Saturday, June 28, 2008

"Let's learn from Yankee Stadium and fix up these old dumps" SFGate 6/27/8

Let's learn from Yankee Stadium and fix up these old dumps

Thomas Swick
Friday, June 27, 2008

This year, after 85 years, the New York Yankees are playing their last season at Yankee Stadium. This exemplary American organization has concluded, amid much criticism, that just because your home happens to be a national treasure doesn't mean you can't trade it in for something more modern, more pristine, more dripping with profitable skyboxes.

The Yankees are once again proving themselves worthy of their name. For we are a nation untouched by sentimentality about the past, infused with confidence about the future. We, the people of tomorrow, boldly sweep history under the rug.
In which case, Yankee Stadium should simply serve as a start.

The Alamo

What is the comment of practically every American who visits? That's right: It's much smaller than I thought it would be.
And in Texas no less!

The place has been an embarrassment for over a century. We squeeze into our relaxed-fit jeans, drive our SUVs down eight-lane highways, stop for Whoppers and extra-cheese pizzas, and then pull up in front of this glorified manger.

We're a big people, ours is a big country, independence is a big deal - why do we allow it to be represented by this puny building?

It's time for the city of San Antonio to take down the Alamo (hey, if New Yorkers can demolish Yankee Stadium ...) and construct a new, improved Alamo, one with a 30-story, mission-style facade embedded with colored message boards that say - literally - "Independence."

It could incorporate the Menger Hotel into its sprawl and become a hotel/convention center sort of thing. It could have the River Walk running through it!

Mount Rushmore

Who are those guys again? Yeah, they were important - years and years and years ago.

And they were all, if I'm not mistaken, politicians. We don't venerate politicians. Not in the land of the spree and the home of the rave. Ours is a celebrity culture, and it's time we gave our celebrities their due.

But we're also a democracy. So let's vote on it - American Idol-style. What four stars would you, the American people, most like to see up on Mount Rushmore? Imagine the heated office debates. It's hard to leave out Brangelina, but if you pick them, you've only got space for two others. How do you resist seeing George Clooney in stone?

And because we're not slaves to the past, the faces would change every four years.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Old media. Sure, it's nice to look at, but so what? It stands on prime real estate on the Outer Banks, stiff, unhelpful, a little arrogant. And you have to climb the stupid thing.

Americans want attractions that are fun, interactive, immersive - and don't require a lot of exertion, either physical or mental. Carolinians, tear down that silly tower and replace it with a theme park. And while you're at it, build a 24-hour casino next door.

Grand Canyon

A no-brainer. The thing is older than Yankee Stadium and the Alamo combined. And it's a long drive from Vegas.
Wouldn't it make sense to close up that sorry hole in the ground and build a replica in Las Vegas, the city that's famous for re-creations?
It always did seem a little odd that you went there and saw the fake Paris, the fake Venice, the fake Manhattan and then drove to see the real Grand Canyon. This way you'd get the beauty of four ersatz experiences without the bother of driving anywhere. And in Vegas you'd be able to see the entire canyon from one location (always a disappointment over there in Arizona).

The White House

Too much history, too many straight lines. How's our leader supposed to stay current, fluid, living in that museum?
Hire Frank Gehry to do one of his shiny, undulating numbers and set it down on the South Lawn. Then, even though it will consume more energy than a village in India, call it the Green House.

Thomas Swick is the travel editor of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, where this essay originally appeared. To comment, visit and follow the links.

This article appeared on page E - 3 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

"City choosing to forget" Metro 6/25/8

City choosing to forget
Selective memory on display in uproar over delayed Yankees’ parkland
by patrick arden / metro new york

JUN 25, 2008
When did the Bloomberg administration know that it was replacing parks lost to the new Yankee Stadium with polluted land?

That was the question City Councilwoman Helen Foster asked yesterday at a hearing on the project’s delays.

Costs to the city have doubled in the last two years, with the replacement parks’ bill climbing 84 percent to around $190 million. Yesterday, officials attributed part of the sticker shock to “unanticipated” cleanup.

