That Good Jobs New York accurately predicted that the parking garages at the new Yankee Stadium would be a financial debacle is of little consolation to the residents of the surrounding Bronx neighborhood, who forfeited heavily used park land so that those structures could be built with over $100 million in subsidies.
Recently, New York Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez reported that the garage developer is on the verge of defaulting on $237 million in tax-exempt bonds issued by the city’s Industrial Development Agency (IDA). This comes several months after Gonzalez revealed that the developers were being permitted to defer approximately $9 million in rent payments to the city.
In March 2006, Good Jobs New York joined a coalition of environmental and planning organizations in calling on legislators to eliminate the new parking garages and redirect the public funds toward construction of the new Metro-North station. The groups criticized the city for encouraging fans to drive to the transit-accessible stadium despite the potential impacts of additional traffic congestion and pollution on the surrounding South Bronx neighborhood, which already suffers from one of the highest asthma rates in the country.
In testimony before the IDA in April 2007, Good Jobs New York also argued that the garages were a risky investment due to their high costs and the likelihood that demand for stadium parking would diminish. Aside from the fact that the new stadium would seat 4,000 fewer fans than the “House that Ruth Built,” we contended that the new Metro-North station adjacent to the stadium would cause more fans to arrive by train rather than car.
As it turns out, about 5,000 fans per game are riding Metro-North, and many who do drive are spurning the $23 garage parking fee in favor of on-street parking or cheaper options nearby. When you tack on the 600 free parking spaces the Yankees insisted on receiving, this all adds up to major revenue problems for the garages. In our report Insider Baseball, GJNY also exposed the garage developer, Bronx Parking, as the subsidiary of a politically connected firm with a spotty track record when it comes to publicly financed projects. The fact that it had already defaulted on two previous bonds for projects in Syracuse and Monroe County should have raised red flags among IDA board members.
At every step of the way city officials capitulated to the demands of the Yankee organization. In doing so they set the stage for the biggest default of an IDA bond in recent memory, potentially making it more expensive to finance worthwhile projects in the future. The garages will forever stand as a monument to the Bloomberg administration’s failure to stand up to one of the biggest bullies in town, my beloved Yankees.
Dan Steinberg, a PhD candidate in urban planning at Columbia University, formerly worked as a research analyst at Good Jobs New York.