Friday, July 20, 2007

"Your taxes help Yankees pay honchos" NY Daily News 7/20/7

Your taxes help Yankees pay honchos

Friday, July 20th 2007, 4:00 AM

City taxpayers subsidized the salaries of nearly a dozen top Yankees execs between 2001 and 2005 and paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for lobbyists for the new $1.3 billion Yankee stadium, a new report charges.

Team management even charged the city for the cost of hotel rooms for owner George Steinbrenner and his daughter Jennifer Swindall and for a percentage of the salaries of Steinbrenner's two sons, team executives Hank and Hal Steinbrenner.

The civic watchdog group Good Jobs New York says the money came from a $5 million annual "New Stadium" planning fund.

The fund - $25 million over five years - was approved by former Mayor Rudy Giuliani in his final days in office. It was financed with credits City Hall let the Yankees deduct from annual rent payments on its current stadium lease.

Giuliani gave the Mets a similar $25 million stadium planning deal before he left office.

The existence of these funds - technically called offsets to rent - have been known for years, but the report is the first to detail how some of the Yankees money was spent. The watchdog group has been a persistent critic of massive corporate subsidies for economic development.

The report found that in 2001, the Yankees charged $437,500 worth of front office personnel costs to the New Stadium fund. According to a team report submitted to the Parks Department, 30% of team President Randy Levine's time, 20% of Chief Operating Officer Lonn Trost's, 10% of Hal Steinbrenner's and 5% of Hank Steinbrenner's were charged to the fund. In later years, subsidies continued for the salaries of Trost and Levine.

Levine, who resigned as Giuliani's deputy mayor to become Yankees president in early 2000, played a key role in negotiating the team's rent deal in late 2001 - one that Giuliani made retroactive to January of that year.

That first year of the deal, the team also charged $14,779 in bills from the Regency Hotel to the fund. Among the charges was a lodging bill from April 2000 for George Steinbrenner and another in July 2000 for the Boss' daughter Jennifer Swindall.

"The report is not worth responding to," said Alice McGillion, a spokeswoman for the Yankees. "It is a rehash of the same failed arguments and inaccuracies.... It is disgraceful that 'No Jobs NY' continues to attempt to garner publicity by attaching themselves to the Yankee name."

The civic group's report also sharply criticized the Yankees' dispensing more than $400,000 from the planning fund for lobbyists, most of it for Powers, Crane & Company, the lobbying firm headed by former state Republican Party chair William Powers.

The Powers firm has received close to $1 million from the Yankees for its work on the stadium since 2002, according to the report and state lobbying records. In addition, the Mirram Group, headed by former Bronx Democratic Party boss Roberto Ramirez, received more than $300,000 from the Yankees in 2006 to lobby Bronx politicians for approval of the new stadium.

Bettina Damiani, director of Good Jobs New York, blasted the Yankees' use of city subsidies for firms that then lobbied state and city governments for more government aid.

"This is part of the complex legal and legislative efforts for planning a new stadium," said a source close to the Yankees.
According to Damiani, city and state subsidies for the new stadium have grown by another $150 million since the deal was approved last year - including money for a new Metro North station and additional funds Mayor Bloomberg announced recently in his new capital budget. Total city and state subsidies for the Yankees are approaching half a billion dollars, the report claims.

An official at the city's Economic Development Corp. called the new report "inaccurate."


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