Wednesday, December 24, 2008

"Bloomberg’s Economic Development Office Announces Rushed Vote on More Bonds for Yankees’ and Mets’ Stadiums" Good Jobs New York press release 12/23/8

Bloomberg’s Economic Development Office Announces Rushed Vote on More Bonds for Yankees’ and Mets’ Stadiums
Back Door Giuliani-Era Practice Revived

New York, December 23, 2009 – Good Jobs New York today denounced the New York City Industrial Development Agency (IDA) for announcing a rushed vote on $454 million in proposed additional tax-exempt financing for the new Yankee and Mets Stadiums.

In the wake of a statement by New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. assailing the IDA for scheduling the vote on Inauguration Day, the IDA has rescheduled the board vote for January 16, the day after the hearing, not the normal five days after. The rushed voting process revives the IDA’s practice of secretive and questionable economic development deals that were the norm during the Giuliani administration.

The new date for this important meeting gives IDA board members less than 24 hours to consider the testimony presented the previous day on two major projects that have been widely considered to be egregious corporate giveaways. This raises other transparency concerns such as:

· Deviating from regular IDA calendar: The IDA’s hearing on proposed financing for the projects is being held outside the normal monthly public hearing calendar. The regularly scheduled IDA public hearing for January is on the 8th (where a separate project will be presented), while the board meeting originally slated on the 13th has been cancelled.

· Weak board attendance: Since few IDA board members attend the agency’s required public hearings, it is unlikely that the majority of the board will have heard public testimony prior to voting on these two projects. Those members not in attendance must rely on copies of testimony submitted and the IDA staff’s reporting, as there are no stenographers at IDA hearings.

Moreover, the public financing scheme approved by the IDA in 2006 for the new Yankee Stadium is under investigation by the U.S. House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Domestic Policy and by State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky. Earlier this month, for example, Brodsky revealed evidence that suggests communication between City and Yankees’ officials led the city to artificially inflate land values to support more bond debt.

“It is outrageous for the Bloomberg Administration to rush additional public financing for the wealthiest teams in baseball while city, state and federal legislators are grappling with the worst budget crisis in decades,” said Bettina Damiani, Project Director of Good Jobs New York. “How do entertainment corporations outrank the city’s infrastructure and employment needs?"
This rushed vote is a giant step backward for transparency at the IDA. In 2006, the IDA codified policies it had practiced since 2004 that made significant steps forward, including allowing more time between hearing and board meetings, and releasing cost benefit analyses and project applications five days prior to public hearings. These policies have enabled New Yorkers to participate in meaningful debate, as evident at IDA hearings when financing was proposed for various post 9/11 projects and for the initial allocation of tax-free financing for the Yankees and Mets, for example.

“We urge the IDA and the Bloomberg Administration to reschedule the vote until after the Inauguration, so board members have sufficient time to review public comments and IDA materials associated with the projects,” said Damiani.

Should the IDA board approve this financing, it will cost more than $80 million in lost tax revenue, bringing total public costs for both the Yankees and Mets deals to nearly $1.4 billion, with most going to the Yankee Stadium project.

The public hearing will be held at 10:00am on Thursday, January 15 at the IDA offices in Lower Manhattan, 110 William St., 4th Floor. The Board meeting to vote is currently scheduled for January 16 at 9:00am at the same address.

Editor’s note: The IDA has 15 board members: five appointed by the mayor on the recommendation of Borough Presidents, with others, such as the City Comptroller, the City Corporation Counsel, and the City Planning Commissioner automatically seated “ex-officio.” The remainder, including the chair, are appointed by the mayor.

# # #


Bettina Damiani

Project Director

Good Jobs New York

11 Park Place, #701

New York, NY 10007


Monday, December 22, 2008

"It's a wonderful lie" Daily News 12/20/8

It's a wonderful lie
Saturday, December 20th 2008, 9:35 PM

Mike Lupica

City demanded free suite, food from Yankees, e-mails reveal
How city went to bat for Yanks in tax ripoff

The amazing thing, now that we see how Mayor Bloomberg's New York works when he wants something, is that Shelly Silver, Speaker of the State Assembly, stopped Bloomberg when our mayor desperately wanted to hand over the last truly valuable piece of the West Side of Manhattan to the Jets so they could build a new stadium over there.

Now Bloomberg has set himself up for a third term - why? Because he wanted a third term, that's why - and the reason he gives is that in a time of financial peril for the city he has to stay on the job because he is such a financial wizard, practically like the Harry Potter of big-city mayors.

So one of these days Bloomberg and the people who work for him - or used to work for him when he was trying to get the deal done on the financing of the new Yankee Stadium - need to explain something to the citizens of New York, and to the Congress, in a way those of us who aren't financial wizards can understand:

How more than two years ago the appraised value of the land around the new stadium, land the Yankees need to build the richest baseball stadium ever built, suddenly and magically went from $27 million to $204 million because that made the deal work best for the New York Yankees.

And this really needs to be explained before the city's Industrial Development Agency holds hearings on Jan. 15 about handing over an additional $259 million to the Yankees in tax-exempt bonds so they can finish building this stadium, along with $111 million in taxable bonds.

