"Approvals Clear Way for Yankees to Build" NY Times, 7/22/6
Approvals Clear Way for Yankees to Build
By TIMOTHY WILLIAMS
Published: July 22, 2006
The proposed $800 million ballpark for the New York Yankees received final regulatory approval this week, clearing the way for the club to start construction atop two parks across the street from the existing stadium.
Yankees officials said they hoped to begin building the 53,000-seat structure by the end of summer.
Construction will involve paving over large portions of Macombs Dam Park and Mullaly Park and cutting down about 400 mature oak trees. The stadium is scheduled to open in 2009.
“The Yankees are delighted with the wide-ranging support they’ve received,” said Howard J. Rubenstein, a spokesman for the Yankees.
The project, which was approved by the City Council this spring, engendered intense opposition among many of the stadium’s South Bronx neighbors and from parks advocates, who protested the loss of the two popular parks and feared increased traffic and pollution problems in an area with high childhood asthma rates.
While the stadium won the support of nearly all of the Bronx’s elected officials, the plan was rejected by the local community board, which had only advisory power. Several of the dissenting community board members were later replaced by the Bronx borough president, Adolfo Carrión Jr., who emerged as the new stadium’s most forceful advocate.
Opponents say they will probably file a lawsuit to halt construction, contending that portions of the 28-acre Macombs Dam Park and 18.5-acre Mullaly Park had been unlawfully taken from the public.
“Since Day 1, everything has been predicated on satisfying the desires of the Yankees without a care for the community or the city’s taxpayers,” said Geoffrey M. Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates.
During the past week, the Internal Revenue Service and the National Park Service gave their approval, respectively, to the stadium’s financing plan and to its construction on parkland.
The park service approval was required because Macombs Dam Park received about $420,000 in federal improvement funds in the early 1980’s.
The park service concluded that the neighborhood’s loss of Macombs Dam Park would be offset by new parkland that the project would provide, including three ball fields at the current Yankee Stadium, which will be partly torn down; a park on the Bronx River; and small parks that are to be placed atop stadium parking garages.
The I.R.S. approved the stadium’s complex financing plan, in which the ballpark will be paid for by the Yankees with $920 million in tax-exempt, low-interest city bonds and $25 million in taxable bonds. The Yankees will repay the 40-year bonds with an annual payment in lieu of taxes. The bonds are to be offered in the next few weeks, said Janel Patterson, a spokeswoman for the city’s Economic Development Corporation.
The Yankees will pay rent on the city-owned stadium, as well as payments in lieu of taxes, Ms. Patterson said. The city and state will pay for infrastructure improvements, including new parking garages and possibly a Metro-North commuter station in the area.
The final community benefits agreement between the Yankees and Bronx elected officials calls for the club to establish the Bronx Community Trust Fund, in which the team will place $32 million over 40 years — about $800,000 a year.
The fund, which will be managed by an administrator who will be chosen later this summer by the team and by Bronx elected officials, will be distributed to local community and nonprofit groups.
The Yankees will also donate $100,000 in equipment and promotional merchandise to community and school groups and give away 15,000 tickets to home games. The average value of each ticket will be $25.
The community benefits agreement also calls for 25 percent of stadium construction work to go to Bronx businesses, with 50 percent of that total being reserved for businesses owned by women or minorities.