“I can assure you that there was no attempt to underplay the cost,” said Liam Kavanagh of the Parks Department. But the city knew its replacement park parcels were contaminated — it’s even mentioned in the project’s initial environmental review. In 2006, Metro detailed the massive amount of pollution the city had found at the site.

The review acknowledged toxins exceeding state standards “were detected in soil samples from throughout the project area.”
Oil contamination was identified in dirt and groundwater.

National Park Service executive Jack Howard noted soil near the Harlem River had “petroleum-like odors.” With reason: The lot had hosted a Valvoline Oil facility and a power plant.

"Difficulty of Work Blamed for Delays Replacing Park Space Lost to Yankee Stadium" NY Times 6/25/8

Difficulty of Work Blamed for Delays Replacing Park Space Lost to Yankee Stadium

Published: June 25, 2008
A parks department official, called before the City Council to explain why an effort to replace recreation space lost to construction of the new Yankee Stadium has been plagued by delays and cost overruns, said on Tuesday that the department’s inexperience with such complex projects was partly to blame.

The city was required to build new parks in the Bronx after Macombs Dam Park and a portion of John Mullaly Park were chosen as the site of the new stadium. State and federal law dictate that a similar amount of parkland of equal or greater fair market value replace the old parks.

The Parks and Recreation Department originally said that seven of the eight replacement parks would be completed by April 2009, in time for opening day at the new stadium. The eighth, Heritage Field, planned for the site of the current stadium, had been scheduled to open in December 2010, after the stadium is demolished, but that date has been pushed back to 2011.

Earlier this year, the agency said the completion of some of the parks would be delayed for as long as two years and cost $174 million, up from an earlier estimate of $95.5 million. The new figures prompted the City Council’s Parks and Recreation Committee to call for a hearing.

On Tuesday, council members asked Liam Kavanagh, the parks department’s first deputy commissioner, a series of pointed questions, including whether the agency had been dishonest about its original cost estimates.

“Is there a possibility the numbers were watered down or made less to make the package more appealing?” asked Councilwoman Helen Diane Foster, the committee chairwoman.

Mr. Kavanagh responded, “I can assure you there was no attempt to underplay the cost of the replacement program.”

He said the agency had had trouble carrying out its plan to place some of the replacement parks in unusual locations, including one atop a stadium parking garage. “It is not something we are fully familiar with,” he said.

The rooftop park, which will include a 400-meter track and basketball courts, was supposed to be completed next year. Now that date has been pushed back to 2010, the parks department has said.

Another replacement park, on an abandoned site along the Harlem River waterfront, ran into trouble when crews found more oil barrels buried there than they had been told to expect, he said. That led to significant costs for removing the barrels and cleaning toxic substances.

“This site is much different than something we typically deal with,” he said. The park along the waterfront will cost about $56 million to build, the department now says.

Mr. Kavanagh said that despite the problems, the waterfront park would be “available for public use a year from now, in line with the original schedule.” However, the stadium’s 2005 environmental report said the park would be done by October 2007.

When Councilman Alan Gerson asked why the agency had not done a more thorough analysis of replacement park sites to determine what they contained before starting construction, Mr. Kavanagh said that in many cases, the department had lacked access to do proper studies.

Mr. Gerson said, “All the reasons you cited are reasons why we should do full-fledged estimates before funding is in place.’’

Other delays and cost overruns are a result of rising construction prices and the decision to expand some parks, including Heritage Field, Mr. Kavanagh said. Three-quarters of an acre was added to that park, bringing it to a total of about 8.9 acres.

He said construction costs alone have been rising 0.75 percent to 1.5 percent each month.

“With international demand for petroleum-based products and basic construction commodities at an all-time high and local demand for construction services pushing supply limits, construction costs continue to outpace even the most liberal estimates,” Mr. Kavanagh said.

Mr. Kavanagh said that despite the delays and escalating costs, the city was committed to building the replacement parks as quickly as possible.

