rubenstein said last night.

Steinbrenner bought the team for a mere $10 million in 1973, an investment that has paid off an incredible 100-fold.

The storied franchise earned revenues of $354 million last year, mostly from its lucrative cable network and sponsors, according to Forbes. Also boosting its bottom line are the 3 million-plus fans the team's All-Star lineup drew last season.

Because of its bloated $200 million payroll, the Yankees paid $77 million in revenue sharing and $34 million in luxury tax.

Despite the glowing numbers, the Bombers reported an operating loss of $50 million last year.

The archrival Boston Red Sox came in second with a value of $617 million.

The Mets were valued at $604 million, a 20% increase from last year.

The defending World Series champion Chicago White Sox, were 18th on the list with a value of $305 million.

The least valued team was the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, a perennial cellar dweller worth $209 million.

The biggest winner was the Washington Nationals, whose value rose a whopping 42% after the franchise moved out of Montreal last year. The Nationals' franchise, valued at $440 million and is up for sale, is owned by Major League Baseball.

"Steinbrenner's Tax Shelter" Forbes Magazine 05/08/06

Steinbrenner's Tax Shelter
Michael Ozanian and Lesley Kump 05.08.06

Baseball's revenue-sharing system has penalized George Steinbrenner for creating value. The new Yankee Stadium will help him lessen the damage.

Bankrolled by their cable money, by far the most in baseball, the Yankees were able to capture four World Series titles from 1996 through 2000 and barely missed a fifth title in 2001. Their success revived an age-old lament: The Yanks were monopolizing baseball. They could outbid other teams for the game's best players.

Solution: socialism. Beginning with the 2003 season, a new, four-year Major League Baseball agreement raised the level of redistribution in the sport. It increased from 20% to 34% the percentage of certain revenue streams (primarily luxury suites, tickets and local television, minus certain costs) that rich teams had to chip into a pot handed to poor teams. It also instituted a tax on player payrolls over $117 million ($136.5 million in 2006).

Last season baseball transferred $300 million from 14 rich teams to 16 teams with the lowest revenues. Of that amount the Yankees, with revenues of $354 million, kicked in $77 million, while the second-largest contributor, the Boston Red Sox, chipped in $51 million. On last season's league-high payroll of $223 million, George Steinbrenner also paid a tax of $34 million, money that MLB used to cover overhead.
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Steinbrenner is being penalized for success. Having paid $10 million in 1973 for a lousy team, he has leveraged the Yankee brand by creating a regional sports network, raking in $62 million last year, $16 million more than the crosstown Mets took home in cable revenue. The Yanks also got $49 million from sponsors. Despite the stiff league taxes, Steinbrenner's gushing revenues make his team worth $1 billion by our estimate. Steinbrenner and his family own 80% of the franchise.

What does a taxpayer do when rates go up? Find a tax shelter. It seems that Steinbrenner has one in the form of a 51,000-seat stadium.

New York City will borrow the $800 million cost of a new stadium to be opened in the Bronx in time (it is hoped) for the 2009 season. The team will pay the city $55 million a year in lieu of certain taxes and the money used to pay off the bonds. This debt service, along with $25 million in operating and maintenance expenses, is deductible against the revenues that are subject to the 34% tax. Once the new stadium is in place, the Yanks will save $7.8 million a year in revenue-sharing taxes if they amortize their stadium-financing cost over the life of their 40-year lease, according to sports economist Andrew Zimbalist, author of the recently published In the Best Interests of Baseball? (Wiley, 2006).

One baseball executive estimates that the new stadium will boost the Yankees' revenue by $45 million a year from such things as tickets and luxury suites. The Yankees will earn more from nonbaseball events like concerts and save the $5 million a year in rent that they pay at their current stadium. All told, the new stadium should increase the team's bottom line (after league assessments but before state and federal taxes) by roughly $25 million a year, according to insiders familiar with the team's finances.

With a stadium windfall like that for the Yankees, don't be surprised if MLB tries to rewrite the revenue-sharing rules before Steinbrenner settles into his new home.

"IBO cries foul" MetroNY 04/21/06

IBO cries foul
New report critical of Mets plan

by patrick arden / metro new york

APR 21, 2006

MANHATTAN — At the behest of angry Queens City Council members, the Independent Budget Office yesterday released an analysis of the city’s financing scheme for a new Mets stadium.

The IBO weighed the costs of government subsidies and tax exemptions, as well as the team’s use of $528 million in tax-exempt bonds, before concluding the Mets will save $298 million over 40 years on its $632 million stadium. But the city’s cost will be $177 million, and the state will be down another $89 million.

The city puts the economic benefit of the Mets’ stadium at $48 million over 40 years. But that ignores lost parking revenue, which the IBO estimates at $80 million. “Simply including that item,” the IBO states, “would switch the fiscal impact from a net positive to a net negative.”

PILOT problems

The IBO has already issued a separate report on the plan for a new Yankee Stadium, which calls for $866 million in tax-exempt bonds. It concluded the financing schemes for both stadiums depend on “an aggressive interpretation” of the law. The city has asked the IRS to rule on the plans’ legality.

In 1986 Congress tried to curb the use of tax-exempt bonds for stadiums by requiring that 90 percent of the debt must be paid off with funds that would normally go to the city. The city claims the Mets and Yankees will pay off their bonds with payments in lieu of property taxes, or PILOTs, though neither team currently pays property taxes. IBO deputy director George Sweeting has noted the Yankees are actually repaying this debt with stadium revenue rather than money that would go to “general public revenues.”

The Yankees would need $66 million a year to pay off its bonds, the IBO said, but the team’s property taxes would equal just $39 million. The Mets will shell out $40 million annually to service its bonds, but IBO put the team’s 2010 tax bill at only $27.6 million.

The city has claimed that hundred of millions will be saved on maintenance costs when the teams move into new stadiums. But since the city will no longer be collecting rent, the IBO pegs the city’s savings over a 40-year period at just $15 million for the Yankees stadium and $31 million for the Mets ballpark.

Victory uncertain

“The Mets are getting a sweetheart deal,” said City Councilman Hiram Monserrate, who represents the area around Shea and has pushed for a community partnership agreement. “Without a promise to give anything back to the community, it’s clear the costs and benefits of this deal do not weigh in the favor of our residents.”

“If the IRS determines the PILOTs aren’t legitimate,” Queens Councilman Tony Avella added, “then the financing plans for both stadiums are in jeopardy.”

"Mets got a sweetheart deal, Queens pols say" amNY 04/21/06

Mets got a sweetheart deal, Queens pols say
By Chuck Bennett
amNewYork Staff Writer

April 21, 2006

Queens politicians say an independent report proves the Mets are getting a "sweetheart" deal that will cost the city more than originally thought.

The Independent Budget Office released a report Thursday saying the city low-balled its estimates of the real stadium costs. Direct subsidies and tax exemptions will cost the city $177 million over 40 years. At the same time, the Mets will save $298 million to build their $528 million stadium.

