Thursday, September 27, 2007

Streetsblog goes to the ballpark

Our friends over at Streetsblog saw something interesting at Yankee Stadium the other day. Click the title to discover what it was.

With average attendance of 52,739 this season (which will be a sell-out at the new stadium) it becomes increasingly clear just how unnecessary those new garages are: the new Metro North station will see 10,000 of those fans switch to the train, and the stadium will seat thousands fewer fans.

Is parking for out-of-towners really where New York wants to put its resources?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

"Turf Wars" Village Voice 9/25/7

Here's a part of the article. Click the title above to read the full article at the Village Voice's website.

"Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión, asked whether he's satisfied with the temporary park, says that "bumps in the road and inconveniences" are inevitable with every construction project, and points to the $160 million in new athletic fields slated to open in the area by 2011. (In fact, only $87 million of that city money will go to build parks; the rest will be used for such items as moving a water main and demolishing the existing stadium.) Parks Department spokeswoman Jesslyn Tiao says the city has received no complaints about either smells or flying baseballs, though she admits there may be problems if people play pickup baseball on fields designed for softball. The padlocked gates were a mistake, she adds, possibly the result of a contractor who unwittingly locked them, and will be remedied.


"Despite the problems, in fact, the new park is heavily used—so much so that some neighborhood residents say they avoid it on weekends because it's too crowded. "Nobody expected it to be so utilized," says Robert Garmendiz, Board 4's current parks-committee chair. He is blunt in his assessment of the already battered turf field: "That thing's not going to last."

"How long it needs to depends on when the permanent field is ready, and that's anyone's guess. A new track and soccer field—this time with FieldTurf—is slated to be built atop a parking garage on the site of the current ballfield just north of the existing stadium. After first insisting that a private developer would build this and two other planned garages—with the help of a $70 million state "capital subsidy"—the Bloomberg administration has since turned to a complicated arrangement involving a nonprofit shell company that would use city bonds for the project, then share parking fees with the city. (The addition of city-backed bonds is one reason that the total taxpayer cost of the stadium project is now an estimated $799 million.) The city Industrial Development Agency, which was set to issue the garage bonds earlier this month, delayed the vote after Carrión un expectedly raised questions about the deal, and has yet to reschedule it.

"Many locals were already skeptical that the new park would be ready by the spring 2009 target date, noting that the temporary park only opened this May—after promises that it would be in place before the demolition of the old park began last summer. Even Garmendiz, who is generally positive about the parks department's efforts in his neighborhood, says there's "no way" the new track will be ready by spring 2009.

"Given the trade-off between rushing the garages through and waiting longer for a permanent park, Hogi knows which option she prefers. "Frankly, I would like to see the garages not be built," she says. "I don't want to see anything else come into the community that is of no benefit to the community."

"Beep holds up his support for stadium garages" Daily News 9/25/7

Beep holds up his support for stadium garages

Tuesday, September 25th 2007, 4:00 AM

Bronx leaders are putting the brakes on a controversial financing plan for parking garages for the new Yankee Stadium until the city shows them some real facts.

Some fear the garages will wind up opening full time, bringing a flood of cars into the asthma-choked South Bronx, with commuters avoiding Mayor Bloomberg's proposed Manhattan traffic congestion fee.

Borough President Adolfo Carrión's Borough Board refused to endorse the heavily subsidized financing plan last week at its monthly meeting because the city's Economic Development Corp. still hasn't provided the documents and clarifications Carrión wants to see before signing off on the plan.

Specifically, EDC would not give him even basic documentation including the draft lease agreement and the feasibility study prior to a scheduled vote this month on the project's $225 million tax-free bond issue by EDC's Industrial Development Agency.

Carrión's opposition forced the IDA to table the vote indefinitely.

The garages are to be built and run by the Bronx Parking Development Co., a shell corporation set up by an essentially one-person upstate not-for-profit company called Community Initiatives Development Corp. specifically to receive a taxpayer subsidy. Besides the $225 million bond issue, Albany already has committed $70 million toward the garage construction.