Because if the city just hands over the bonds at a time like this, it will tell you everything about the way Bloomberg's New York actually works for the rich and the powerful.

The Mets were originally allowed to raise $547 million in tax-exempt bonds, and have gone back to the city now for money they didn't take on the front end. The Yankees were authorized to get $940 million, and now want 30% on top of that. And what happened for them and didn't happen for the Mets was that there was this one magical day when the appraised value suddenly was 10 times more than it had been the day before.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich hauled everybody in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee once already for a deal that doesn't even come close to passing a smell test. And if it takes Kucinich to get straight answers out of everybody involved in this deal, he is going to need to do that again.

Then maybe there will be the kind of transparency for these sweetheart stadium deals that mayors like Bloomberg have been rubber-stamping all over the country for the last two decades, in good economic times and bad.

For now Bloomberg and his people can start the transparency by explaining some E-mails the great Juan Gonzalez had in the Daily News the other day. The best was one sent by an aide to former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff - the No. 1 head cheerleader for the Jets deal, if you remember - to the city's Economic Development Corp.

The guy's name is Michael Kalt, and he's clearly letting everybody know just how much the city wanted the Yankees to get those nearly $1 billion in tax-free bonds for The House Across The Street From The One That Ruth Built.

Kalt's E-mail read this way:

"I don't want to get into this much farther on E-mail, but we have to take into consideration that the AV (assessed value) is only so high because we're choosing a methodology to support the tax-exempt financing." As Gonzalez pointed out, the higher the assessment - and $27 million just wasn't going to get it done - meant more tax-free bonds that the IRS would approve.
There is no way of knowing how many more fun E-mails there are like this floating around this matter because, as Juan Gonzalez pointed out, the city refuses to release them.

Everybody eventually got the assessment they wanted, of course. It was practically like a Christmas miracle, just in March of 2006. And even though this all happened in a far different economic climate, isn't this exactly the kind of deal we're supposed to be asking questions about now?

So how come no politician in New York except Rep. Richard Brodsky seems to be asking the questions and carrying the fight on this? Or maybe the cozy relationship between the Yankees and City Hall that began when Yankee groupie Rudy Giuliani was mayor was turned over to Bloomberg like a well-turned double play. As always with the current mayor, pay close attention to what he does, not what he says.

It has been fascinating to watch it all play out over more than a decade. Randy Levine, former Deputy Mayor to Giuliani, becomes president of the Yankees, and it sure wasn't because of his baseball expertise, it was because he was supposed to be the point man to get the Yankees a new stadium. Don't think the rest of baseball wasn't paying close attention. Because guess where Michael Kalt, former aide to Doctoroff, works now?

Kalt works for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Who want their city to help them build a new stadium!

The Industrial Development Agency's hearing on these new bonds the Yankees want is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Jan. 15, at 110 Williams St., New York City. We will get some straight answers that day, or it will be like a brand-new Opening Day for Kucinich.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

"E-mails Show City's Tricky Math in Yankee Stadium Deal" Village Voice 12/17/8

Click the title above to read this article with hyperlinks at the Village Voice site

E-mails Show City's Tricky Math in Yankee Stadium Deal
Posted by Neil deMause at 3:01 PM, December 17, 2008

As Juan Gonzalez first reported in this morning's Daily News, Assemblymember Richard Brodsky has obtained more e-mails between city officials on the Yankees' stadium project -- and they're doozies.

The latest e-mails, Brodsky told Gonzalez, are "the smoking gun" on how the city ended up with two different land values for the site of the Yankees' new stadium:

"The professionals did their job. The political appointees then ordered them to change the assessment -- and they did."

For those who haven't kept up with the story so far, a quick recap. For the past few months, Brodsky has been pounding away at the question of how exactly city assessors managed to come up with two different valuations for the land -- formerly Macombs Dam Park -- that the city handed over to the Yankees for their new stadium, telling the IRS it was worth more than $200 million, while telling the state it was a mere $21 million.

This wasn't just a matter of sloppy paperwork: If the IRS figure had been any lower, the Yanks' convoluted plan for getting tax-free bonds (involving setting property tax levels high enough that the team's private bond payments could be recast as public "payments in lieu of property taxes," or PILOTS) would have fallen apart; if the state figure were any higher, it would have been illegal to eliminate Macombs Dam Park without providing more new parkland to replace it.

There's more background here, but you get the idea -- the city had to rationalize two very different land value figures to make the Stadium deal work.

At Congressional hearings in October, both Rep. Dennis Kucinich and Brodsky questioned city officials on the twin assessments, but got nowhere. Finance commissioner Martha Stark, whose office issued the land values, said it wasn't unusual to use different assessment methods for different purposes. And while she admitted having spoken with other Bloomberg officials in the days before issuing the higher IRS assessment, she insisted they were only urging her to give them a number promptly, not telling her what that number would be: "We value the real estate as we would value it typically."

What the latest e-mails show, however, is a very different scene unfolding back in March 2006.

On March 10, it turns out -- two weeks before Stark was describing pressure to supply a figure ASAP -- her assessor Maurice Kellman had in fact provided a land value for the Macombs Dam site: $26.8 million, not nearly enough to allow for the team's planned tax-free bond scheme. This figure, Kellman explained in a memo titled "Estimated Market Value for Proposed Yankee Stadium," was based on land values in the Bronx that were "growing by leaps and bounds" and had now reached $32.50 a square foot.

