Tuesday, June 13, 2006

"Yanks Muscling Up In Swing At New Park " NY Post 06/12/06

Yanks Muscling Up In Swing At New Park

By GEOFF EARLE Post Correspondent , NY Post

June 12, 2006 -- WASHINGTON - The Yankees have two new heavy hitters - a pair of Washington lobbyists drafted to help steamroll bureaucratic obstacles to the team's plan to build the latest incarnation of Yankee Stadium on city parkland that only the feds can unlock.

The big-bucks lobbyists will try to get fast federal approval for the project, even as community foes prepare to sue to block construction of the $800 million, 53,000-seat ballpark.

But a tangle of federal agencies could snarl the Yankees' plans. The National Park Service, which has refurbished city parks with taxpayer dollars, the Army Corps of Engineers, the IRS and landmark preservationists must agree to go along before the new House that Ruth Built can go up.

According to disclosure reports, the Yanks have hired former Rep. Bill Paxon (R-N.Y.), husband of former Rep. Susan Molinari (R-S.I.) and son-in-law of former Staten Island Borough President Guy Molinari. Paxon commands top dollar and represents a wealth of big corporate clients.

They've also signed Michael Rosetti, a Buffalo native who handled bitter land disputes as a lawyer for the federal Department of the Interior.

George Steinbrenner's team needs the feds to sign off on the project before it can break ground across the street from the current Yankee Stadium - atop Macombs Dam and John Mullaly parks, two longtime community staples.

Washington paid more than $400,000 to refurbish those parks in the 1970s - under a law that bars private developers from bulldozing them. They include several baseball diamonds and some of the South Bronx's few tennis courts.

While the law allows the Yanks to replace them with new parks, the replacements must sit nearby and must be worth at least as much as the old ones. The team's current replacement offer has activists fuming.

"This isn't going anywhere anytime soon, and the Yankees are fully aware of that," said Geoffrey Croft of New York City Park Advocates. "The land itself is not a good swap, because some [fields] are on top of parking garages. [And] five of the acres are a mile away from their existing place."

If the feds accept the swap, his group will sue, Croft vowed.

The Bronx Bombers are not exactly shaking in their cleats. "All of those [arguments] have been heard," said Yankee CEO Lonn Trost. "Votes were taken, and the new stadium has been approved by every process required."

The National Park Service fix insists its taking its role in the urban drama seriously. "Our job is not to delay a process but to simply protect the taxpayers, who put in around $400,000 back in the '70s to ensure some recreational opportunities," said spokesman Phil Sheridan.

The City Council authorized construction in April, but the Yankees' application for tax-free federal financing of construction bonds is still awaiting IRS approval - another issue that could require a political cleanup hitter.


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