The new stadium will have about 5,000 fewer seats than the old one, but BPDC plans to create 2,500 extra parking spaces, leading some to question the economic viability of the garages, intended to be open only about 80 home game days a year.
Because the city would guarantee the bond issue, taxpayers could be left paying off the $225 million bonds if the garages lose money and the company defaults.

More recently, EDC has said the garages could make enough money by staying open year-round.

But many area residents worry the 9,000 parking spaces around the stadium will turn their already traffic- and asthma-choked neighborhood into a de facto park-and-ride hub especially if the mayor's Manhattan congestion pricing plan becomes reality.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Record attendance at Yankee Stadium--3 years in a row

"The Yankees were 52-29 at Yankee Stadium this season. Only the Los Angeles Angels have won more games at home. The Yankees enjoyed a home-field advantage in more ways than one, finishing the season with a final attendance of 4,271,356, an all-time franchise record, according to the club. It was the team’s third consecutive season with more than 4 million."

Fans vote with their feet, and their wallets. Not just the team is a success, the stadium is one too.

And yet according to the Yankees, they have an "obsolete" stadium and require thousands of shiny new parking spaces, in spite of getting a new Metro North Station.

How have the fans arrived to the stadium lo these many years?

Click the title to read the full article at The New York Times website.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

"No Vote on Stadium Deal by Bronx Borough Board" Streetsblog 9/20/7

Streetsblog reports that the Bronx Borough Board has yet to vote on the Yankee Stadium parking subsidy:

"The Bronx Borough Board was expected to take up the stadium parking issue today, but Streetsblog has received word that it was not on the agenda after all."

Click the title above to read to read the entire post at Streetsblog.

Monday, September 17, 2007

"Meet Your Industrial Development Agency" Streetsblog 9/17/7

Streetsblog has a list of the New York City Industrial Agency members who will be making the decision on the new Yankee parking garages, with hyperlinks you can click to contact them and voice your opinion on this dirty deal.

Click the title.

"Yankee Stadium Deal Gets Worse" onNYTurf 9/17/7

onNYTurf takes a look at the parking garage controversy.

Click the title above to read the post at onNYTurf.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Bait and Switch

Since news first broke about the new Yankee Stadium plan, calling for the appropriation of park land for both the new stadium and attendant parking garages, we have been told that the stadium plan is completely separate from the new mall being constructed right next door. Locals were suspicious that the garages would be used by the mall.

It turns out our suspicions were on target.

According to Matthew Schuerman at The Observer:

"The city’s Industrial Development Agency is hoping, though, that the future operator of the proposed Yankee Stadium garages will be able to make enough money from shoppers and commuters on non-game days to break even.

"This is how the math works:

"If all the new parking slots (9,179 total) are filled every game day (81 times a year), the operator will bring in $18.59 million annually from Yankees-related revenue. But the $225 million in bonds, if paid back over 30 years at 6.5 percent, would require $17.04 million a year in payments.

"That leaves just $1.55 million a year for salaries, maintenance, utilities and other operational costs—not to mention rent that the operator, the Bronx Parking Development Corporation, is supposed to pay the city."

So it seems that the only way these garages can turn a profit will be for them to be used by the mall and by commuters avoiding Congestion Pricing.

And if commuters are using the garages, then the neighborhood does not benefit from decreased traffic as a result of the congestion charge.

In fact, because the garages will have rooftop recreational fields the local community was extremely worried about the affects of automobile exhaust on the health of those exercising there. We were repeatedly told that the garages would only be used on game days and that the rooftop parks would be closed on game days due to "security risks," so there was nothing to worry about. Now we learn that they may be used 365 days a year.

We have been sold a bill of goods.

And those who said that Congestion Pricing would not create an incentive to "park and ride" in our neighborhoods should look very carefully at this.