Monday, June 16, 2008

"Public to MTA, Yanks: Enough already!" AM New York 6/12/8

Public to MTA, Yanks: Enough already!
By Marlene Naanes |
8:21 PM EDT, June 12, 2008

New Yorkers have heard it all before and they say they've heard enough.

When big-ticket projects around the city are facing cost overruns, delays or funding difficulties, outstretched hands tap the public coffers. Somehow, some way, New Yorkers feel the cost always trickles down to them.

"The public always gets the brunt of it," said Andrew Steinhandler, 27, of Astoria. "There needs to be an end to asking for public support."

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said this week that fares could go up sooner than expected if the state and federal government doesn't help relieve the agency's hundreds of millions in deficits.

At the same time, the Yankees said they are seeking $350 million more in public financing than it had originally agreed to in order to build its new stadium.

The latest came from the governor in his request for an audit on the World Trade Center site redevelopment. Gov. David Paterson's letter to the Port Authority hinted that the project could be facing delays and cost increases.

Enough, New Yorkers said.

"I have a tough time swallowing any kind of hardship the MTA might complain about," said Brian Oakes, 34, of Clinton Hill. "Every year or two years it seems like there's a hike in fares."

The Yankees probably knew they needed extra financing help all along, said a frustrated Robert Bernstein, 36, of Chelsea. "They tried to sell us on the sizzle and now they say they need more money."

Taxpayers feel the Yankees, the MTA and any other entity seeking more financing should look to bail themselves out instead of dipping into the public's pocket for more money.

The MTA said in a statement Thursday it has and will continue to tighten its belt. Yankees representatives did not respond to requests for comment. The Port Authority said it is conducting the governor-ordered assessment.

The Yankees' request received the most ire from public officials. Assembly members sent a letter Thursday asking for a hearing to examine why private sports projects have received support while other public projects have not.

"We can't fund the MTA capital plan yet someway we can find ways to fund a stadium," said Assemb. Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester).

One taxpayer said people who oversee publicly-funded agencies or projects need to do a better job managing funds and predicting for the future.

"Everything just seems to be increasing, so I don't know if the economy a viable argument anymore," said Claire Pujol, 25, of East Harlem.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

"Green Thievery in the South Bronx" NY Times 6/14/8

Green Thievery in the South Bronx

Published: June 14, 2008
Many promises were made two years ago when the New York Yankees grabbed prime parkland in the South Bronx to build a new stadium. One of them, made by the city, was that residents would have better parks, soccer fields, tracks and ball courts to replace what was taken away. That has not yet happened — and it must.

The Yankees took more than 20 acres of contiguous parkland — from Macombs Dam and John Mullaly Parks — to build a new stadium adjacent to the original one. Hundreds of mature trees were felled, and even though thousands of new ones have been planted, the area feels like the construction zone it is. State and federal law requires creation of equal or similar amounts of parkland when acres are given up for nonpublic purpose. But the city, which is paying for the new green spaces, is moving too slowly.

Residents have every right to be annoyed over the swap. Replacement facilities would be spread out over smaller plots of land, even over a parking garage. And instead of the natural turf that was taken away, the surface of choice is artificial and less appealing.

Tennis courts that had been in the center of Macombs Dam Park, across the street from residential buildings, will increase in number, but along the waterfront. Attractive as that may sound, it is too far and requires crossing too many busy roadways to be practical for those who live in the area.

In explaining the delays, the city says costs have risen from $95.5 million in 2006 to $174 million. The Yankees are also paying substantially more than first estimated, about 60 percent more, for their new digs. But they are being helped along by hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies, and may be heading back to the public trough for more. The team is on schedule to play in their new home next spring. Completing the parks for residents, meanwhile, may take another two years.

The Yankees are the richest team in baseball. Their neighbors are among the poorest in the nation. The city should move faster to provide substitutes for the healthy green spaces that have been taken away.

