Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"Democratic Pile-On" Daily News 1/13/9

Democratic Pile-On
January 13, 2009

Yesterday, Rep. Anthony Weiner was criticizing Mayor Bloomberg's fiscal management skills - the core rationale of the mayor's push to extend term limits and seek a third term. Today it's Comptroller Bill Thompson's turn.

Thompson, who says he intends to fight with Weiner for the right to challenge Bloomberg on the Democratic line in November, accused the mayor and the city IDA of "financial incompetence" and "incredible mismanagement" during negotiations on paying for the the new Yankee Stadium.

Since the IDA initially approved stadium deals for both the Yankees and the Mets in 2006, city's capital contribution to the Yankees project has ballooned from $129.2 million to $325 million, Thompson said, adding:

"While our financial review cannot determine intent, this incredible mismanagement begs the question: Was this plain old incompetence or a blatant attempt to mislead the public? Either way, New Yorkers now have a box-seat view of fiscal mismanagement."

"...We cannot continue to let New Yorkers lose in order for the Yankees to win," the comptroller continued. "Next season, more and more families will be priced out of the very stadium they helped to build, as the minimum cost of a box seat alone will at least double from $250 to $500.”

As examples of faulty cost estimates, Thompson cited:

- The demolition of the existing Yankee Stadium was estimated at more than 50 percent less than the true cost.

- Failure to conduct environmental reviews, which would have taken into account the existence of, and necessity to remediate, oil tanks on the waterfront site of a planned new park.

- Underestimation of the cost for a rooftop park and retaining wall resulting in cost escalations of 30 percent; the price tag now stands at $44.5 million.

There's also the question of revenue lost from the agreement to surrender 250 parking spots for the Yankees use (this was negotiated as part of the luxury suite deal, which the city has since walked back).

Thompson is calling on the IDA to postpone a scheduled Friday vote on the new stadium financing plan. A public hearing is to be held Thursday.


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