Monday, April 03, 2006

"Avella: ‘No’ on stadium" Metro NY 04/03/06

Avella: ‘No’ on stadium

by Partrick Arden
APRIL 3, 2006 MetroNY

BRONX A former champion of the proposed new Yankee Stadium says he’ll now vote “no” on the project at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

In a letter sent over the weekend to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Queens Councilman Tony Avella, chair of the zoning and franchises committee, said he’s become “increasingly disturbed by various aspects of the overall plan.”

Avella’s concerns include “the elimination of crucial neighborhood parkland,” the lack of a new Metro-North station to cut down on traffic in an area with the city’s highest asthma rate, and the problematic use of city tax-exempt bonds to finance the project.

In a conversation with Metro yesterday, Avella said he’s especially alarmed by the community benefits agreement still being negotiated by the Yankees and Bronx politicians.

‘Bad public policy’

“There’s a fine line between negotiating a legitimate land-use or community issue and ‘shaking down’ a developer,” said Avella, who called a draft of the Yankees’ agreement “bad public policy.”

“Normally you don’t consider a community benefits agreement as part of the official land-use process, but I think we have to rein in these discussions.”

While communities deserve to be compensated for “any negative impact a new facility might cause,” Avella said, the Yankees’ deal has $700,000 a year going to a panel selected by local politicians to dole out to community nonprofits. “Some unnamed Bronx elected officials are going to receive and disburse funds that could be in the millions of dollars,” he said. “That’s troublesome.”

Instead, he said, the money should go to “an appropriate city agency” to oversee the program and “avoid this appearance of impropriety. No matter how well-intentioned people are, if they’re doing this on behalf of the city, the city should be administering it.”

Avella also believes the neighborhood has “legitimate issues” and “should have been involved in decisions in the land-use process.”

“There’s no question these discussions should be much more open,” he said. ‘Make this better’

“It’s been my experience that the bigger the project the less discussion there is, which is wrong, of course —it should be the reverse,” Avella said.

“Individual Council members may have concerns, but no one wants to be the first to raise them for fear of retribution,” he said. “I’m hoping my letter will generate discussion in the City Council, though it’s directed at the mayor. My colleagues should feel a little bit freer to say, ‘Hey, wait a second, this isn’t right. We can come up with a much better plan.’

“I would love to vote for the new stadium, but at this point in time, with all of these outstanding issues, I’m sending a very clear message to the mayor: We need to make this better.”


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