Archive for the ‘Stadiums’ Category

The Yankees want relief and it’s not for the pitchers.

June 12, 2008

 To say New York Yankee executives have chutzpah is an understatement. To say New York City Mayor Bloomberg has lost his fiscal sense is not an overstatement.  Yesterday, Assembly Member Richard Brodsky who is trying to bring law and order to New York’s unwieldy public authorities, revealed that the New York Yankees are asking for $350 million more in public financing for their stadium.

As if the $800 million in subsidies the team already pocketed for its new home (currently being built on what once was parks and playgrounds) isn’t enough.  But as big projects like these often do, the new stadium is costing more than expected and the team wants New York officials to lobby the Internal Revenue Service to permit it to get tax-free financing. This is a repeat of what New York officials previously did on behalf of the Yankees. 

But the most shocking part of this scenario isn’t the Yankees voracious appetite for our tax dollars, it’s that the team reportedly said it would finish the stadium even if it didn’t get the financing. The Yankees claim they could finish the project without additional public financing, but the Mayor’s still offering to help? Yes, we’re confused too. 

With term limits making Mayor Bloomberg’s days in office numbered, let’s hope he quickly gets back the businesses sense he used to build his successful firm, and use it for New Yorkers. Any lobbying in Washington should be to advocate for really important infrastructure improvement for the whole city, not just the Yankees.

Popcorn! Peanuts! Get yer $25 bag of Yankee Stadium dirt here!

March 28, 2008

In Good Jobs New York’s never ending quest to draw attention to the outlandishly subsidized new Yankee Stadium, this week brings us news of pay dirt. Honest.

The plan to demolish the House that Ruth Built (and build a new stadium for the Yankees across the street) includes auctioning off everything from urinals: $1,000, to dirt: $25 and bricks: $300 each, according to the New York Post. The Post also reports public officials are negotiating with the Yankees on how much of the auction proceeds will go to the city. Negotiate? New York City owns the stadium. Last week’s city budget news revealed a gargantuan increase (reported here and here) in the cost of replacing the 22 acres of park land (with potentially hazardous synthetic turf) near where the new stadium is being built. Any proceeds from auctioning off parts of Yankee Stadium (or Shea in Queens which is also being demolished) should go to fill the gaping hole in the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation budget, thanks in part to the Yankee project.

Last year the city reported in its benefit analysis it would get $10 million from salvaging parts of the stadium. Where the auction figures came from is unknown, but taxpayers should hope that it’s underestimated.

Speaking of underestimating…. The Yankees promised Bronx politicians they could allocate $800,000 a year for 40 years in exchange for using parkland for the stadium. This promise was used convincingly by the Yankees to push the deal through the city’s land use process. But none of money (ground broke on the new stadium in August 2006) has yet to be spent, raising the ire of South Bronx residents. This week, the Community Board met the folks in charge of the fund. According to news reports, some people still aren’t buying the process by which the fund was fashioned or why none of the money’s been allocated.

The Mayor’s Idea of a Deal

March 3, 2008

As I posted previously, NYC is considering handing over more dough to America’s favorite – and possibly richest – pastime. Since then the plan to give tax breaks to Major League Baseball caught the attention of The New York Times. The Times story caught the attention of other reporters forcing Bloomberg to defending the MLB plan, including during his weekly call in show on Friday when he was asked why the city continues to subsidize baseball teams and big firms, like Merrill Lynch. (The Merrill Lynch deal has more holes than Swiss Cheese, but it was approved under Guiliani, not Bloomberg). The Mayor’s defense is, hey, we got a good deal at only spending $75 million (each) on Yankee and Shea (err…. Citi Field) Stadiums.What? I guess giving $150 million of someone else’s hard earned money is like chump change to the Mayor. And the Mayor neglected to mention his deals for Goldman Sachs, Pfizer, American Stock Exchange among others. But I wonder what the mayor’s defense would be if he had his facts straight? The real New York City figure is closer to $400 million – and that’s just for the Yankees. Throw in Shea Stadium and the teams are tapping into well over $1 billion in city, state and federal subsidies

All this from a man who built a business worth $4.7 billion and rejected a subsidy for his company’s new office tower in 2001 since location isn’t a “function of tax breaks.”