"High End or Low, Ballparks Break Bank" NY Times 6/14/8

High End or Low, Ballparks Break Bank

Published: June 14, 2008

An interesting problem is what to do with the words and numbers “$2 billion.” Hardly anyone really knows what they mean. One example, worth repeating, is that the difference between a million and a billion seconds is the difference between 11 days and 33 years. A thousand seconds is 16 minutes.

This week, word came that the Yankees want $250 million to $350 million more in tax-free bonds to complete construction of what is the most expensive stadium ever built in the country. With $943 million already in its bucket, the team is scratching around for additional public financing to bring the Yankees’ part of the project to about $1.2 billion.

Add to that at least $500 million that the city is paying to build garages and to replace parkland, a figure that is likely to climb. By the time kids are at last playing in the new parks that will replace the ones handed over to the professional sports team, no one would be surprised if the whole stadium package came to $2 billion.

Such a number has no connection to ordinary life. It might help to scale things down.

The Yankees and the Mets are at one end of the professional sports world, in Major League Baseball. At the other end would be Class A short-season teams, which play 38 home games a year. Each team may field no more than 3 players who are older than 23. About 10 years ago, New York City built two ballparks for Class A short-season teams, one in Coney Island, Brooklyn, for an affiliate of the Mets, the other near the ferry terminal in Staten Island for a team half-owned by the Yankees.

Counting the improvements made to the streets around the stadium, the Staten Island ballpark cost about $76 million, the most expensive minor league baseball stadium ever built. It was 8 or 9 times the cost of the average minor league stadium built for 10 years before it, and was more than twice as much as the next costliest.

Both minor league parks are beautifully situated: In Staten Island, the stands overlook New York Harbor, and in Coney Island, the stadium is alongside the ocean.

Charming as they are, the two stadiums together cost about $120 million. Both teams have long-term leases with the city and are supposed to pay rent based on attendance. But the rent has rarely amounted to more than a few hundred thousand dollars a year.

Sometime in the next few years, New York City will have completed two new major league stadiums, with the Mets building a new park in Flushing, Queens. In the span of a decade, the city will have spent well over $2 billion to subsidize professional sports teams.

The stadiums began as a cause championed by Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. His successor, Michael R. Bloomberg, professing great skepticism about the public financing of sports arenas, walked away from deals that Mr. Giuliani made in the last hours of his administration. Now, however, Mr. Bloomberg — a man with firsthand experience of what a billion dollars means — has proven to be every bit as generous as his predecessor.

That still leaves the problem of scale.

So one more example.

To build the stadiums in Brooklyn and Staten Island for 12 weeks a year of minor league baseball, the city borrowed the $120 million over three decades. The debt service on those loans costs the city $6 million annually, or $500,000 for every week of play.

And what does $6 million a year mean?

That is about $2 million more than the city pays for sports equipment and uniforms for 400,000 public high school students. And that means $10 a kid.


"'Soviet-Style' Tactics Said To Be Used To Help Yanks" The Sun 6/13/8

'Soviet-Style' Tactics Said To Be Used To Help Yanks
By PETER KIEFER, Staff Reporter of the Sun
June 13, 2008

City and state officials are working in concert to convince the Internal Revenue Service to make it easier to get access to hundreds of millions of dollars in tax-exempt financing for the construction of the Yankees, Mets, and Nets stadiums.

All three projects have already received hundreds of millions of dollars in tax-exempt bond financing, but the city and state are seeking more, which has angered a number of watchdog groups and state legislators.

"These decisions are being made in secret in these Soviet-style meetings and it is outrageous," the chairman of the Assembly's Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, Richard Brodsky, said. On Wednesday, it was disclosed that the Yankees had approached the city about seeking an additional $350 million in tax-exempt financing.

"The city is working in Washington to seek relief on the IRS regulations," the president of the New York City Economic Development Corp., Seth Pinsky, said in an interview yesterday.

Since the 1986 Tax Reform Act was enacted during the Reagan administration, private development companies have faced tight restrictions when attempting to get access to tax-exempt bonds for sports facilities.

