Thursday, November 16, 2006

"In Bronx, hurry up and wait" NY Metro 11/16/6

In Bronx, hurry up and wait
No new parks — or garage developer — for Yanks’ project

by patrick arden / metro new york
NOV 16, 2006

BRONX — Attorneys for the New York Yankees successfully argued in state court that the team’s financial future depended on starting construction immediately to open its new ballpark by 2009.

But while the Yankees quickly seized parkland, other parts of the project remain behind schedule, according to a timeline issued last June to potential developers of the stadium’s parking garages. The timeline was obtained by Metro through the Freedom of Information Act.

According to this timeline, put together by the city’s Economic Development Corporation, one temporary track was supposed to have opened in July, and construction was set to begin in October and November on another interim track, a temporary ballfield and tennis courts on a waterfront “esplanade.”

Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion assured reporters just before the stadium groundbreaking, “Over the next few months, there will be a new track and there will be new fields — artificial turf baseball fields, soccer fields — right in the immediate vicinity of the new stadium.”

So far those promises have not been kept. As recently as two weeks ago, the Parks Dept. promised Community Board 4 construction would begin in November, but apparently contractors have not been solicited. “We have not bid out anything yet,” said Parks Dept. spokesman Warner Johnston. The first park facilities won’t be available until the spring.

Considering the urgency of the Yankees’ pleas, it’s disconcerting to see the project slow down, said Dan Steinberg of Good Jobs New York. “It was to the detriment of the planning process that the project was fast-tracked,” he said.

Nowhere is that as evident as in the plans for the four new underground parking garages, an especially important part of the project because a sizable chunk of the replacement park acreage is supposed to end up on top of them.

The cost of the parking garages went up twice over the course of the approval process. Last March the price tag was put at $320 million; $70 million of that is covered by the state, with the stipulation that the remaining $250 million be “borne by the garage operator and/or the City.”

Though the city began looking for a developer in 2005, one has not been found. EDC spokesman Jorge Montalvo insisted the city won’t foot the bill : “They will be ready to designate a developer sometime early next year.”

Naming rights

• Both new baseball stadiums for the Mets and the Yankees are properties of the city, but in lease agreements the city handed over to the teams all stadium revenues, including those from naming rights.

• The Yankees have said its stadium’s name won’t change, but parts of the ballpark may receive corporate sponsorship, according to team president Randy Levine. Steinberg said, “Considering the teams are benefiting from taxpayer subsidies, we should have at least negotiated to split naming-rights revenue, which has been done in other cities.”

Shifting cash

The unfinished business disturbs Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates. Obviously the Yankees were in a hurry to start construction to pre-empt the community’s lawsuit,” he said.

Croft noticed a draft of the team’s community partnership agreement with Bronx elected officials had expressly set aside $100,000 to maintain the new parks. In the final pact, though, that money was rolled into the $800,000 fund that Bronx politicians have promised to dole out to community nonprofits borough-wide.

“It’s telling that they took away the only money specifically designated for the impacted area,” Croft said. “The Yankees and the electeds really did a number on that community.”

According to Carrion spokesperson Anne Fenton, “The thinking was, if this is a city park and the city is going to take care of it, instead of putting money into that when it’s already getting done, take the money —$100,000 — and put it into the big fund for community programming, little leagues, whatever the community wants.”


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