Twelve days later, Kellman submitted a revised memo to his boss, assistant commissioner Dara Ottley-Brown, along with the terse note, "Here is the write-up with the changes you requested earlier today."

The new land value figure: $204 million. A new paragraph in the memo explained that this was based on land sales not in the South Bronx, but in Harlem, where "land sales north of 100 Street in Manhattan range from $200 to $323 per square foot." The "major revitalization" of Harlem over the past five years "has also spread across the river to the South Bronx," Kellman's memo now asserted, without explanation of why it concluded that Manhattan sale prices were considered a better means of valuing Bronx land than Bronx sale prices.

(Also left unexplained: Why anyone thought Harlem begins at 100th Street.)

So, were the "changes requested" to goose the numbers to fit the Yanks' bond scheme? There's nothing in the e-mail trail from March 2006 that proves it, but other e-mails provide circumstantial evidence:

On December 22, 2005, Michael Kalt from the mayor's office -- since moved on to become stadium czar for the Tampa Bay Rays -- e-mailed Robert LaPalme and Steve Berzin of the city Industrial Development Agency: "I don't want to get into this much further on e-mail, but we have to take into consideration that the AV [assessed value] is only so high because we're choosing a methodology to support the tax-exempt financing."

The previous month, LaPalme had e-mailed Kalt asking if it was okay to "development schedules for the maximum PILOT payments" -- the keys to the Yanks' tax-free bond dodge -- and noted that "I know that you folks had one meeting with [Department of Finance] to discuss assessment methodology."

This past July, mayoral press aide Andrew Brent e-mailed a proposed statement to others in City Hall that concluded that the $204 million appraisal had been "made at the urging of EDC to satisfy the underwriters of the tax-exempt bonds that were to be used to finance the stadiums." Finance Department press officer Owen Stone e-mailed back, "I think you should skip that last sentence" about satisfying the underwriters, and suggested a more neutral replacement.

So what happens if it turns out the city cooked the books? Kucinich's subcommittee staffers say the IRS could conduct an audit; if it turns out there were "material misrepresentations" by the city, the bonds could be stripped of their tax-exempt status. (An IRS spokesperson said he'd have to get back to us on this.) And if nothing else, this should make for some fireworks when the IDA considers the Yanks' request for $259 million in new tax-exempt bonds -- now slated for a public hearing on January 15 at 10 am at 110 William Street.

"E-mails reveal how city went to bat for Yankee to inflate value of stadium land" NY Daily News 12/16/8

E-mails reveal how city went to bat for Yankee to inflate value of stadium land
Tuesday, December 16th 2008, 10:50 PM

Mayor Bloomberg's aides secretly pressured city tax assessors to inflate the value of land under the new Yankee Stadium so the team could qualify for nearly $1 billion in tax-free bonds, city e-mails show.

In March 2006, the city's chief tax assessor put the market value for the stadium site at $27 million, far lower than the Yankees wanted. A Finance Department official ordered him to redo the report. Within hours, he jacked up it up to $204 million.

The bombshell e-mails raise a big question: Did city officials violate state law, which requires uniform valuation methods for all properties?

"This is the smoking gun," said Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, who has spearheaded a state probe into the stadium deal. "The professionals did their job. The political appointees then ordered them to change the assessment - and they did."

Bloomberg aides have told a state Assembly committee and a House of Representatives subcommittee they did nothing improper.

"There was no pressure on us," Finance Commissioner Martha Stark told the congressional subcommittee in October. "In no way did it [the assessment of the stadium] lead to our assessors doing anything out of the ordinary."

The e-mails tell a different story.

They show that top aides in City Hall, the Law Department and the city Economic Development Corp. were obsessed with getting a high assessment for the new stadium site to please the Yankees.

The city was forced to turn those e-mails over to the congressional and state committees. The Daily News obtained copies.
On Dec. 22, 2005, Michael Kalt, an aide to former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, wrote EDC officials, "I don't want to get into this much further on e-mail, but we have to take into consideration that the AV [assessed value] is only so high because we're choosing a methodology to support the tax-exempt financing."

Kalt was City Hall's point man for the Yankees project. He knew the Yankees needed a high assessment because the team was planning to pay back $940 million in tax-exempt financing with something called PILOTs - payments in lieu of taxes. The higher the assessment, the more tax-free bonds the team could ask the IRS to approve.

Kalt, now a vice president of the Tampa Bay Rays, declined to comment Tuesday. "No one influenced the assessment," Bloomberg spokesman Andrew Brent said.

Stark has told Congress that her staff did not know how the payments are calculated.

The e-mails show that City Attorney Joseph Gunn notified Stark's former assistant commissioner, Dara Ottley-Brown, on July 15, 2005, that "the Yankees have an interest in seeing that the assessed valuation will be high enough to generate as much PILOT for tax-exempt debt as is lawful and appropriate."

They also show Stark's staff met at least three times with the Yankees and other city officials to discuss the department's assessment method.