In 2006, with the support of the Bloomberg administration, the Yankees and the Mets were able to circumvent the federal regulation by employing a complex accounting technique that allows the bond debt to be paid by the city and state with money received from the private developer, known as payments in lieu of taxes.

Now the IRS is considering closing the loophole for future projects, a move city officials say would hinder development. They say that more private development projects should be able to get the benefits of tax-exempt bonding.

"They have taken away a tool that would be useful for a number of New York City development projects. Ideally we would like the ability to use this financing tool more broadly," Mr. Pinsky said.

The bonds, exempt from city, state, and federal taxes, are said to have an interest rate of about 25% below taxable bonds. According to the city's Independent Budget Office, the construction of the new Yankee stadium has already received $920 million in tax-exempt bond financing, resulting in savings of $190 million in tax payments for the Yankees.

Taxpayers are ultimately forced to pick up part of that tab. According to the Independent Budget Office, the city's treasury lost $10 million in taxes, the state $18 million, and the federal government $200 million.

City officials see the bonds as a relatively inexpensive way to subsidize development, specifically because the federal government picks up a greater share of the tab.

"What is advantageous is that the vast majority is paid for by federal taxes as a result the city loses a small amount of money," Mr. Pinsky said. "We are leveraging a small amount of city and state funds to get a substantial amount of federal assistance."

Bettina Damiani, a project director at a government watchdog group, Good Jobs New York, questions why the city would seek a break from Washington on sports stadium projects when there are so many other pressing infrastructure problems in the city that need additional financing.

"Doesn't the mayor have better things to do than be asking Washington for money to help the Yankees?" she said.

The writer of the book "Field of Schemes," Neil deMause, says the accounting trick used for the Yankees and Mets stadiums counters the intent of the 1986 Tax Reform Act. "At a certain point, this is a huge way for the cities to raid the federal treasury, and let everybody borrow tax exempt money," he said.

Mr. Pinsky said all the funds had been cleared by the IRS. He also said that the developer Forest City Ratner Co. had expressed interest to the city about seeking additional tax-exempt funding, but that the request was being handled by the state.

"We are not making an end-run around anyone," Mr. Pinsky said. "The IRS issued a letter saying what we are doing was perfectly legal."

A spokeswoman for the Yankees, Alice McGillion, said it was always the intent to be seeking additional tax-exempt funding, but she said the exact sum that would be sought had not been determined.

While in Washington yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg was asked about the possibility of additional subsidies for Yankee Stadium.

"With the current regulations, we couldn't give out any more interest-subsidized bonds. So it's an interesting thing. We'll talk to them certainly, as we'd talk to anyone building anything large in the city. But I think it's premature. We would like to see them do it without any more assistance, and whether they can do that or not, I don't know," he said.

Friday, June 13, 2008

"New York State Assembly questions Yankee Stadium funding" Daily News 6/13/8

New York State Assembly questions Yankee Stadium funding
Friday, June 13th 2008, 2:07 AM

State lawmakers and fiscal watchdog groups cried foul Thursday over the Yankees' bid for another $350 million in public financing for their new stadium, saying it could soak up funds needed for parks and transportation.

Three state Assembly members from New York City called for a public hearing to examine a proposal to provide public support for one the richest franchises in sports.

"These sports teams are private companies that appear addicted to keeping their hands in the government cookie jar," said Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries of Brooklyn.

Jeffries and Assemblymen Ruben Diaz Jr. and Jose Peralta asked for a hearing on the use of public funds for the Yankees that they said were negotiated "in secret and without the control of elected officials" while other community projects are desperate for funding.

About $941 million in tax-exempt public bonds have already been issued for the $1.3 billion stadium that the Yankees are building across the street from their current ballpark in the Bronx.

Under current Internal Revenue Service regulations, the Yankees cannot ask for more public debt to be incurred for the stadium.

But city officials have been lobbying Washington for a change in IRS regulations that would allow the Yankees to get the $350 million in additional tax-exempt bonds they say they need. Such a change could help other big stadium projects — not just the new Yankee Stadium.