"Without a promise to give anything back to the community, it's clear the costs and benefits of this deal do not weigh in favor of our residents," said Councilman Hiram Monserrate (D-Queens), who believes both the Mets and the city need to pony up more cash for infrastructure improvements.

Other costs weren't considered by the city, the report found. For instance, it the city failed to consider the loss of $80 million in parking revenue over 40 years.

On April 26, the City Council is scheduled to vote on the crucial bond financing. But as first reported in amNewYork, the 14-member Queens delegation in the council has threatened to block the vote until their concerns are met. In particular, they want commitments to more funding for mass transit and traffic alleviation. Currently, the area will receive $91 million for improvement.

"Even though we have a couple of days, we are not talking a two-family home here, we are talking about a stadium. I don't know how feasible it is" to resolve those issues in such a short period of time, Monserrate said.

"We remain optimistic that between now and the date of the scheduled vote we will be able to move ahead and address these community concerns," said Maria Alvarado, a spokeswoman for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

"Queens Councilmen seek sweet deal with the Mets" MetroNy 04/20/06

Queens Councilmen seek sweet deal with the Mets

by patrick arden / metro new york

APR 20, 2006

CORONA — At the unveiling of plans for a new Mets’ ballpark two weeks ago, Mayor Michael Bloomberg scolded Queens Councilmen who were trying to negotiate a community benefits agreement with the team. He called their threats to stall the project a “demand to get some ransom.”

The popular view of Shea Stadium has the park isolated from residential areas. (Photo: Patrick Arden/Metro)

Councilman Tony Avella said the mayor’s comments were “overblown.”

“It’s not appropriate for him to be silent during the Yankees’ negotiations with Bronx officials and then to come out against our negotiations with the Mets,” he responded yesterday. “He’s not consistent.”

The Yankees agreed to a $50 million deal in the Bronx. The Mets balked at the $1 million requested by Queens lawmakers.

No agreement

“The administration always tries to slip things through the public review process by splitting up projects,” Avella said, referring to the new Mets’ stadium and a plan to redevelop neighboring Willets Point. “The redevelopment of Willets Point will greatly impact traffic and other environmental issues. We asked the administration’s people, how can you not do something about the traffic when you’ve got this other project? ‘Well,’ they said, ‘that’s a whole other issue.’

“No, you can’t do that. You know darn well you’re going to redevelop an area right across the street from the stadium. You can’t play games here — just admit these two projects are tied together.”

Similar complaints were dismissed over the ties between the new Yankee Stadium and the neighboring Gateway Mall project at the Bronx Terminal Market.

Avella’s concerns are shared by the area’s other Council members, John Liu and Hiram Monserrate. Yesterday Monserrate added Councilman Leroy Comrie as another strong proponent of a benefits agreement with the Mets, though Comrie represents St. Albans and Jamaica. When asked how long the delegation could delay approving the Mets’ financing plan, Monserrate said, “Until it’s dead.”

In Shea’s shadow

Roosevelt Avenue remained clogged two hours after the Mets lost yesterday. Dozens of cars stayed in the parking lot, waiting for traffic to die down.

Across the Grand Central Parkway is the neighborhood of Corona. Rev. Gilbert Pickett, pastor of the Mount Horeb Baptist Church, explained the cars become overwhelming when the Mets play during the U.S. Open. He took part in a march to Shea on Tuesday night with Avella and Monserrate.

“I understand there’s a committee of politicians dealing with the Mets, and I’m sorry they didn’t put any community leaders on that committee,” Pickett said. “Let’s face it: Queens is Queens, but Jamaica is not going to be affected by the flow of traffic or parking issues.

“My main concerns are traffic and jobs,” he said. “Three years’ worth of construction jobs would go a long way toward helping people in this community, and they should be given consideration.”

Extra innings?

• Next week the City Council will vote on both stadium-financing plans.

• The teams are seeking tax-exempt bonds to fund their new stadiums. The IRS has yet to approve the scheme.

• On Monday Avella sent out a letter calling on the Mets and the Yankees to support Little Leagues in exchange for “reaping huge tax breaks from the City.”

• “The delegation last met with the Mets several weeks ago, and I don’t think we’re close to an agreement,” Avella said.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

"Council members may hold up Mets stadium vote" amNY 04/19/06

Council members may hold up Mets stadium vote
By Chuck Bennett

April 19, 2006

Angry City Council members may halt a crucial vote on financing for a new Mets stadium if their demands for investment in traffic alleviation, mass transit and other concerns aren't met.

"I think it would be imprudent to move on this vote until these issues are resolved," said Queens Councilman Hiram Monserrate. "We are still in the fourth inning we got five innings to go and at the end of the day we can go into extra innings. Politics is a lot like baseball."

The full council is scheduled to vote on April 26 on $91 million in infrastructure improvements in the area around the new $800 million Mets stadium, slated to be built in Shea Stadium's parking lot.

Ground is scheduled to be broken on the new ballpark this summer.

"It seems like the infrastructure they are talking about is the foundation of the stadium," said Councilman John Liu of Queens.

Council aides say the majority of the powerful 14-member Queens delegation in the Council want more investment to make sure game days don't make the already heavy traffic problems even worse.

Many members are looking at the $165 million commitment the Bronx received for a new Yankees Stadium.

"My vote is contingent on this and other issues, I'm not going to sell out my constituents to just say 'look we got a new stadium,'" said Councilman Tony Avella, also from Queens and self-described Mets fan.

The Queens council members are calling for commitments to expand service on the 7 train, a renovated Long Island Rail Road on the Port Washington line, better traffic control, new streets and sewers.

And if they don't get those commitments they could demand City Council Speaker Christine Quinn halt the vote next week.

"We still anticipate moving forward with the vote on the 26th as scheduled but we are going to continue to work to ensure the community concerns are addressed," said Maria Alvarado, Quinn's spokeswoman.

Council aides, however, say it will be tough for Quinn to resist the Queens delegation because it was instrumental in her election to the speaker's office.

When asked about the possible delay, Mayor Bloomberg's press office referred to comments he made earlier this month at the Mets Stadium this announcement.

"Every development project in this city is not just going to be a horn of plenty for everybody else that wants to grab something," he said. "We want to attract development here."

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

"Council plays ball" in the Daily News, 4/18/6

Council plays ball

City set to hear pitches for two new stadiums


The owners of the Yankees and Mets are heading for a big showdown with the City Council next week.
The stakes are humongous financing deals the city and the teams have put together to build new stadiums.

And - hold on to your hats - the combined cost of the Siamese deals is nearly $2 billion. To be exact, it's $1.169 billion for the Yankees and $798 million for the Mets.

Holy cow, who will pay?

For a change, you'll be surprised it won't be entirely the taxpayers - as was the case when the city built Shea Stadium in the early 1960s, at a reported cost of $25.5 million, or rebuilt Yankee Stadium in the early 1970s.