Clemens’ Misremembering Catching on in the Big Apple

February 21, 2008

At last week’s congressional hearing on Major League Baseball’s steroids scandal, Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens now infamously claimed a teammate “misremembers” their discussions about his possible steroid use. Funny, it seems Mayor Bloomberg too misremembers. In 2003 he claimed to have “essentially ended corporate welfare as we know it.” History proves otherwise.

Mega economic development projects throughout the city have been pushed forward with little input from community groups and left those advocating for accountable development scratching our heads. You only need to look to the Bronx to see the damage the subsidized new Yankee ballpark (now going up across the street from the current stadium) is doing to the city’s pocket book and to the South Bronx neighborhood whose parks were taken for it.

But the corporate baseball gravy train is on a roll. Next month the New York City Industrial Development Agency (the city’s subsidy granting arm) will hold a hearing on a proposal to subsidize TWO offices for the commissioner of Major League Baseball in Manhattan; one on Park Avenue in Midtown and one in the heart of Harlem. The city hasn’t released the value of the tax breaks but more information is expected next Friday.

I’m shocked by the Bloomberg Administration’s audacity in throwing more tax breaks at the lucrative baseball industry. As a fervent follower of the new Yankee stadium, Good Jobs New York has estimated the project will cost taxpayers over $800 million and the Mets joined in the fray with a $468 million subsidy for the new Citi Field.

To garner support from the city council the Yankees promised jobs for Bronx residents and mounds of cash to non-profit organizations. But public officials at all levels are asleep at the wheel; they haven’t verified the job figures claimed by the Yankees and the team has yet to allocate any of the resources it promised leaving some Bronx officials feeling betrayed, the Daily News reported.

Whatever the proposed subsidy figures for the MLB offices are, it will show Bloomberg is inching closer to a billion dollar taxpayer gift for baseball. Sure, the Mayor may have ended corporate welfare as we knew it but it looks to me as he’s just reinvented it.

Sonics flee Seattle, while DC residents get to work on new stadium

February 7, 2008

Professional sports stadiums are a bad public investment, according to a federal court brief filed by the Seattle SuperSonics. Trying to get out of its KeyArena lease in order to move to Oklahoma City, the Sonics management is recanting its previous claims that the team’s presence provides immeasurable public benefits. The brief states:

“The financial issue is simple, and the city’s analysts agree, there will be no net economic loss if the Sonics leave Seattle. Entertainment dollars not spent on the Sonics will be spent on Seattle’s many other sports and entertainment options. Seattleites will not reduce their entertainment budget simply because the Sonics leave.”

Jim Brunner, reporter for the Seattle Times, was the first to uncover this story.

Although the Sonics would like to simply pay off their 2010 lease and leave, Seattle is suing to require the team to play in the city for the remaining two years of the lease.

This battle hasn’t stopped the Sonics from asking Oklahoma City for massive subsidies. Voters there will decide in March whether to approve a $100 million tax package for stadium renovations. For more details on the Sonics departure, see Neil deMause’s blog, Field of Schemes.

In other stadium news…

Although Good Jobs First is critical of stadium giveaways, we recently spoke favorably at a press conference about the local-jobs outcomes of the project labor agreement (PLA) for the construction of the Nationals stadium in Washington, D.C. The PLA – formed by the city, contractors, unions and community groups – sets aggressive goals for hiring city residents in both apprentice and journey-level positions.

While at least one firm associated with the anti-union Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) trade association has funded a group attacking the PLA, the project has been a great success in parts of DC that have struggled with high employment and too few economic opportunities. To date, 87 percent of all apprentices working on the project have been District residents, with wages ranging from $15 to $28 per hour.