Saturday, January 17, 2009

"Joking, but Also Jabbing, at Yankee Bond Hearing" NY Times 1/16/9

Joking, but Also Jabbing, at Yankee Bond Hearing

Published: January 16, 2009

No fists were thrown, so Day 2 of the chest-puffing, name-calling contest between a corporate-welfare-assailing state assemblyman and officials of the richest team in baseball never quite degenerated into the kind of circus that might have captured the spotlight on a day when other news was far more compelling.

But at a noisy hearing of the city’s Industrial Development Agency Thursday on the Yankees’ request for more than $370 million in additional tax-exempt bonds to pay for its new Bronx ballpark — or, more precisely, for cost overruns and goodies added since a 2006 bond issuance — other critics at least got a chance to vent, while beneficiaries of the project and the Yankees’ charity made sure to put in a good word for the boss.

“An appalling use of public money,” said Joan Byron of the Pratt Center for Community Development, an architect who advocates for the “equitable distribution of environmental benefits and burdens” across city neighborhoods, according to the center’s Web site.

Equity, though, is a subjective thing. Vinny Rivera, who said his group, Positive Workforce, lobbies for minority jobs in the construction industry and has placed about 70 people at the stadium, said he was on the Yankees’ team because on game days the stadium is a beehive of business.

“Everybody makes money,” he said. “Everybody eats.”

At a hearing he organized on Wednesday, the assemblyman, Richard L. Brodsky of Westchester, the harshest and loudest critic of the Yankee Stadium deal, jokingly challenged Randy Levine, the team’s president, and Seth W. Pinsky, president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation, to a “civil, in-your-face fistfight.”

On Thursday, as Mr. Brodsky, now on someone else’s turf, approached a lectern, Mr. Pinsky goaded him good-naturedly: “Would you like me to call my bodyguards, or are we going to refrain?”

“I’m thinking,” Mr. Brodsky replied, to laughter.

But the arguments were fiercer than the kibitzing suggested.

Mr. Brodsky accused city and Yankee officials of “undue and illegal secrecy.” Mr. Levine fulminated against Mr. Brodsky for more than twice his allotted three minutes, calling him a “pathetic” grandstander and likening his having subpoenaed Mr. Levine earlier this week to a “Soviet-style” tactic. Mr. Pinsky, meanwhile, dryly recited the Bloomberg administration’s calculus for why the stadium project would remain “significantly revenue-positive for the city.”

It seemed unlikely that any minds were changed in several hours listening to the occasional hoots of construction workers in the back, the raw words of proponents like Mr. Rivera and the more polished ones of politicians like Deborah J. Glick, a Manhattan assemblywoman who did not attend but had someone read a letter in her absence (one that Mr. Levine said had errors).

“The I.D.A. has no choice but to tell the Yankees it does not have the money to contribute further to its field of high-end dreams,” Ms. Glick’s letter said.

In fact, the Bloomberg administration, which controls the agency’s board, has the votes, and approval of the bond issuance at its scheduled Friday meeting appeared inevitable.

Mr. Brodsky seemed to concede as much in his remarks, telling the agency’s board, “You have simply failed to do the minimum necessary to make the decision tomorrow legal, appropriate and in the public interest.”

A version of this article appeared in print on January 16, 2009, on page A26 of the New York edition.


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