"The city along with the state as well as others have been working in Washington to seek relief from the applicable IRS regulations," said Seth Pinsky, president of the city Economic Development Corp.

Yankees president Randy Levine confirmed Wednesday that the Yankees were seeking additional bonding. A team spokesman said Thursday the Yankees had nothing to add.

The Yankees still plan to have the stadium completed by Opening Day 2009, regardless of whether they secure the additional funding.

The fact that the Yankees were seeking more financing didn't go down well with activists who questioned the need for a new stadium all along.

The Yankees' Opening Day payroll of $209.1 million was by far the highest in the Major Leagues. And when their new stadium opens next year it will be feature amenities like luxury suites, conference meeting rooms and a concierge service that should guarantee that the team's fans will be the richest in the majors as well.

Ticket prices will go up as well, with the team charging $500 to $2,500 for seats near home plate in the first five-to-eight rows of the new ballpark.

Critics of the stadium said other projects are more deserving of the money, such as transportation improvements, hospitals, schools, and the Hunts Point Market, America's biggest wholesale produce market, which is looking to leave New York if the city doesn't help rebuild its aging facility in the Bronx.

"I don't see why they should be allowed to use more tax-exempt bonds," said Neil deMause, co-author of "Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money Into Private Profit." ''There's no benefit to the city for this."

Geoffrey Croft, president of New York City Park Advocates, which unsuccessfully sued to block the new stadium because it required the razing of two city parks, said he welcomed legislative hearings into the Yankees' financing.

City economic development officials said they hope to persuade the IRS to rescind regulations against funding professional stadiums. The Yankees' proposal could lead to similar funding for the new Mets stadium and an arena for the NBA's New Jersey Nets, but could also apply to construction projects for other teams.

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, who made the Yankee proposal public, said negotiations over the proposed IRS change have taken place in secret, but Pinsky said his agency has nothing to hide.

"The Yankees have informally approached us to seek some additional financing for their project," he said. "The reason nothing's been made public is that there is nothing to make public at this point."

"Yankees to City: What’s Another $350M Between Friends?" Village Voice 6/12/8

Yankees to City: What’s Another $350M Between Friends?
Posted by Neil deMause at 11:00 AM, June 12, 2008

What? This stadium just isn't good enough?

Next time you're tempted to conclude that New York's state legislature is entirely useless, remember this: State Assemblymember Richard Brodsky broke the news on Tuesday that the Yankees are looking to get an additional $350 million in city tax-exempt bonds for their new stadium, currently under construction in the Bronx.

"The explosion of public debt issued by obscure semi-public and private institutions is reaching unmanageable proportions," declared Brodsky, chair of the committee overseeing public authorities. "The Yankee Stadium financing may or may not be a good thing, but it certainly should be done in the light of day."

In the interest of daylight, then: The $350 million the Yanks are seeking would be on top of the $940 million in city bonds the team already got in 2006; presumably, the added cash would help pay for the $300 million in extra costs (for such things as a larger scoreboard) that team officials first reported in February.

The Steinbrenner clan would pay off the bonds, but by using city-backed tax-exempt debt, could save beaucoup bucks — about $60 million, according to the city Independent Budget Office.

In effect, the city would be arranging a low-cost loan to the Yanks, with the savings coming out of the city, state, and (mostly) federal treasuries. The big question is whether it's legal. Since 1986, tax-exempt bonds have been mostly off-limits to teams if they’re paying the bulk of stadium construction costs. The trick the Yanks (and Mets) used to get around this restriction: officially designating their stadium costs as “payments in lieu of property taxes,” or PILOTs, magically transforming their private money into tax dollars as far as the feds were concerned. (The new stadium, like the old, will be publicly owned and pay no property taxes.) Though IBO director Ronnie Lowenstein warned that this was "a very, very aggressive interpretation of the IRS code,” the IRS okayed the deal in July 2006, paving the way for the Yanks’ groundbreaking the next month.