On March 21, 2006, a few weeks before City Council's vote on the Yankees project, Maurice Kellman, the city's chief assessor, sent Ottley-Brown the stadium assessment report. It estimated the value of the land under the stadium at $26.8 million.
Finance Department spokesman Sam Miller said Tuesday that a "senior assessment team" decided Kellman's estimate was too low compared with the construction cost of the new stadium.

After a series of frantic phone calls and e-mails on March 21 and 22 between a half-dozen city officials and the Yankees, Ottley-Brown ordered Kellman to produce a new report.

"Here is the writeup with the changes you requested earlier today," Kellman wrote on the 22nd, pumping the assessment up to $204 million. Kellman would not comment.

There are still hundreds of e-mails connected to the stadium assessment the city refuses to release.

That's why it's time for some prosecutor to step in, subpoena every document and figure out if the Bloomberg administration manipulated land assessments for the Yankees.

Monday, December 15, 2008

"Brodsky Expands Inquiry into Public Subsidies of Sports Stadia" Yonkers Tribune 12/14/8

Brodsky Expands Inquiry into Public Subsidies of Sports Stadia

Elmsford, NY -- Assemblymember Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester) today announced an expanded inquiry into the move toward additional taxpayer assistance of $450 million for the construction of the new Yankee and Met stadia. This assistance is in addition to the over $2 billion already given. The Chairman had begun the inquiry by chairing a public hearing on the taxpayer subsidies on July 2 of this year. His work revealed that contrary to public claims, there was little if any economic benefit to taxpayers in return for their money, that taxpayers, not the professional sports teams were paying for construction of the facilities, that the City did nothing to limit the ticket prices paid by those wishing to attend games, that the assessment of land beneath Yankee Stadium had been artificially and illegally inflated, that city officials strenuously and successfully sought a free luxury suite for themselves, that these issues and decisions were done secretively, and that elected officials, other than the Mayor, had little effective control of the process.

Subsequently, a Congressional Sub-Committee had two public hearings, the City withheld and then partially released requested documents, and still is withholding the bulk of those documents.

"We don't have the money to fund trains, schools or hospitals, yet two of the richest, most profitable companies in the world are turning to taxpayers for support," said Assemblyman Brodsky. "What public interest is served by these subsidies, especially when average citizens cannot afford the enormous increase in ticket prices? Who is protecting the public interest? How can we afford these subsidies when we can't find the money to fund mass transit or schools without enormous tax increases? We're going to get answers to these questions."

He continued, "We have watched as across New York IDAs have become vehicles for special deals that don't benefit the economy. It's not just that we can't afford these kinds of giveaways, it's that we have important economic development work that doesn't have the resources wasted on giveaways. The Assembly has been pushing to reform the system, and we're going to get at the truth of the stadium deals."

The Chairman said he would make announcements about the next steps in the inquiry shortly.

A copy of the Committee's Report is available at

Friday, December 12, 2008

Carrion in the news

This may not rise to the story the Daily News editors killed a few years ago, around 2003, exposing Dan Doctoroff just when the Olympics effort was mounting steam. That led to a reporter to leave the Daily News (if he wasn't ushered out). And this may not rise to the crimes of Christine Quinn or Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.

But it sure seems so...

We all saw the recent story by Tom Robbins in the Village Voice explaining why Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion would make a horrible HUD Secretary should President-Elect Barack Obama tap him for the position. See that story at

Then AM New York reported that Bronx Community residents (including some who had been kicked off the local Community Board for opposing Carrion on the Yankee Stadium project) were organizing efforts to press Obama to not pick Carrion for the HUD job. See that article at

Although it may not be the best way to do this, one of the Bronx activist told us you can go to the Obama transition team's website ( and use the contact form. Or you can email them at He also suggested send a note to Governor Paterson using
his website's "Your Voice" page

Then someone has created a new web site

critical of Carrion, including many cartoons worthy of Tek Jansen and Who would do such a thing?

So last night we were alerted that the Daily News had pulled a story critical of BP Carrion. Sure enough, while the story showed up on the Daily News search results, we got a "Page Not Found" when trying to get the actual story. But a resourceful Bronx resident had copied it before it was pulled. See it below. (read the lame excuse of how it was supposed to run next week)

Also, the Village Voice now has a new Blog Entry, "The News' Amazing Disappearing Carrion Story" See it below. If this keeps up, you can expect Charlie Rangel to put out a contract on Politico's Glenn Thrush.

Adolfo Carrion under fire
Thursday, December 11th 2008, 2:16 AM

'If he runs for dog catcher, we will ... support the dogs.'
-- Carrión Web critic

Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión is not enjoying what should be a career high. He has come under attack from those opposed to him getting a top-level job with the Obama administration. They argue his two terms in local office have been less than stellar.

And Carrión, 47, got in hot water last week after comments he believed to be off the record became public. He has told those close to him that he was seriously misquoted.

In a speech at Yale University last Friday, Carrión supposedly said he'd already been picked for one of five possible jobs - secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Transportation or Education, administrator of the Small Business Administration, or running a new White House Office of Urban Policy.

He also supposedly reported receiving congratulations from Obama's choice for secretary of state, Sen. Hillary Clinton. But the Obama and Clinton camps responded to his political no-no with dead silence.

