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 CarriĆ³n 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."'


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