Friday, January 09, 2009

"Yankees want us to pay for fancy johns" NY Daily News 1/8/9

Yankees want us to pay for fancy johns

Thursday, January 8th 2009, 11:38 PM

Less than three years after they got $942 million in tax-free bonds for a new Bronx stadium, the Yankees are at the public trough again.

With our city facing the worst financial crisis since the Depression, and more than 200,000 people expected to lose their jobs by the end of the year, baseball's richest team wants another $260 million in tax-free bonds to help cover a stadium cost overrun of $370 million.

Even worse, the city's Industrial Development Agency, which Mayor Bloomberg controls, is set to approve the bonds next week.

The itemized list of extra stadium costs that city officials released this week is truly astounding.

There's $137million to pay for concessions at the new stadium - including a swank new Yankees Steakhouse, a Hard Rock Cafe, a museum and a conference center. The Yankees added most of those items to the stadium budget after the city approved the original financing plan.

Other enhancements include:

- $14.2 million for various scoreboard changes.

- $5 million for fancy public- bathroom improvements, including "burnished and glazed block" and "solid surface countertops."

- $10.5 million for new "suite level upgrades."

- $10.7 million for a huge new "video board."

- $8.7 million for the team's administrative offices.

The financial details that the team submitted list such a complicated split between public and private funding for those costs that it's almost impossible to separate them.

"This is bizarre," said Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester), a longtime critic of the stadium deal. "We don't have enough money for our schools or the subways, yet they want to give the Yankees money for a steakhouse and granite ramps?"

Brodsky joined Assemblyman Jim Brennan (D-Brooklyn) to call an emergency public hearing for Wednesday to review the Yankees' new request.

Team officials, it seems, are sparing no expense to make this the most luxurious, high-tech structure ever imagined. They have a perfect right to splurge in any way they wish - with their own money. When they're getting a tax break, it's another matter.

This is a team, after all, that just doled out $435 million to sign three ballplayers, Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett.

All you have to do is look at what the Mets are doing with their new stadium in Queens to see the outlandishness of the Yankee request.

Yes, the Mets also want some $80million in additional funding for their new Citi Field, but there are some big differences.

The City Council authorized the Mets to use that money, but the team never borrowed the full amount. The cost of Citi Field, including parking facilities, has increased by only about 15% above original projections - to a total of $700million.

Yankee Stadium, on the other hand, has zoomed from an original price tag of $800 million in 2005 to $1.3 billion today.

And that's not counting the Yankee parking garages, which are being built by a separate nonprofit. They also have jumped in price to more than $340million.

The Mets are in the same town and are using the same unionized labor force. Yet Yankee Stadium will end up costing about twice as much as Citi Field.

The Mets long ago reached a deal with the city for a split of revenues from the sale of memorabilia from publicly owned Shea Stadium.

The Yankees are still bickering over how much money they will get from souvenir sales from the old Yankee Stadium. They have plans to make a financial killing on everything from stadium seats to infield dirt to pieces of stadium facade.

No matter how you slice it, the Yankees have shown themselves to be more greedy, more arrogant and more wasteful than the Mets.

They do not need, nor do they deserve, more subsidies.

Bloomberg keeps telling ordinary New Yorkers we need to tighten our belts in hard times. He needs to tell it to the Yankees.


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