Meanwhile, some of his detractors have been pushing an anti-Adolfo e-mail campaign to Obama's Web site. One Carrión critic wrote: "If he runs for a dog catcher, we will campaign against him and support the dogs."

Investigative reporter Tom Robbins wrote a piece on the Village Voice blog site this week sarcastically titled: "Five Reasons Why Bronx Beep Adolfo Carrión Will Be a Great HUD Secretary."

It listed Carrión firing local community board members for opposing the Yankee Stadium deal that tore up and will scatter local parks; signing off on a community benefits agreement on stadium construction jobs with no oversight; raking in two-thirds of his $2.3 million campaign warchest for city controller from developers and real estate interests, and letting the city scatter Bronx Terminal Market merchants to make way for a shopping mall in a city land giveaway.

Andy Wolf, a longtime Carrión gadfly who publishes the weekly Riverdale Review, bought Internet domain rights to the site, using it to attack Carrión's record on housing and economic development over seven years in office, suggesting most of the local growth has been thanks more to City Hall.

He notes the Bronx continues to have the state's highest jobless rate, with one of the highest poverty rates in the nation.

Wolf also posted a series of funny but critical political cartoons of Carrión's involvement in controversial issues, including his lawyer wife blocking zoning against local "hot sheet" hotels he was trying to close down.

The News' Amazing Disappearing Carrion Story
Posted by Neil deMause at 5:12 PM, December 11, 2008

Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion is "in hot water" after blurting out to Yale students that he'd already been picked for a top job in the Obama administration, as well as the target of "an anti-Adolfo e-mail campaign" to Obama's by Bronx residents upset by his role in the Yankee Stadium controversy, according to a story by Daily News Bronx editor Bob Kappstatter. Wrote one angry Bronxite: "If he runs for a dog catcher, we will campaign against him and support the dogs."

At least, that's what you would have read on the Daily News website at 2:16 am, when it was posted. By this afternoon, the story, headlined "Adolfo Carrion under fire," had disappeared from the Daily News site. (The Google cache, however, lives on.)

Had the long arm of the borough president -- or the Yankees -- reached out and told the News to can it, as Nets owner Bruce Ratner is charged with having done to ex-Voicer Deborah Kolben's coverage of Atlantic Yards?

Not at all, says Kappstatter. The story, he says, was always meant to be held to run in a future edition of the News; unfortunately, he says, "it had already been typeset, and the software automatically put it onto the website." Daily News spokesperson Jennifer Mauer says the item is now scheduled to run in the News' Bronx edition's gossip column next week, but adds, "I don't know the circumstances" of how it ended up appearing then disappearing from the paper's website.

This isn't the first article to mysteriously go missing at the News: In October, a story on parent outrage over high administrative salaries at the Department of Education similarly played now-you-see-it, now-you-don't, amid allegations of pressure from city officials.

While nobody's accusing the News staffers of knowing how to use those newfangled computer thingies, it's certainly convenient that this only seems to happen with stories critical of city officials, and not, say, Jennifer Connelly's figure.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"As Stadiums’ Costs Rise, City Agrees to New Bond Offerings" NY Times 12/8/8

As Stadiums’ Costs Rise, City Agrees to New Bond Offerings

Published: December 8, 2008
With opening day for the city’s two newest baseball stadiums only four months away, the price tag for taxpayers continues to rise.

The Bloomberg administration has issued fresh estimates for utility work, lighting and the cost of replacing the parks and ball fields that once stood where the new stadium for the Yankees is being erected.

The city also plans to issue $341.2 million in additional tax-exempt bonds on behalf of the Yankees and Mets to complete the stadiums, whose combined cost is about $2.2 billion.

The teams are responsible for paying off the bonds, but they pay tens of millions of dollars less in interest because payments to bondholders are exempt from city, state and federal taxes.

The city and the state are also investing more than $660 million in parks, garages and transportation improvements around the stadiums and are providing the teams with an estimated $500 million in tax breaks related to construction materials and other items. The city had planned to issue a public notice of the latest bond offering and a required public hearing on Monday but decided to wait at least a week until it completed a cost-benefit analysis. With public costs mounting, critics of the deals say the city will be hard pressed to demonstrate that the economic benefits of the stadium projects outweigh the cost to taxpayers.

“We are conducting our analysis of the applications for additional bonds from the Yankees and Mets,” said David Lombino, a spokesman for the city’s Industrial Development Agency, which would issue the bonds. “Upon receipt of the remaining information that we are awaiting, we will be positioned to make decisions about initiating I.D.A.’s formal review process.”

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has insisted that the city will earn a profit on its investment. And based on the city’s 2006 cost-benefit analysis of Yankee Stadium, the city would earn a net return of slightly more than $40 million over the bonds’ life.

Since then, however, project costs have swelled considerably. For instance, the city says it will cost $194.7 million to replace Macombs Dam Park and the ball fields now covered by the new Yankee Stadium on 161st Street, up 50 percent from the 2006 estimate of $129.2 million.

The city is also contributing $39 million toward the $91 million cost of building a Metro-North rail station nearby, an item that was not part of the 2006 cost-benefit analysis.