Click the title above to read Schuerman's post at The Real Estate.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

"Yankee Stadium garage vote off amid document debate" Daily News 9/12/7

Yankee Stadium garage vote off amid document debate
Wednesday, September 12th 2007, 4:00 AM

A vote to approve a controversial $225 million taxpayer subsidy on parking garages for the new Yankee Stadium was suddenly parked yesterday.

The city's Industrial Development Agency postponed the vote after Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion's office complained the agency was withholding critical information on the project - which would leave taxpayers holding the bag if the project failed to generate enough income to repay the triple tax-exempt bonds.

Carrion's office - which has an appointee on the IDA panel - complained at a public hearing last week that despite repeated requests, it had "not received vital information regarding the details of the Bronx Parking Development Co. financing."

Specifically, it was denied a copy of the draft lease agreement, a copy of the feasibility study, and an explanation of why the deal ballooned from $190 million to $225 million.

Other concerned government agencies also have seen requests for the documents ignored by the IDA, according to sources.
A spokesman for the city Economic Development Corp., which oversees the IDA, said the requested documents are simply not finished yet and downplayed the delay of the vote.

"We hope to hold a vote within a month," said EDC spokeswoman Yonit Gooub, "and we'll be announcing the meeting as soon as it's scheduled."

The $225 million in city-guaranteed bonds would benefit the Bronx Parking Development Co., a shell corporation set up by an upstate not-for-profit company called Community Initiatives Development Corp. specifically to receive the city taxpayer subsidy.

It would pay off the bonds using income from the garages it plans to develop and run. The garages, some built on former city parkland, will be open for only about 80 games a year.

If revenue is below expectations, Bronx Parking Development Co. could walk away at any time, leaving the city stuck with $225 million in debt and thousands of parking spaces critics say the neighborhood doesn't need.

The new stadium will have about 5,000 fewer seats than the current one, but Bronx Parking Development Co plans to create 2,500 additional parking spaces.

With a new MetroNorth station in the works and traffic already snarling the asthma-choked neighborhood, taxpayer advocates question why the city is subsidizing the parking garages at all for the richest franchise in sports.

"This is not a project for taxpayer dollars," said Bettina Damiani of Good Jobs New York, a group harshly critical of the stadium deal's lack of readily available information.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"Yankees Garages Can't Get a Break" The Real Estate 9/11/7

This morning, the city’s Industrial Development Agency put off yet again a vote to authorize the cheap tax-exempt bonds that would make the $295 million Yankee Stadium garage project financially feasible.

The Real Estate has more. Click the title above.

Friday, September 07, 2007

"The Bronx Is Burning Over Subsidized Stadium Parking" The Real Estate 9/7/7

Click the title to be taken to The Observer's blog, where you will find a report on yesterday's hearing.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

"$25 for Yankee Stadium parking" The Real Estate 9/6/7

Apparently, those parking lots that were supposed to relieve local streets of circling Yankees fans are going to cost a lot more than the fee they have been trying to avoid. Today one pays $14 to park. But if you want to park in the proposed garages, it's gonna cost you $25! That is considerably more than free on-street parking, so sought after by today's fans.

Matthew Schuerman reports:

"The estimated cost of building new, more and better parking spaces to accompany the new stadium went up 13 percent to $295 million just since April, when the tax-exempt bond issue first appeared before the city’s Industrial Development Agency for approval, according to application materials.

"The city’s economic development agency thinks that patrons will nonetheless pony up. While officials had been modeling revenues based on $20 to $23 a car this spring, they modeled $25 to make the higher cost pay for itself, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Currently, fans pay $14."

Patrons will pony up? They hate paying $14 as it is!

Click the title above to read the full post at the Observer's blog.

"Bronx Boro Prez Issues Protest at Yankees Parking Hearing" Streetsblog 9/6/7

Streetsblog reports on a statement of protest read by a representative of Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion, Jr., at this morning's meeting of the NYC Industrial Development Agency (IDA), ahead of an expected Tuesday vote on the city's deal with the Yankees to subsidize the construction of three parking garages.