This time around, the two teams will pay the lion's share of the financing deals - $1.562 billion, or 79.4%. The city and state taxpayers will pay for $405 million, or 20.6%.

But what about overruns?

The Yankee Stadium reconstruction was supposed to cost $25 million and ended up costing taxpayers $100 million.

This time both teams are legally committed to paying for overruns. That might explain why the construction estimates are so high - $733 million for the new Yankee Stadium and $574.4 million for the Mets' new stadium. The financing deals include other costs borne by the teams.

So what will taxpayers have to pay for?

The financing packages the Council is expected to approve April 26 call for the city and state to pay for infrastructure improvements around each stadium.

The city is to spend $91.4 million for infrastructure work around the Mets' stadium and $164.7 million for Yankee Stadium. The state will spend $74.7million for each stadium.

So, what's in it for the Mets and Yankees?

To build a house, most people, unless they're Tony Soprano, borrow money - they take out a mortgage. It costs money to borrow money. And that's how the city is giving the Yankees and Mets a sweet deal.

A city entity called the Industrial Development Agency will help the teams finance their construction by selling bonds to private investors - $632 million for the Mets and $930 million for the Yankees.

Most of the IDA bonds will be tax free - $528 million of the Mets' bonds and $866 million of the Yankees' bonds. That tax-free feature will save each of the teams "tens of millions of dollars" in borrowing costs, city officials testified.

But won't the Yankees and Mets have to pay the bonds back with interest costs?

Yes, of course. But they won't pay any city property taxes, though the teams will assume maintenance and future capital costs).

Instead of taxes, the teams will pay off the IDA bonds through what is known as payments in lieu of taxes, or PILOTS. By law, the Council has to approve PILOTS.

Council estimates are that the Yankees' PILOTS could be as high as $62.5 million a year for 35 to 40 years, the Mets' as high as $50.4 million a year.

Originally published on April 18, 2006

Monday, April 17, 2006

"Plastic parks: Is synthetic turf a wise move?" MetroNY 04/17/06

Plastic parks
Is synthetic turf a wise move?

by patrick arden / metro new york

APR 17, 2006

UPPER WEST SIDE Four acres of new athletic fields opened in Riverside Park last week. From a distance yesterday the $3.9 million project looked lush and green, but a closer inspection of one of the soccer fields at 107th Street revealed thin plastic strips poking out of loose rubber crumbs.

Bill Crain holds the rubber crumbs that serve as “soil” in one of the new synthetic-turf fields in Riverside Park yesterday. (Photo: Bill Lyons/metro)

Deborah Peretz’s children liked to run on the springy surface, but she was concerned about the acrid scent. “You can smell the rubber,” she noted.

Two years ago Bill Crain tried to stop the Parks Dept. from using synthetic turf. The director of Citizens for a Green Riverside Park collected 600 signatures and brought the petition to the office of Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, where he came upon a display case dedicated to what he calls plastic grass. “It was like an altar,” Crain said.

“When we can grow real grass, we much prefer to,” explained Amy Freitag, the department’s deputy commissioner for capital projects, who said synthetic turf has mostly replaced asphalt and football and soccer fields. “We find the amount of demand in the city far exceeds what the grass fields can take.”

Crain said the real problem is maintenance — the fields in Riverside Park were last refurbished 12 years ago. He’s worried that the use of synthetic turf will grow, as the city buys into an easy solution to its lack of funds for regular park maintenance.

While Freitag was “not aware of any additional plans to add synthetic turf in Riverside,” Crain has attended meetings of community boards 7 and 9 when two separate plans for synthetic turf were discussed, including a spot near 63rd Street where “people simply sit and relax.” Synthetic turf is also slated for Yankee Stadium’s replacement parks and the Brooklyn War Memorial in Cadman Plaza Park.

“It’s like ‘the Blob’ — the thing that keeps expanding unless we stop it,” Crain said. “We want to preserve what little nature is left in the city.”

Fake grass saves money, parks, city says

UPPER WEST SIDE For his fight against the city’s use of synthetic turf in Riverside Park, Bill Crain located an environmental lawyer who happened to live in his neighborhood.

“I initially didn’t think the problem was that serious, but I got involved because it was my community,” said Joel Kupferman, executive director of the New York Environmental Law & Justice Project. “Then as I researched more and more I became more and more upset. Rubber is a dirty business with bad chemicals. When kids slide into this turf, the rubber crumbs come up, and they ingest it.

“We should be looking at the whole life-cycle of the product. There is a disposal problem, so they’ll have to send it somewhere and make that someone else’s problem forever. Also, if this stuff catches on fire, it’s toxic — there are noxious fumes.”

That makes him worried about drainage, too, as the Riverside Park playing fields overlook the Hudson River.

The Parks Dept. thinks these problems are overstated. Out of its 800 athletic fields, only 67 have been slated for synthetic turf.

“Where we now have asphalt or dirt fields, we’re putting synthetic turf that people love,” said Keith Kerman, the Parks Dept.’s chief of operations, who notes that synthetic-turf athletic fields in Manhattan get 50 percent more requests for play than natural-turf fields. While the synthetic turf will get hotter in the summer, he said, “It’s certainly cooler than asphalt.”

Kerman said the average synthetic-turf field will last for 10 years, compared to five years “at best” for grass. “A synthetic-turf football field costs about $1.4 million to install, while a natural grass field costs $700,000,” he explained. “Since to really maintain the quality you have to do the grass twice, from a capital standpoint over a ten-year period they more or less cost the same. But there is very little maintenance cost for a synthetic-turf field.

“These fields are alleviating maintenance concerns and letting us dedicate maintenance costs elsewhere,” Kerman said. “They’re less expensive in total and most of the cost is capital. The truth is, if we got additional resources, why wouldn’t you want to put them elsewhere anyway?”

“They always say they have to redo things because there’s not enough budget for maintenance,” said Kupferman. “They build something with a great capital outlay, and what happens in five years? They won’t maintain it, so it will look horrible.”

"Swinging at Mets project" MetroNY 04/14/06

Swinging at Mets project

by patrick arden / metro new york

APR 14, 2006

CITY HALL — As the City Council is set to vote later this month on the financing plans to build new stadiums for the Yankees and Mets, Councilman Hiram Monserrate, D-Queens, sent a letter yesterday to the Internal Revenue Service for clarification on the legality of the city’s use of tax-exempt bonds to fund the Mets project.

Monserrate, who represents the area around Shea Stadium, has come under fire recently for trying to negotiate a community benefits agreement with the Mets similar to the pact Bronx politicians negotiated with the Yankees.

“Community benefits have nothing to do with the administration being prudent in their approach,” said Monserrate, who’d like the IRS determination before the Council vote on April 26.

He also sent a letter to the Parks Dept. yesterday asking for a new Environmental Impact Statement on the Mets Ballpark, because the city is relying on one completed in 2001.

