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.


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