Click the title above to read his statement over at Streetsblog.

But do pay heed to "Yumm's" comment which follows the post:

"This is the same BP who purged the local community board of people critical of this project and its crappy process, which the BP provided cover for for the past 4-5 years.

"But now running for mayor...."

Well said, Yumm. And while we are all gazing in the BP's direction, let's keep in mind what Randy Levine of the Yankees helpfully pointed out on numerous occasions: that the idea of siting the new stadium in our much loved and utilized park came directly from Mr. Carrion!

"Still waiting for cash from Yankees' Stadium deal" Daily News 9/5/7

Still waiting for cash from Yankees' Stadium deal

Wednesday, September 5th 2007, 4:00 AM
Foot-dragging by Bronx elected and political officials has delayed the implementation of a lucrative community benefits agreement with the Yankees.

The agreement was worked out in April of last year and paved the way for City Council approval of the Yankees' new $800 million stadium. Construction began shortly afterward.

But more than a year later, the required structure has yet to be set up for turning the paper agreement into cash grants - totalling $800,000 a year - for needy community groups, schools, youth and sports teams, and other nonprofit organizations.

The agreement also calls for the Yankees to provide 15,000 free Yankee tickets a year to Bronx youth and sports groups and others, along with sports equipment and promotional merchandise valued at $375,000 a year.

None of that has happened because Bronx elected and political officials haven't set up the required Bronx Community Trust Fund to administer that part of the agreement. Nor have they obtained the proper charitable exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service.

"There have been too many cooks involved in making the soup," one knowledgeable Bronx official said.

The Yankees placed the $800,000 that could have been paid out this year in escrow until the trust is properly established.
"The New York Yankees stand ready, once a legally constituted trust is established to move the money from escrow to the fund," said Yankees spokeswoman Alice McGillion.

Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates, who opposed the new stadium because it appropriated parkland, blasted the delay.

"It's disgraceful," he said. "It's reprehensible these funds have not been distributed to those most impacted, instead of sitting in some supposed account."

Among the officials who are supposed to establish the fund and name its advisory panel are the eight City Council members from the Bronx, Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión and Bronx Democratic chairman and Assemblyman Jose Rivera.

Carrión's spokesman, Mike Murphy, stated, "The list of nominees for the Yankee Fund Advisory Panel has recently been submitted to the New York Yankees and it is expected that this panel will convene shortly. The borough president is pleased that this process is moving forward and it is his expectation that once the panel is in place the process for distributing the funds will begin."

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

"Fumble in the Bronx" Metro 9/4/7

Fumble in the Bronx
No payday yet in Yanks’ pact
by patrick arden / metro new york

SEP 4, 2007
BRONX. Bronx politicians liked to tout the community partnership agreement they hatched with the New York Yankees 17 months ago, especially when they had to respond to criticism over the team’s taking of public parkland for a new stadium.

Central to that deal was the promise of an annual $800,000 for Bronx nonprofits over the next 40 years. Critics labeled this a “slush fund,” because the money would be doled out by a new not-for-profit staffed by representatives of Bronx elected officials, and it didn’t have to be spent in the affected community. The funds were to start flowing, the agreement said, “upon the commencement of the construction.”

So imagine the surprise of Geoffrey Croft last week, when he discovered — one full year after the stadium’s groundbreaking — no such not-for-profit has been registered with the state yet, and no funds have been disbursed.

“The parks were taken in eight days without one public hearing,” complained Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates. “The Yankees wasted no time in seizing the public’s land, but they’re in no hurry when it’s time to pay up.”

Croft charged the promised payoff was actually a “pittance,” considering the neighborhood, which is plagued by asthma, lost “70 percent of their trees.”

A spokesperson for Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion responded that the not-for-profit has just been set up and now “this process is moving forward.” He said he was not prepared to name the panel’s members. The agreement is legally binding.

The Yankees did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.

The agreement also stipulated the panel would produce an annual report every April. No report was issued this year.