“As the Council member who represents the area, it is diligence on my part to make sure there is transparency,” Monserrate said. “As every day goes by and the more I read, quite frankly, I have more questions.”

Earlier this week the Independent Budget Office called the Yankees financing scheme to repay $866 million in tax-exempt bonds with payments in lieu of property taxes, or PILOTs, a “very aggressive interpretation” of the law, because the team does not currently pay property taxes and large payments are required to service the debt. The city is giving the Mets a similar deal, with the team seeking $528 million in tax-exempt bonds.

"Report: Yanks gave funds to key pols" MetroNY 04/14/06

Report: Yanks gave funds to key pols

by patrick arden / metro new york

APR 14, 2006

MANHATTAN — The New York Yankees spent $1,049,621 lobbying for a new stadium in Albany and the city since 2003, according to a report released yesterday by Common Cause/NY. Executives from the team and the YES Network also contributed $25,600 to the campaigns of city and state politicians, including $2,000 for City Council Land Use Committee Chair Melinda Katz, $500 for Finance Committee Chair David Weprin, and $9,850 for Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion.

“It’s a fascinating contrast to the West Side stadium, which saw one of the most expensive lobbying campaigns on a single issue,” said Megan Quattlebaum, associate director of Common Cause/NY. “The two sides — the Jets and Cablevision — ended up spending more than $40 million. In the Yankee Stadium debate, you have one voice. The Yankees consistently and quietly hired lobbyists and made campaign contributions on the state and city levels, but the opposition to the stadium came from community groups who couldn’t hire competing lobbyists.

“On the West Side, it was Goliath versus Goliath. The Yankee Stadium debate was more of the classic David versus Goliath.”

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Common Cause/NY press release

As New Yankee Stadium Appears Headed for Victory, Common Cause/NY Releases Data on Lobby Spending

(April 13 NYC) Today, Common Cause/NY released new data showing that the New York Yankees have spent $1,049,621 lobbying for a new stadium in Albany and New York City since 2003. The Yankees owner, president and COO have also given $25,600 in campaign contributions on the state and city levels during the same time period.

This month, the City Council voted by a large margin to support the project, though a second Council vote on the stadium financing plan remains for later in April. Last year, the state legislature introduced in June and passed in July a bill that cleared the way for the Yankees to use city-owned parkland to build their stadium.

"The seeming success of the Yankees in securing a new stadium makes an interesting contrast to the West Side stadium debate of the last few years," said Megan Quattlebaum, Common Cause/NY's Associate Director. "With the West Side stadium, we saw two companies with an amazing capacity to engage in political spending raging a loud and expensive public debate over the issue. With the Yankees, you have one company lobbying quietly but consistently in Albany and New York City, and no other voice in the debate."

Since January 2003, the Yankees have spent a total of $1,049,621 lobbying in New York City and in Albany, according to their filings with the New York Temporary State Commission on Lobbying. To conduct their campaign they hired powerful insider lobbyists, including Powers and Co. headed by former aide to U.S. Senator Al D'Amato and former Chairman of the New York State Republican Party William Powers. They also hired Brian R. Meara Public Relations, headed by Brian Meara, commonly described in the press as a close friend of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

The Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network, launched in 2002 by Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who now owns 60% of the network, has spent $270,850 in campaign contributions since 2003 and spent $340,416 lobbying on the state and city levels during the same time period. The YES Network does not list lobbying on the stadium on its reports.

The analysis is part of the "Connect the Dots" series, which seeks to educate the general public about how money in politics influences a wide variety of issues in New York.

Common Cause/NY is a citizen's lobby with more than 20,000 members across New York State whose goal is open and accountable government

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Wishy-washy Joshua Laird

It looks like Joshua Laird is willing to change his theories on parking depending on the project that he is pushing. The South Bronx is told, "don't worry - parking built in your parkland won't cause more traffic." But look what he said to this crowd in Williamsburg and Greenpoint. You can find the full article by clicking the title.

"That brought them to the very important, but heretofore unmentioned issue of parking. In the blown-up photographs provided by Walcavage and her staff - featuring the familiar fluorescent green rim superimposed along the land's edge - there was no indication of where any parking lots would be built. The audience member implied that it was a reasonably safe bet that boaters would be driving out to Brooklyn. "One thing about the boating population: If you can afford to have a boat on the East River...," he said, trailing off.

"Laird, who also serves as the assistant of Natural Resources for the Parks Department, agreed with him. However, he said that not advertising parking might be better for keeping traffic in the surrounding community down. "There are two schools of thought on [this]," he said. "We can either build parking, or we can say 'This is New York. People have a way of getting where they need to go.' If we put in parking, we're sending a message: 'Drive on down here. We have parking'."

"City got Yanked around" in the Daily News, 4/6/6

This is a column by Juan Gonzalez that slipped through our fingers last week. Click the title to read it at the Daily News site.

How much is that stadium in the window?

Remember all those times the Yankees and our beloved borough president crowed that the Yankees were paying for the stadium all by themselves, at no cost to the taxpayer?

Well, this is what the Independent Budget Office has to say:

"The plan for financing a new stadium for the Yankees includes direct subsidies and exemptions from state and local taxes as well as access to tax-exempt bonds for building the stadium. Over a 30-year period, these subsidies and exemptions would cost the city $170 million (present value) and the state an additional $85 million. For the Yankees, these benefits, including savings that result from the use of tax exempt bond financing, add up to $276 million over 30 years (present value)."

Click the title above to read all five pages of the IBO's testimony at the hearings down at City Hall this week.

"New trees in game plan for Stadium" in Daily News, 4/12/6

New trees in game plan for Stadium


Nearly 400 mature trees are going to get the ax to make way for the new Yankee Stadium - although the city vows to replace them with up to 12,000 young trees.

A Parks Department spokesman, Ashe Reardon, said yesterday that the replacement trees will be "of all different sizes and shapes" and will cost about $14 million.

The tree replacement plan was cited by Joshua Laird, chief of planning for the Parks Department, during testimony Monday at a City Council hearing on the financing arrangement for the $1.2 billion plan to build a new Yankee Stadium. Plans call for the new ballpark on appropriated parkland next to the Yankees' current South Bronx home.

Laird said the intention is to replace removed trees "wood for wood" with an equivalent amount of trees, not just one sapling for each adult tree that is removed.

As with other aspects of the multifaceted stadium plan, the tree removal cuts against the grain with opposition groups - who have yet to give up their fight to block the new stadium.

"By their own admission, the replacement trees won't reach maturity for 15 to 20 years," said Geoffrey Croft, president of the nonprofit group New York City Park Advocates and a leading stadium opponent. "And even then, they won't reach the size of the trees that will be chopped down - some of them have been there for 75 years."

The City Council has approved the land-use measures needed by the stadium plan and is expected to approve the issuance of $930 million in financing bonds on April 26.

Croft said the parkland aspect still needs approval from the National Park Service, which contributed some $220,000 to upgrading Macombs Dam Park in 1979. The money came with conditions requiring that "like recreational land" be provided if any portion of the park is alienated for other uses, Croft said.