The resulting flurry of questions led the IRS to tighten up the new loophole slightly, requiring that for all projects going forward, any PILOT payments be adjusted year to year to reflect the actual assessed value of the land — a provision that’s expected to reduce the value of the bond subsidy slightly, since bondholders like to know that their money’s coming regardless of what the real estate market is doing.

Another potential obstacle for the new Yankee bonds: The IRS still insists that PILOTs can be no more than the total property taxes that would be due on the site; as the IBO was already skeptical that the existing payments fell below this threshold, tacking on another $350 million is sure to raise more questions as to whether the IRS is bending the rules to please a powerful taxpayer. (Janel Patterson, a spokesperson for the city Economic Development Corporation, issued a statement that the city would be “working with the State in Washington to seek relief from the applicable IRS Regulation,” but didn’t provide specifics.)

For Bettina Damiani of Good Jobs New York, which has issued several reports analyzing the Yankees deal, the latest news was déjà vu all over again. "It's like Groundhog Day,” she says. “At a time when gas prices are through the roof, property taxes are increasing, water bills are getting higher, they say they're going to raise the subway fare again, all of this so we can cater to Steinbrenner? Misplaced priorities is an understatement."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

"Yankees Want More NYC Bonds for Stadium: Brodsky" ABC News 6/10/8

Yankees Want More NYC Bonds for Stadium: Brodsky
By Joan Gralla
June 10, 2008

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York Yankees baseball team wants a city agency to sell $350 million of bonds for its new stadium or else it will not be able to complete the project, state Assemblyman Richard Brodsky said on Tuesday.

The Internal Revenue Service, however, would have to approve the new bond sale. The federal tax agency cracked down on financing these types of projects with tax-exempt debt after the Yankees got a waiver for the first sale of debt for their new stadium in the Bronx, the Westchester Democrat said.

"Right now, they (the Yankees) are saying they don't think they can complete the stadium unless the Internal Revenue Service ruling is reversed and they apparently have been joined in this effort to reverse the ruling by the Nets and the Mets," Brodsky told Reuters by phone.

However, Yankees President Randy Levine said: "This will not affect the completion of the stadium."

Levine and the city's debt-selling agency confirmed they wanted a waiver from the IRS. "We are working under the strong leadership of the city and state to try to seek relief from the regulations," Levine said.

The Yankees, one of the most profitable U.S. sports enterprises, once threatened to move out of the Bronx.

Though the team that has won 26 World Series titles decided to stay put, civic advocates say they and their cross-town rivals, the Mets, got overly rich taxpayer subsidies.

The new Yankee stadium is expected to open in 2009, replacing the 1923 stadium made famous by Babe Ruth.

In addition to other benefits, the city's Industrial Development Authority in 2006 sold $941 million of tax-exempt bonds for the Yankees and $548 million of debt for the Mets, whose Shea Stadium in Queens dates back to 1964.

Tax-exempt debt is crucial for the new basketball arena's financing. The Nets, which won two championships when they were in the American Basketball Association, plan to open the Brooklyn arena in time for the 2010-2011 season.

Janel Patterson, an Industrial Development Authority spokeswoman, confirmed the city would consider selling more debt for the Yankees and said the IRS ruling blocks other projects.

"The City is working with the State in Washington to seek relief from the applicable IRS regulation, as this regulation has taken away a tool that would be useful for a number of important, New York economic development projects, not just Yankee Stadium," she said in a statement.

A spokesman for the Nets had no immediate comment. A spokesman for the Mets was not immediately available.

Brodsky demanded reforms and more accountability, saying: "The explosion of public debt issued by obscure semi-public and private institutions is reaching unmanageable proportions."

Brodsky also questioned if a city corporation, the Capital Resource Corporation that now plans to sell debt formerly sold by another agency, had met disclosure requirements.

He added: "These deals are usually negotiated secretly, with little accountability or public oversight, and directly or indirectly leave taxpayers on the hook.

(Editing by Braden Reddall)