In one bright spot, city officials said that the cost of infrastructure and street work at the stadium had declined by $2.7 million, to $32.3 million. But that was more than offset by a $10.4 million increase in the cost of street lighting, as well as increased design, engineering and construction-management costs.

Economists generally take a skeptical view of public investments in stadiums because the costs are so great, while most of the jobs they generate are seasonal and part-time. George Sweeting, deputy director of the Independent Budget Office, said, “The additional costs that have emerged make it quite likely that that the city’s net benefit number is now negative.”

In 2006, the Yankees raised $967 million, including $942.5 million from the sale of tax-exempt bonds, while the Mets raised $612.8 million, including $547 million from tax-exempt bonds. The Mets want to raise an additional $82.2 million in tax-exempt bonds, while the Yankees want to raise $259 million more in tax-exempt financing, as well as $111 million in more conventional debt, for what will be a $1.3 billion building.

City officials said that they were weighing the loss of tax revenue associated with the new bond offering against the cumulative benefits, including construction jobs. The Bloomberg administration recently asked the Yankees to contribute $11.5 million toward the cost of infrastructure and the parks.

“While some costs have increased, there are also a number of benefits that were not anticipated when the project was approved,” Mr. Lombino said. If the Industrial Development Agency “opts to move forward on an additional bond issuance, the updated analysis will be released to the public.”

Some critics have complained about the loss of a heavily used park in the middle of Yankee Stadium’s neighborhood. But city officials say they are creating more parkland than was taken for the stadium and building better playing fields.

The Yankees have been stung by persistent criticism of their new stadium. Both they and the Mets are paying a far greater share of the total costs of the ballparks than other professional teams have paid for stadiums in recent years. But the projects are also far more costly than those in other cities.

The Yankees have pointed out that their new stadium has generated thousands of construction jobs. There will be about 1,000 additional positions at the new stadium, they said, most of them union jobs in restaurants, security, marketing and maintenance. Economists, however, say that most will be part time.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

"Bronx battle is on" Metro New York 12/4/8

Bronx battle is on
by patrick arden / metro new york

DEC 4, 2008
A letter from 200 psychologists helped torpedo Barack Obama’s pick of John Brennan to head the CIA. Now housing advocate Betty Robinson hopes a homegrown letter-writing campaign can ambush Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion’s chances of taking over HUD.

Carrion, in a 2006 Metro interview, defended his tussles with community boards 4, 7 and 12. “The community boards are there to unfold the vision for a new Bronx,” he said.

Carrion is reportedly on Obama’s short-list for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Robinson was angered by Carrion’s 2006 decision to purge Community Board 4 of members who voted down building a new Yankee Stadium on neighborhood parks.

“Obama was a community organizer, so he should know that they paid a price for standing up for the community,” said Robinson, a Costa Rican immigrant and longtime Bronx resident.

Lukas Herbert, an urban planner for Westchester County who Carrion declined to reappoint to CB 4, is enlisting more letter writers.

He admits his opposition to Carrion is “partly” personal, “but as a planner I deal with a lot of HUD programs. Why would you pick a county executive with no federal experience?”

Carrion, who holds a degree in urban planning and worked for three years in the Bronx office of the Department of City Planning, did not comment.

patrick arden/metro

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

"'Benefits' of stadium are a city whitewash" NY Daily News 12/3/8

'Benefits' of stadium are a city whitewash
Wednesday, December 3rd 2008, 11:31 AM

In a recent column, Seth Pinsky, president of the city Economic Development Corp., led Bronx Boro News readers to believe that the new Yankee Stadium going up across the street from the current stadium is a gold mine for the community.
Anyone questioning the project wasn't "in his or her right mind," he wrote.

Sadly, Pinsky's arguments are just the city's latest whitewash. It's the Yankees that are mining the gold - at taxpayer expense.
First, the jobs. The Yankees are moving across the street. Does anyone really believe that 1,000 new permanent jobs will be created?

And there has been no independent verification of the team's claim that one-fourth of the construction work hours were performed by Bronx residents.

Secondly, the money and parks. Pinsky cited $40 million in new tax revenue and more parks.

No one argues that construction jobs are beneficial to the economy, but there is no evidence that the project is a "home run" for residents or taxpayers.

And there wouldn't be a need to spend hundreds of millions of tax dollars to build new parks if elected officials hadn't secretly given Macombs Dam Park and part of Mullaly Park away to the baseball team. Contrary to the city's claim that the project expands park space, the community is losing four acres.

During troubled economic times such as these, news that a project will bring in new tax revenue is positive. But Pinsky failed to explain the other side of the balance sheet: $180 million in breaks on property tax and other taxes; nearly $300 million in capital costs to replace the parks and demolish the old Yankee Stadium, and nearly $1 billion in tax-free financing.

All together, city taxpayers are chipping in nearly $500 million for the project, and costs are growing.

Thirdly, the process. Pinsky's claim that this project was done in a transparent manner is blatantly false. The community had no role in its development.

When community members turned out at numerous hearings, it was presented to them as a fait accompli and they were prevented from shaping the project.

The lack of a democratic planning process was among the reasons Community Board 4 overwhelmingly voted against the project. Unfortunately, Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión and local council members overrode that vote and rammed the project through the approval process. Councilwoman Helen Foster (D-Highbridge) came out against the project after she cosponsored the legislation seizing the parks for the Yankees.

