Wednesday, August 30, 2006

"South Bronx deserves more than new stadium, Gateway" NY Daily News 08/29/06

South Bronx deserves more than new stadium, Gateway

reprint from NY Daily News, Bronx edition, August 29, 2006 page BW 6

BE OUR GUEST: DAN STEINBERG, economic policy analyst

Two mega-project groundbreakings were held earlier this month in the South Bronx: the new Yankee Stadium and the Gateway Center at Bronx Terminal Market.

Heralded by elected officials as economic jumpstarts for an are plagued by persistently high unemployment, the projects will actually cost taxpayers more than half a billion dollars while scattering hundreds of good wholesale jobs and costing residents heavily used public parkland.

The South Bronx needs and deserves public resources to stimulate private investment. But these two projects exemplify how ineffective the city’s economic development efforts can be.

Each project involves the lavish expenditure of public funds and tax breaks for developments that did not require subsidizes. Tragically, the city failed to ensure that the stadium and retail jobs pay better-than-poverty wages.

The stadium plan to replace large parks with a patchwork of turf fields, some far away or above parking garages, is obviously not a fair swap for local residents who must endure years of “interim parks” while the new stadium is constructed.

That’s why the project was rejected by the local community board despite pressure from the Bronx borough president.

Once the MTA announced its intentions to build a new Metro-North station in front of the ballpark, an obvious compromise would have been to scale back the plan for 4,700 new parking spaces, which would have saved portions of the parkland and reduced auto air pollution in a neighborhood dubbed “asthma alley.”

For decades, the Bronx Terminal Market has functioned as a wholesale food market serving immigrant communities.

But in the name of big-box retail, the city is facilitating the destruction of a cluster of small businesses that relied on their closeness to transportation and each other. Despite the merchants’ sensible relocation proposals, the city scattered them throughout the region.

We estimate the two projects will cost city taxpayers over $400 million (not including state and federal subsidies) in funds and lost taxes.

That’s a huge price tag considering the limited economic benefits of a new stadium and the likelihood that both projects would have been pursued with private financing.

Would the Yankees actually consider leaving the largest sports and media market in the Unites States a year after breaking the American League attendance record? Meanwhile, down the street at Bronx Terminal Market, Gateway Center developer Related Companies is capitalizing on a surging national trend: big-box stores thriving in urban markets.

It is tragic that public officials did not leverage taxpayer investments to ensure that good jobs are created. Increasingly, other states and localities are requiring that, as a condition of receiving a subsidy, a company must pay a decent wage with full-time hours and health care. Generating jobs at living wages should be a priority for the mayor’s new Commission for Economic Opportunity.

Despite these lost opportunities, the city has a chance to get it right in the upcoming proposal to transform the massive Kingsbridge Armory into an entertainment and recreational complex.

Will the city finally respect Bronx residents and get as good bang for the taxpayer buck?

Dan Steinberg is a research analyst with Good Jobs New York, a joint project of Good Jobs First and The Fiscal Policy Institute which promotes polices that hold government officials and corporations accountable to the taxpayers.


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