The city has said it would provide more than 22 acres of replacement parkland and recreational facilities surrounding the new stadium.

Reardon, the city parks spokesman, confirmed approval from the National Park Service is being sought.

"We're definitely working with them and are hoping for their approval," Reardon commented.

Phil Sheridan, a spokesman for the National Park Service's regional office in Philadelphia, said there have been "ongoing discussions" with city and state officials. But he couldn't predict the outcome or the timing of a decision.

Originally published on April 12, 2006

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

"Stadium Project a Raw Deal for Bronxites" in Norwood News, April 6 - 19, 2006

Stadium Project a Raw Deal for Bronxites

The Yankee Stadium project, which we oppose, has been poisoned by a total subversion of the democratic process. Though the proposal is headed for approval in the City Council as we write this, we believe it’s critical to document how public debate was consistently quashed and how poorly our elected officials have served their constituents.

The die was cast last June when the Yankees and their many political accomplices acted in virtual secrecy to award 22 acres of public parkland to the Yankees. The state legislature voted on a weekend without any public discussion, and community residents didn’t know what had happened until months later.

We are not opposed to development. But development by fiat is a bad thing. It produces bad decisions and this project is replete with them.

First and foremost, this project will take precious parkland for the stadium and parking garages. The city claims the parkland will be replaced, but most of the new parkland won’t be available for at least three years. Some of it will be in far more remote locations than the current continuous oasis of greenery that is the center of a vibrant community. And some of it will be on top of those parking garages. Asking people in one of the most asthma-prone zip codes in the country to exercise on top of a parking lot is obscene. It is also unclear whether these parks will even be available to the public on the 81 days the Yanks play at home.

The Yankees are building an additional 3,000 parking spaces, but their new stadium will have 4,000 fewer seats. Regardless of what they say, they are begging their fans to drive to the stadium and clog up neighborhood streets. This should be filed under “Urban Planning Nightmares.” It’s exactly the opposite of what should be happening.

We were staunchly opposed to the alienation of Van Cortlandt Park for the filtration plant, but at least that was a federally mandated public project. Giving away the parks (not to mention revenue from millions in tax free bonds) to the richest sports franchise on the planet is just lunacy.

For all the talk of the power of the Bronx Democratic organization, it does not know how to exact significant concessions that would benefit Bronxites.

If the organization was any good at dealing, why would Council Members Maria del Carmen Arroyo and Maria Baez, who will undoubtedly fall in line and vote for the plan, have to badger Yankee executive Randy Levine and city officials from 30 feet away in a City Council hearing room about unfulfilled requests for information about parking issues, traffic patterns, and more money to restore the unaffected portion of Mullaly Park? Why didn’t they demand those things a year ago, when they could have used their vote on the resolution that enabled the state legislature to give away Mullaly and Macombs Dam parks to get something substantial? Like keeping parking out of their constituents’ parks.

In all his public comments, Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión talks like his dreams of a hotel/convention center, a skating rink and a high school will be poured from the same concrete truck that backs up to the stadium site. But these amenities are not a part of the plan he has shepherded through the land use process. When we asked him about this, Carrión pointed to various plots of land that could accommodate these things, both south and north of the project site. “But is that a plan?” we asked. “There’s plans for it because we say there’s a plan for it,” Carrión said. “That’s how everything starts … These are all things you work to make come together. And I hope that we can make that happen.”

Unfortunately, the Land Use Committee isn’t voting on these hopes.

The sad thing is we’ll probably never know how things could have turned out if our elected officials knew how to bargain. They could have insisted that the Yankees build the new stadium on the site of the old one. Yes, the team would have had to play at Shea for three years, but they survived Flushing just fine in the 1970s. And why is it OK for the neighborhood to be without its parks for that long but such a hardship for millionaires to play baseball 15 miles away?

The Yankees trotted out all-star Reggie Jackson to help make their case at the Council hearing last week. Mr. October admitted the Yankees had a poor record in the community, but absurdly claimed that they could now be trusted.

Council Member Helen Foster, who represents Highbridge and other neighborhoods adjacent to the stadium site, was not impressed. She predicted that as soon as Randy and Reggie left the building, that the bank of television cameras would leave with them. And so they did, leaving community residents, who had waited patiently through three and a half hours of testimony from the city and the team, to listen to themselves talk while Council members flitted in and out of the hearing room.

That’s just one example of how the community has been literally and figuratively airbrushed out of this entire debate.

In a Yankee ad that appears in this newspaper, there is no sign of a community other than Yankee Land. The neighborhood of Highbridge has actually been erased from the picture.

It’s not just the Yankees, though. By his actions and in his words, Carrión has pushed his own constituents to the margins. He had nothing to say when most community residents were locked out of a hearing he held in his own office building. Union members who were bused in early took up most of the seats.

Even more disappointing are Carrión’s comments about the plant’s opponents. He called them “outside liberal agitators” on BronxTalk last month and repeated it on Brian Lehrer’s WNYC radio show this week.

Was he talking about people like Joyce Hogi, a leader of Save Our Parks, who has lived on the Grand Concourse for 30 years? Or what about the 6,000 residents who have signed the group’s petitions, or the dozens of people in the beautiful art deco apartment buildings across the street from the parks who have put “Save Macombs and Mullaly” signs in their windows?

Meanwhile, a March 27 press release faxed from Carrión’s senior policy adviser David Golovner’s fax machine on the letterhead of the New Bronx Chamber of Commerce stated, “The Bronx based community organizations will testify in support of the stadium plan that will bring jobs, business opportunities and much needed new parkland to the neighborhood. This group of organizations TRULY represents the Yankee Stadium neighborhood and the entire Bronx. The real community will stand in solidarity for a new stadium and against outside organizers with agendas that are not beneficial to the Bronx community.”

We called Lenny Caro, the spokesman named on the press release, at his 914 number, and asked him what community groups were supporting the project. “Community Board 4,” he said. But, as everyone except Mr. Caro knows, CB4 voted against the project.

It may be too late to derail this ill-conceived stadium project. (The City Council will have already voted by the time you read this, though another committee still has to sign off on the financing.) But the federal government may slow it down considerably, giving residents more time to sue over issues such as the lack of public notice on park alienation. The two parks were renovated some years ago with federal funding, and the National Park Service will not allow them to be used for something else without a thorough review. That could take months.

Maybe that delay will be enough for the Yankees and the city to take residents’ concerns seriously and begin negotiating in good faith. We’re not holding our breath, but, like the borough president, we can hope.

One last thing. The fact that Oliver Koppell, the Council member who represents Norwood and Bedford Park, supports this project confounds us. All his arguments against the taking of public parkland in the case of the filtration plant ring hollow now. It seems that it’s OK for the city to take public parkland and ignore reasonable alternatives as long as the project is not in his district. Helen Foster was one of the very few lawmakers to vote with Koppell on the filtration plant. You’d think he’d want to return the favor.

