Saturday, November 17, 2007

"Yankees paying A-Rod, but taxpayers will be paying more too" Daily News 11/16/7

Yankees paying A-Rod, but taxpayers will be paying more too

Friday, November 16th 2007, 4:00 AM
Juan Gonzalez

As the Yankees get ready to hand Alex Rodriguez a new $275 million contract, team executives are squeezing city taxpayers for millions more for the team's new Bronx stadium.

Only last year, Mayor Bloomberg assured the public the city's total contribution for "infrastructure improvements" around the new stadium would not exceed $145 million.

Well, the Yankees have already hit that gift ball out of the park.

A new analysis of the capital budget by City Controller William Thompson says City Hall has slated $235 million for stadium improvements between now and 2011.

That's a $90 million increase over what the public was told before the City Council approved the stadium deal in April 2006.
Then last week the Yankees suddenly claimed an extra $5 million in retroactive deductions from the city to their stadium rent for 2005.

The Yankees say all of that was connected to planning for the new stadium.
Under a series of amendments to the current stadium lease that began under Rudy Giuliani in 2001, and were extended by Mayor Bloomberg in 2005, the city has allowed the Yankees to deduct up to $5 million a year from the team's rent to pay for "planning costs" for the new stadium.

The Yankees must show proof of the actual expenses in canceled checks and vendor invoices.

A few months ago, the civic watchdog group Good Jobs New York questioned tens of thousands of dollars in credits the Yankees had claimed.

The Parks Department then concluded the team's filings for 2004, 2005 and 2006 were so disorganized and mixed in with ineligible day-to-day team expenses that the agency could not figure them out.

Red-faced team executives agreed to fix the mess and resubmit all their documentation. They did so recently, and the Daily News reviewed the new material this week under a Freedom of Information Act request.

The new filings show the Yankees suddenly doubled from $5 million to $10 million the amount of rent credits they are claiming for the 2005 season.

In addition, they continue to claim more than $9 million in credits for 2006. That's a total of $19 million in credits for the past two years, but city lawyers have questioned whether the team can deduct more than $5 million in any one year under the lease agreement.

"The city is reviewing the lease and the submissions of the planning credits," said Parks Department spokeswoman Jama Adams, "and expects the Yankees to comply with the terms of the lease."

In addition, the controller's office began an audit of the rent credits several weeks ago.

"We look forward to reviewing the documents with both Parks and the controller," Yankees spokeswoman Alice McGillon said.
As for the capital costs, city officials conceded the sharp increase last week, but they say a good part of that was unexpected.
Of the $90 million increase, they noted, half represents the city's contribution to a new Yankee stadium Metro-North station that the mayor announced after the stadium deal was approved.

Then there were "environmental issues along the Bronx waterfront [near the stadium] that were greater than we had anticipated," said one city official. "That added about $10 million more."

Finally, there's that old standby of City Hall's economic planners, "rising construction costs," which they say added another $35 million in just one year.

It seems the more the Yankees shell out for A-Rod and their other stars, the more you and I pay for George Steinbrenner's new stadium


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