Elected officials have been locked out, too.

Recently, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and state Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester) held hearings. Both officials complained the city failed to provide all the information requested.

Last week, Kucinich said the city is withholding 70% of the documents his Subcommittee on Domestic Policy asked for. What's City Hall trying to hide?

Finally, Pinsky's assertion that the project's public financing is "consistent with the long-established purpose of such tax exempt bonds" is grossly disingenuous.

The city hired expensive legal counsel to help obtain special permission from the Internal Revenue Service. And the Industrial Development Agency needed special permission to finance the project since it deviated from the agency's mission.

The city claims the new stadium will bring the community sorely needed jobs, parks and revenue, but the data and documents made public so far just don't prove it.

Bettina Damiani is project director of Good Jobs New York and Geoffrey Croft is president of NYC Park Advocates.'... No evidence the project's a "home run."'

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

"City Pressed Hard for Use of Yankee Luxury Suite" NY TImes 11/29/8

City Pressed Hard for Use of Yankee Luxury Suite

Published: November 29, 2008

The Bloomberg administration was so intent on obtaining a free luxury suite for its own use at the new Yankee Stadium, newly released e-mail messages show, that the mayor’s aides pushed for a larger suite and free food, and eventually gave the Yankees 250 additional parking spaces in exchange.

Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky questions whether taxpayers were adequately protected in the city’s deal with the team.
The parking spaces were given to the team for the private use of Yankees officials, players and others; the spaces were originally planned for public parking. The city also turned over the rights to three new billboards along the Major Deegan Expressway, and whatever revenue they generate, as part of the deal.

The e-mail messages between the aides to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Yankees executives were obtained and released by Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, Democrat of Westchester, who questions whether taxpayers were adequately protected in the city’s deal with the team.

Mr. Brodsky said what emerges from the e-mail correspondence is a sense of entitlement ingrained in Bloomberg officials. He said that the city appeared to be pushing for use of the suite for not just regular-season games, but for the playoffs and the World Series, and for special events like concerts, too.

“There’s this ‘Alice in Wonderland’ quality to the question of, what is the public interest here and who’s protecting it?” said Mr. Brodsky, who conducted a hearing on the issue of public financing of sports stadiums this summer. “We can’t find the money for the M.T.A., or schools, or hospitals, and these folks are used to the perks and good things of life, and expect them.”

The city maintains it was simply trying to obtain a luxury suite comparable to that given to other cities involved in stadium or arena projects. But the message traffic, which dates to January 2006, raises questions, too, about how sincere city officials were when they recently stated publicly that the box could be used to reward outstanding city workers, rather than mainly for the mayor, dignitaries and aides. The notion of inviting city workers as guests is not mentioned in the e-mail messages until Aug. 7, 2008, and only then in response to an inquiry from a reporter.

The city’s push for the perks has been known, at least broadly speaking, since Mr. Brodsky began raising questions earlier this year about the stadium deals for the Yankees and Mets, from whom the city also secured a luxury box. But the e-mail messages offer a revealing snapshot of the behavior and marching orders of the people involved in the deal for the construction of the billion-dollar Yankee Stadium.

It is hard to determine the precise value of what the city gave the Yankees as part of the exchange. The public parking, though perhaps a convenience to those who drive to the stadium, was to be run by a parking garage operator, not the city, before it was turned over to the Yankees for team use. The billboards would most likely generate about $750,000 annually, given their location. The Yankees are expected to charge $600,000 to $850,000 a year for stadium luxury suites, according to reports.

The project required permission from the Internal Revenue Service because of the team’s desire to use tax-exempt bonds to finance construction. In one heated exchange, city lawyers threatened they would not make the request to the I.R.S. for the use of the tax-exempt financing unless the Yankees would consider providing the luxury suite.

Lonn Trust, the Yankees chief operating officer, wrote to the city on Jan. 26, 2006: “For clarity, no seats, no suites, no tickets, and as they say in Brooklyn ‘No nothin’.’ ”

In response, a lawyer for the city, Joseph Gunn, warned that “No nothin’ can go both ways,” adding that if the luxury suite was not included, “We do not submit the letter ruling request.”

“Suite negotiations between the city and the New York Yankees were part of lengthy discussions with the city involving a whole host of different deal points,” said Alice McGillion, a spokeswoman for the Yankees.

At another point, raw personal feelings emerged, as evidenced during this exchange, starting June 29, 2006, between top city officials about Randy Levine, the Yankees president.

“If we want a deal on the suite, he wants 250 spaces,” Seth W. Pinsky, then the executive vice president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation, wrote to Daniel L. Doctoroff, a former deputy mayor. After Mr. Doctoroff did not respond, Mr. Pinsky, a bit sheepishly, wrote the next day: “It comes down to how much we’re willing to rely on Randy’s word.”

“Let’s not give,” Mr. Doctoroff replied. “I don’t trust him.”

Another theme that emerges is Mr. Bloomberg’s interest in the stadiums. In one e-mail message on July 5, 2006, about the Mets’ new stadium, Mr. Pinsky noted: “This is a big issue to the mayor.”