We hope that by the time this comes up for a vote in the full Council, he will realize how hypocritical his position is and change his mind.

"Doubts cast on Yanks’ financing" in Metro NY, 4/11/6

Doubts cast on Yanks’ financing

by patrick arden / metro new york

APR 11, 2006

CITY HALL — The Independent Budget Office yesterday cast doubts on a “very, very aggressive” financing scheme the city is pursuing for the proposed new Yankee Stadium.

In testimony before the City Council finance committee, IBO director Ronnie Lowenstein said IRS approval was not certain for the $866 million in tax-exempt bonds required to build the ballpark.

“They’re trying to use a loophole,” she said. “We don’t know if it will fly.”

In 1986 Congress restricted the use of tax-exempt bonds to build sports facilities, unless 90 percent of the bonds were paid off using funds that would normally go to the city in the form of taxes. The Yankees are trying to pay off their tax-exempt bonds with payments in lieu of property taxes, or PILOTs, though the team currently does not pay property taxes. The city has asked the Internal Revenue Service to rule on the plan.

Under the Yanks’ scheme, “they’re trying to make it look like they’re financing this with general public revenues, although in this case [the funds to pay off the debt are] coming from the stadium,” said IBO deputy director George Sweeting.

To make the Yankees’ plan fly, it’s “necessary to structure the agreement so that the money pledged for debt service on the bonds bears enough resemblance to a regular city tax,” Lowenstein said.

But that’s problematic as well, because of the large payments required to service $866 million worth of tax-exempt bonds.
“It is not clear that a property tax-based PILOT would be sufficient,” Lowenstein said.

The Yankees claim they’ll need between $50 and $60 million a year to service the bonds, while the IBO estimates they’ll need “about $66 million” annually. “Based on the $736 million estimated construction cost for the new stadium plus the existing land value, IBO estimates that a regular property tax bill would be about $37 million before exemptions — considerably below the annual debt service payments,” Lowenstein said.

As for the economic benefits of the stadium, “it’s hard to envision that there’s going to be tremendous or really significant impact on long-term employment,” Lowenstein said. “There is little reason to expect much gain in local economic activity beyond the three-year construction period.”

Keeping score

• The city’s direct costs for the proposed new Yankee Stadium project recently climbed 20 percent to $164.7 million, noted Council member David Weprin yesterday. The NYC Economic Development Corporation is still trying to find a developer to pick up the $250 million balance needed to build the project’s four parking garages.

Questions remain about Yankees bonds

Neil deMaus of Field of Schemes was able to attend the bond hearings yesterday. Click the title above to read what he learned, but this is what caught our eye:

"The process by which the teams would pay back the stadium bonds - paying off bondholders under the guise of "payments in lieu of property taxes," or PILOTs - is, testified city Independent Budget Office director Ronnie Lowenstein, "a very, very aggressive interpretation of the IRS code." The two main unresolved questions, according to Lowenstein: Will the IRS approve the financing scheme at all, and if it does, will the PILOT payments - which, remember, can't be more than what the stadium would pay in property tax, if it were taxed - be enough to pay off the Yanks' proposed $866 million in tax-exempt bonds? The IBO estimated it wouldn't, projecting a shortfall of about $29 million a year; the city said it would, but only by projecting that the new stadium's market value would be $1.025 billion - 40% more than its entire construction cost - while valuing the land it sits on at $204 million - even though the city finance department values the land under the current Yankee Stadium at a mere $7 million. Asked what happens if the assessed value ultimately comes in below the city's projections, city Economic Development Corporation chief Andrew Alper replied, "I'm not sure what would happen to the debt," which is hardly reassuring."

Monday, April 10, 2006

"The Score hears...Bouton brushes back Boss" in the Daily News, 4/9/6

The Score hears...Bouton brushes back Boss

By Michael O'Keeffe

Does Jim Bouton hope to get himself banned from the new Yankee Stadium?

The prodigal Yankee was not welcome at the current House that Ruth Built for almost 30 years, thanks to "Ball Four," his 1970 tell-all masterpiece that portrayed his teammates as drunken, womanizing pill-poppers. Bouton was eventually invited back to the Stadium for the 1998 Old Timers' Day.

But he may find himself on George Steinbrenner's blacklist again for his comments on the proposed new Yankee Stadium, which was overwhelmingly approved by the City Council.

Bouton says the pols should be ashamed of themselves for approving a deal that would take valuable parkland from a poor neighborhood, snarl traffic and increase pollution.

"I think former Yankees should not allow Steinbrenner to trash history," Bouton tells The Score. "They should lie down in front of the bulldozers. I'd join them myself, except I'm not sure the bulldozers would stop in my case."

Bouton's last book, "Foul Ball," was a diary of his failed efforts to save Wahconah Park, a wooden-walled stadium built in 1892 in Pittsfield, Mass., that led to years of ill will between Bouton and the city's movers and shakers. The book was recently released in an expanded paperback edition by Lyons Press.

Bouton says team owners who look for public handouts are little more than corporate welfare queens. Supporters of the Yankee Stadium deal say it makes sense because Steinbrenner will pay for the $800 million stadium himself. Opponents point out that the city's Industrial Development Agency will issue $866 million in tax-exempt bonds; the Yankees will pay off construction costs with money normally paid to the city in real estate taxes; and because the Yankees will own the new stadium, the $5 million annual rent the team currently pays to city coffers will dry up.

"How can any businessman ask for a dime in a city where kids are taking classes in stairwells?" Bouton asks. "How can you ask for money from a city that is closing firehouses?"

"Council To Discuss Infrastructure Costs For New Stadiums" on NY1, 4/10/6

Talk about burying the lede! This piece reveals that the stadium will cost around $34 MILLION DOLLARS more than the $130 million originally proposed. You'd a thunk they'd a mentioned that last week when the City Council voted on it. You'd a thunk wrong!

Read below, or click the title.

Council To Discuss Infrastructure Costs For New Stadiums

April 10, 2006

A City Council committee will begin discussing financing for infrastructure for the proposed new stadiums for the Yankees and Mets Monday.

Although both teams have agreed to pay for construction, the city has committed to helping with infrastructure costs.

The parks department now says a new Yankee stadium will cost the city around $34 million more than the original proposal which was $130 million two weeks ago.

The full Council approved the Yankee plans for construction last Wednesday.

The Mets just made their plans public on Thursday.

The Daily News reports that some Queens Council members are asking the team to sweeten the deal.

They're asking for $50 million worth of perks under something called the "Community Partnership Agreement," which the Mets haven't signed yet.

"A Yankees Station in the Bronx" in The New York Times, 4/9/6

A Yankees Station in the Bronx

Published: April 9, 2006

Governor George Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg were right to insist that a Metro-North station be included as part of the plan for a new stadium for the Yankees in the South Bronx. One big problem, though: there's no money in the budget of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to build it. That made the promised station seem little more than a negotiating ploy aimed at building support for the Yankees in the City Council.

