Tuesday, December 02, 2008

"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.



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