"City Trades Its Yankee Stadium Suite for Cash" NY Times 1/6/9
City Trades Its Yankee Stadium Suite for Cash
Uli Seit for The New York Times
Published: January 6, 2009
After intense criticism, the Bloomberg administration has given up a perk it worked fervently to secure: a free luxury suite at the new Yankee Stadium.
Skip to next paragraph
Times Topics: Yankee Stadium
The city will relinquish use of the 12-seat box in exchange for whatever revenue the Yankees generate by selling the seats, minus the cost of marketing them. Although neither the city nor the Yankees have publicly disclosed the market value of the suite, similar suites at the new stadium are being sold for as much as $600,000 a year.
The city’s acquisition of the Yankees suite had drawn scrutiny, especially after e-mail messages surfaced in November showing that aides to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg had zealously pursued the luxury box, as well as free food and access to post-season games.
Representative Anthony D. Weiner, a Queens Democrat who publicly demanded that the city give up the suite, said, “This is something that they never should have negotiated in the first place.”
“And,” he added, “it was only after the public found out about it that they did the right thing.”
The e-mail messages revealed that after the Yankees made concessions over the size of the suite and the food, the team received an additional 250 parking spaces, as well as the rights to three new billboards along the Major Deegan Expressway and whatever revenue they generate.
The messages contrasted with earlier public statements from Seth W. Pinsky, president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation, that the suite was not a big issue and that the city had received it simply as a matter of course. One message said that the acquisition of a suite in the Mets stadium was “a big issue to the mayor.”
Under the new arrangement with the city, the Yankees will be allowed to keep the parking spaces and use of the billboards, and the city will be guaranteed at least $100,000 for each baseball season, even if no one buys the suite. The deal was formalized last month in a letter from Mr. Pinsky to the Yankees president, Randy Levine, that was made public on Tuesday. A similar arrangement is being negotiated with the Mets, which also gave the city free use of a suite in its new ballpark, Citi Field.
Aspects of the stadium negotiations slowly came to light as state and federal lawmakers began raising questions about the deals.
The letter from Mr. Pinsky to Mr. Levine said that the main motivation for the agreement was the term limits extension approved by the City Council, which could allow Mr. Bloomberg to remain in office “for several seasons.”
It had not been clear who was to have access to the luxury suites at the two stadiums, or whether the names of the people who used them would be recorded.
The e-mail messages showed that, after inquiries from a reporter, Bloomberg aides said they would use the perk to reward outstanding employees, but that idea had not been mentioned in the aides’ earlier correspondence.
Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, who had sought details about the deals the city was making, described the city’s about-face over its use of the suites as “a terrible embarrassment.”
“The taxpayers who are paying for the construction of Yankee Stadium cannot afford to buy tickets for the games, but the mayor was getting a luxury box, so he had to back off,” he said in an interview on Tuesday.
“But the reason he backed off,” Mr. Brodsky speculated, “is because next week, the city is going to give the Yankees more taxpayer money.”
On Jan. 15, the Industrial Development Agency will hold a hearing over a recent request by the Yankees and the Mets for about $400 million in municipal bonds and other money to pay for the final construction stages at their stadiums. In 2006, both teams received about $1.5 billion in bonds and subsidies to help them build the ball parks.
“Does the Bloomberg administration really think that giving up a suite at Yankee Stadium is going to soften the blow that this project has had on city taxpayers?” said Bettina Damiani, director of Good Jobs New York, a civic organization that has closely scrutinized projects subsidized by the city, including the new baseball stadiums.
Andrew Brent, a spokesman for the mayor, said, “Other cities get boxes and through our negotiations we made sure New York got no less, but we’ve decided to take the value in cash payments to return it to the community.”
The city did not have a suite at the original Yankee Stadium. It had one at Shea Stadium and at the ballparks for the minor-league Brooklyn Cyclones and Staten Island Yankees. The new stadiums are scheduled to open in April. As part of the deal struck by the Bloomberg administrations, future mayors can choose to use the seats in the suite or continue to receive money for their use.