Last week, the Yankees won an important vote in the Council that moves the stadium much closer to reality. So now it's time for the team to step up to the plate and help build the station, which could cost $40 million. Otherwise, funds will have to be diverted from other, long-delayed and more important mass transportation projects.

The Yankees, who have already stuck taxpayers with part of the bill for new parking garages, bristle at the thought of helping with transportation costs. But that's ridiculous posturing, and shortsighted as well. A Metro-North station would be good not only for the community but the team, whose Westchester fans have to drive or take a circuitous mass transit route to get to the Bronx. The mayor, governor and City Council should insist that the Yankees do their part.

We have already applauded the Yankees for their willingness to shell out more than $800 million to build the stadium itself. The Mets, who unveiled an Ebbets Field-inspired design for a new field of their own last week, deserve similar praise for agreeing to pay some $700 million. Financially, the two New York teams have not asked for the sort of free ride at taxpayer expense that has been commonplace elsewhere. But New York is not any other city. A stadium here is guaranteed to be wildly lucrative for the host team. And the city and state have been generous. The Mets will get at least $165 million in public assistance for infrastructure and other costs. The Yankees — whose deal is more complicated because they would consume land in two public parks — will receive at least $200 million in taxpayer help, not counting the train station.

On top of that, both teams want help through tax-exempt bonds and tax-alternative payments that could save each club tens of millions.

The Yankees worked hard to win over Bronx officials with a community benefits agreement. Some of it is the stuff of bread and circuses: 15,000 free tickets for distribution every season (hopefully not just to the well-connected). And some of it is real, including $1 million for job training and hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual community grants.

The Yankees also promise to spend $8 million on improving local parks, which should partly compensate for the green space the stadium will take away. On the whole, the agreement is a good start toward restitution for the many years in which the team, the richest sports franchise in the land, largely ignored residents of the disadvantaged South Bronx.

The team should be similarly forthcoming on the Metro-North station. It would be in the club's interest to do so. A Metro-North station could diminish the need for expensive parking garages, and reduce air pollution and congestion, making for happier fans and healthier neighbors. On this, the Yankees should not expect a free ride.

"Taxpayers shouldn't pay for stadiums" in Newsday, 4/10/6

Taxpayers shouldn't pay for stadiums

by Raymond J. Keating

April 10, 2006

It makes no difference whether they are winners or losers or have healthy attendance or empty seats, big payrolls or small - sports teams want new stadiums.

After all, upgraded facilities rake in big bucks, especially from luxury suites. And despite romanticism among some fans, the bottom line for professional sports teams is that they are businesses.

Objections arise when these businesses want taxpayers to fund new playgrounds. Other enterprises finance stores or factories privately. Sports teams shouldn't be any different. The only reason teams get taxpayer subsidies is due to the economic stupidity of politicians. Unfortunately, we have plenty of local examples.

The Yankees have won a record 26 World Series titles, including four in the past 10 seasons. They were No. 1 in attendance last year, topping 4 million, and this year they carry the highest payroll in Major League Baseball.

Last week, the New York City Council gave big thumbs-up for the team to proceed with its plan for a new Yankee Stadium, plopped down next door to the current Yankee Stadium, which was refurbished at taxpayer expense in the 1970s. The deal is presented as if the Yankees are paying for the $800 million-to-$900 million stadium, but city and state taxpayers are covering infrastructure, parking, transportation and parks costs that could easily reach or even exceed $400 million.

If that weren't bad enough, the city would float $866 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Yankees' portion, to be paid off by the team through payments in lieu of taxes to the city. So the team borrows at lower interest rates and pays no taxes, and money that would have gone for taxes is used to pay off the team's debt. Hey, I want the same deal on my property taxes and mortgage. In the end, federal, state and local taxpayers, one way or another, will pay for much of this new Yankee Stadium.

As for the Mets, although their record has been mixed over the years, their attendance last year exceeded an impressive 2.8 million fans, and the team has high hopes with the fifth largest payroll this year. Last week, the Mets unveiled their proposed $550-million ballpark, which resembles Ebbets Field and will rise next to Shea Stadium.

The Mets also will ride on the taxpayer dime, including some $165 million in infrastructure costs and $528 million in tax-exempt financing for the ballpark - also to be repaid through payments in lieu of taxes.

Finally, we have hockey's Islanders, who, as the NHL season winds down, have missed the playoffs. Last month, Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi selected Islanders owner Charles Wang and Reckson Associates to renovate Nassau Coliseum and develop the surrounding 77 acres. The Wang group is to spend $320 million redoing the Coliseum and adding parking.

State taxpayers, however, could be checked for $77 million, as noted on the project's Web site, and the group will pursue tax-exempt financing, according to a county spokesman.

Such projects are spun differently depending on the audience. For fans, it's about transforming a loser into a winner or keeping a winner on track. But plenty of teams playing in new beautiful taxpayer-funded stadiums stink on the field. As a Cincinnati Reds fan, I have firsthand knowledge.

For taxpayers and voters, the spin is about economic revitalization and jobs.

But practically every independent analysis on stadiums shows no economic benefits. It's particularly obvious that building new stadiums next to old ones or renovating an existing arena will not drive local economic development. New sports venues also include shops and restaurants designed to keep dollars inside the facility, rather than spilling into the surrounding area.

So New York City and Long Island will see no economic gains for doling out sports welfare. The teams reap the benefits of new stadiums. They should pay the bill, not the taxpayers.

Friday, April 07, 2006

"The Yankees’ $700,000 Play: ‘It Is Not A Shakedown.’" in The Observer, 4/10/6

The Yankees’ $700,000 Play: ‘It Is Not A Shakedown.’

By Matthew Schuerman

Back in the late 1980’s, developers of controversial projects were so desperate to get into the good graces of the locals they bought off local chambers of commerce, senior centers and neighborhood groups, writing out fat checks to get their endorsements.

Remember when the Alexander’s department-store chain and the Kravco real-estate company offered $250,000 to the mysterious Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce? They wanted to build a shopping mall in nearby Rego Park.

Condemned as shakedowns, those practices largely died out when they were hauled before the public in the press.

Who better to bring back the good times than New York’s great 1980’s mogul, George Steinbrenner?

The Yankees, courting support in the City Council for a new stadium, have proposed giving $700,000 a year to be divvied up by “an individual of prominence” to “Bronx resident not-for-profit institutions,” according to a draft of a side agreement between the team and elected officials from the borough.

The stadium deal, which would give the Yankees more than $200 million in state and city grants and many years of tax-free living, is likely to sail through the City Council when it comes up for a vote April 5.

But the arrangement smells like a shakedown to City Council member Tony Avella. It has convinced the onetime booster to vote against the legislation.

“There is a fine line between negotiations trying to address a community impact that a particular project might have and shaking down a developer,” Mr. Avella told The Observer. “I am getting a little bit concerned about it: A sizeable amount of money is being distributed in return for the project.”