David Lombino, a spokesman for the city’s Economic Development Corporation, cautioned against reading too much into the e-mail messages.

“Securing the option to use a box at the stadium was one part of a much larger, comprehensive negotiation where we sought the best deal possible for the city,” he said. “Our goal was to make sure that New York had the same advantages as other cities, including the option to use a box, be it for staff outings, for public employees or for visiting dignitaries. The mayor’s office has indicated that no decision has been made as to whether or not it will exercise the option, but it exists for this and future administrations.”

A Bloomberg spokesman, Andrew Brent, echoed those ideas, saying, “As a matter of equity, it was important to us throughout the negotiations that the Yankees were not exempted from such gives or treated any differently than other teams.”

In response to recent questions from reporters, Mr. Pinsky, who is now the president of the Economic Development Corporation, has played down the importance of the luxury suite, saying he did not understand what all the fuss was about.

But the messages show that he and other aides were anything but casual about the matter, with issues like the location and size of the box of obvious concern.

When the team agreed to an 8-seat box, the city successfully demanded 12 seats.

And on July 7, 2006, Mr. Pinsky informed Mr. Doctoroff that the Yankees had told him: “The location of the box is in left field, but before the foul pole. Also, it is designed to project out, so that it will have a direct view down the third base line.”

The city also demanded that the luxury suite be provided with food — just like all the other suites. But the Yankees balked.

In one message dated July 26, 2006, Stephen Lefkowitz, a Yankees lawyer, wrote to Mr. Pinsky: “Seth — Randy believes he told you ‘no food’ and that you agreed. If this is so, please let me know and we can drop this from our list of irritants.”

The city, of course, disagreed. And that prompted Mr. Lefkowitz to respond this way: “It’s really ridiculous, but it sticks like a bone in everyone’s craw. The Yankees feel the city should pay for any food it wants to consume, and I think it’s a little unseemly to require ‘free’ food.”

He added: “For this I went to law school — sigh.”

"City demanded free suite, food from Yankees, e-mails reveal" NY Daily News 11/29/8

City demanded free suite, food from Yankees, e-mails reveal

Saturday, November 29th 2008, 8:13 PM

Mayor Bloomberg's top aides engaged in a behind-the-scenes brawl to win a free luxury suite at the new Yankee Stadium that could wind up costing taxpayers, e-mails show.

Some of the mayor's top deputies spent months threatening and cajoling to get the free skybox. They even demanded free food and ultimately got most of what they wanted after they agreed to provide America's richest team 250 free stadium parking spaces in exchange.

The loss of revenue from those spaces could wind up coming back to haunt taxpayers if the garage owner - who pays rent to the city - can't pay what he owes.

The great luxury box battle surfaced in e-mails obtained by Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester) under the Freedom of Information Act in his ongoing investigation of the Yankees' new taxpayer-subsidized stadium.

"The city's pursuit of a luxury suite at Yankee Stadium was achieved at a significant cost to taxpayers," Brodsky said in releasing dozens of e-mails dating back to January 2006.

That was when the 12-seat luxury suite first emerged as an issue between the city and the Yankees.

The Yankees got the city to write a letter to the IRS so they could obtain $942 million in tax-free bonds. The team plans to request $366 million more, saving them a total of $247 million in lower borrowing costs. In return, Bloomberg's team wanted a free luxury suite and the right to buy at cost 180 of the best seats to all home games, including post-season, the e-mails show.

Lonn Trost, Yankees vice president, made the team's position quite simple on Jan. 25, 2006: "For clarity, no seats, no suites, no tickets and, as they say in Brooklyn, 'No Nothin'."

Bloomberg aides got their backs up, with one, Michael Kalt, stating that after the "no nothin'" comment, he was "200%" in agreement to demand the luxury suite.

"I thought of a few other things that we used to say in Brooklyn," he added.

As the rhetoric heated up, so did Joseph Gunn, a city lawyer.

"'No nothin' can go both ways," he wrote, threatening that the city would refuse to go to the IRS for tax-exempt funding if the luxury suite was denied.

After a June 12 meeting between former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff and Yankees President Randy Levine, the Yankees finally offered the city a suite - if the team could have 250 more free spaces.

Under the plan, the garage owners would lose $820,000 per season, which could make it difficult to pay the city $3.2 million rent annually.

The Economic Development Corporation's Seth Pinsky wrote to Doctoroff that Yankees President Levine "said he would give his word" that if parking spaces hurt the city's rent arrangement, the Yankees would "work with us to figure out how to fix the problem."

In minutes, Doctoroff responded, "Let's not give. I don't trust him."

Ultimately, the city gave in and the Yankees provided a free box in left field with a direct view down the third base line.

EDC spokesman David Lombino said in a statement Saturday that the box battle was part of a "much larger, comprehensive negotiation."

"Our goal was to make sure that New York had the same advantages as other cities, including the option to use a box, be it for staff outings for public employees or for visiting dignitaries," the statement said.

The team has refused to provide the city with free food in its new luxury box. In a July 24, 2006 e-mail to Doctoroff, Pinsky whined, "If others get food with their suites, so should we."

As of this week, it was not clear if the food fight had been resolved.