Mr. Avella’s dissent, first reported April 3 in the Metro free newspaper, will have little overall impact on the vote, but it signals trouble ahead for these deals, called “community benefits agreements,” which—like the “amenities” of the 1980’s—are becoming standard tools to win community backing for projects. Pioneered five years ago in Los Angeles, C.B.A.’s are supposed to stand outside of the normal government process, as private, legally binding contracts between community groups and the developer.

Forest City Ratner signed an extensive agreement for its Atlantic Yards complex in Brooklyn last summer, promising affordable housing and a union apprenticeship program.

The Related Companies signed one in February for a shopping mall at the Bronx Terminal Market.

Yankees president Randy Levine told The Observer that the eight-page draft obtained by The Observer has been revised.

But he wouldn’t go into detail, saying on April 4 that it was still being negotiated.

“It is not a shakedown. The Yankees do not feel that they are part of a shakedown,” he said. “We want to be very, very good neighbors. We want to participate in the life of the community. This is nothing new. The Yankees over the years have participated in helping many organizations in the community in a whole host of valid causes.”

The 1980’s controversy over what were then called “amenities” ended with a flurry of bribery investigations (none of which resulted in charges) and official reports. At the request of Mayor Edward Koch, the Association of the Bar of the City of New York published a set of recommendations in 1988, which said that any such goodie should be one that “addresses a need directly arising from the project, i.e., which has a nexus to the project.”

That could mean adding a street lane if the project will exacerbate traffic or, conceivably, moving residents who have been displaced by eminent domain. It’s unclear whether $700,000 in donations to nonprofits would qualify as representing a “nexus.”

Tellingly, the draft Yankees agreement is called the “Participation and Labor Force Mitigation and Community Benefits Program.” The name struggles to cast these amenities (which also include the promise that 25 percent of stadium workers would be Bronx residents) as compensation for the negative impacts caused by the new stadium.

But, oddly, the agreement says nothing about one of the biggest complaints that nearby residents have: The new stadium will take away 22 acres of parkland. The city, rather than the Yankees, will pay to replace that parkland, and the city says it will add another six acres.

The Bar Steps Up

As a sign of just how worried real-estate developers and their lawyers are getting that this new wave of community-benefits agreements may get out of hand, the bar association is again “considering possible policy recommendations,” according to Margaret Stix, chairwoman of the bar’s committee on land use, planning and zoning.

Last month, the committee sponsored a panel, during which Carl Weisbrod, the former president of the Economic Development Corporation and a general go-to guy on getting things done, strongly criticized the use of C.B.A.’s in tax-subsidized projects. What such agreements essentially do, he argued, is to put taxpayer money into the hands of a company like the Yankees, to be distributed to supporters rather than to groups whose priorities match those of the city.

“If the public is putting money into the project and the developer is allocating that money in private deals with the community, it is not government setting the priorities,” Mr. Weisbrod said. “Generally speaking, it is city taxpayer dollars that are being spent in not necessarily high-priority areas.”

Mr. Weisbrod couldn’t be reached to explain whether the Yankees deal would fall under that rubric, but team owner George Steinbrenner certainly is counting on public money. Along with outright public funds to replace the park that the new stadium would occupy, build a parking garage and make “infrastructure improvements,” Mr. Steinbrenner will not have to pay taxes to the city. Instead, he will direct so-called “payments in lieu of taxes” to pay off the bonds that will be used to build the new stadium. The watchdog group Good Jobs New York says that direct and indirect subsidies from city, state and federal sources could reach $480 million.

On April 4, Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Pataki announced their support for a Metro-North station near the new stadium, which will also add to the bill. Messrs. Bloomberg, Pataki and Steinbrenner all say that the $800 million stadium is an unprecedented investment in the Bronx and well worth the public’s support.

But Mr. Weisbrod’s comment makes one wonder: If the Yankees are willing to give away money to nonprofit groups in the city, why not pay those taxes after all?

Well, for one thing, the donations are a lot cheaper.

Perhaps these community-benefits agreements are one more Reagan-inspired symptom of the loss of confidence in government. The whole system of elections, parliamentary procedures, committee hearings, and ways and means is so broke, why not give developers deep tax breaks and force them to hand over some of what they are saving to politically connected private charities?

The New York Times reported April 4 that New York State has secretly given away $1.7 billion since 1997 to private hunting clubs and Elks lodges, all as part of the official budget process determined by elected leaders. What does it matter whether the slush fund is handled by Messrs. Silver, Bruno and Pataki, or by a political crony in the Bronx?

Even Mr. Avella concedes as much. “Maybe in some communities, there is a feeling that they have been shut out of the political process.”

Mr. Levine also said that it was unfair to characterize the agreement as something the Yankees were doing to buy support from the community, saying that he was trying to wrap up negotiations by April 5, before the Council vote, but didn’t feel it was mandatory to complete it by then.

The draft doesn’t mention that signatories will have to publicly support the project, the way the Atlantic Yards agreement does, and officially, these C.B.A.’s are supposed to stand outside the land-use decision-making process.

That distinction has been lost on the myriad City Council members and state legislators who have cited the provisions in these C.B.A.’s as reasons for supporting the Atlantic Yards and the Bronx Terminal Market.

In the Yankees’ case, Mr. Levine said that the team was negotiating not with community organizations but rather with “Bronx elected officials.”

“When you say ‘negotiate,’ that’s an inappropriate word,” he said. “We have been getting feedback from hundreds of community organizations; who we’ve been negotiating with are elected representatives of the people. The thing that you should really take note of is all the public participation we have had. We’ve had seven public hearings. We’ve had as open and transparent a process as we could.”

So which elected officials are negotiating with the Yankees?

“We are not going to get into that,” he told The Observer.


The situation that the Yankees find themselves in is a weird one: Criticized by Mr. Avella, who represents an affluent Queens district, for giving away too much, they are being attacked by Bronx Council members for being too stingy. Borough President Adolfo Carrión is also part of the negotiations.

“The offer itself is insulting,” Councilwoman Helen Diane Foster told The Observer. “It is just crumbs. They are asking people to fight over crumbs.”

Ms. Foster said she wanted the Yankees to spend $3 million over three years on job training and to give away a minimum of $2.5 million a year to community groups, including money for maintaining the parks. The new stadium would go on a city park, and the city would replace the lost parkland over a series of years.

Ms. Foster didn’t attend a negotiating session on April 1 because Mr. Levine was not going to be there, but according to an informed source, City Council members were pushing for $1.4 million a year total, for park maintenance, sports equipment and donations to nonprofits, along with resident parking permits.

The City Council as a whole is reported to be overwhelmingly in favor of the stadium, but a majority of Bronx members have to come out in favor for the rest of the votes to follow, according to Council sources. The April 5 vote is not the only one, after all. Another one scheduled for April 10 addresses many of the financing aspects.

In other words, the Yankees would do well to appease these holdouts.