The Bronx Is Burning Over Subsidized Stadium Parking

The people of the South Bronx will organize against the subsidized construction of parking garages for the new Yankee Stadium, one resident said yesterday.

17275060_8968f775f9_o.jpgAt a sparsely attended public hearing in Lower Manhattan, Margaret Collins of Save Our Parks told the New York City Industrial Development Agency (IDA) that a "barely contained rage" is simmering over the traffic the new stadium is expected to bring to the area. Surveys show that lack of recreational space and pollution are the top concerns in South Bronx neighborhoods, Collins said -- problems that were exacerbated when the Yankees seized public park land for its stadium complex, and which could yet worsen once its proposed 9,000 parking spaces are put to use.

Though the new facility will have 5,000 fewer seats, and will be served by a new Metro-North station, current plans call for it to have 2,500 more parking spots than the existing stadium. Three new parking garages (of four originally planned) will be financed through $225 million in triple tax exempt bonds, if the IDA approves such action, at a public cost of some $8,000 per space. A vote could come as early as next Tuesday, September 11. The IDA board votes in closed session.

Noting the low turnout for the hearing, Collins -- herself testifying with sleeping infant in tow -- pointed out that most affected residents can not make it downtown for a meeting in the middle of a workday. She warned that lack of public attendance should not be confused with lack of public engagement. 

"The community is not sleeping on this question," Collins said.

Speaking after an unusual plea for access was presented to the IDA on behalf of Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion, Jr., Collins bristled that politicians had signed on to the stadium project without knowing what they were agreeing to. Carrion, a vocal stadium proponent, has been denied what his office termed "vital information" regarding its financing, even though he, like all borough presidents, has an appointee who serves on the IDA board.

The IDA is the financing arm of the New York City Economic Development Corporation. The IDA board is made up of 15 members and alternates, including City Planning Director Amanda Burden and Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff.

While she was outnumbered by IDA board members and staff, Collins was not alone in testifying against the project. Joyce Hogi, who has lived in the vicinity of Yankee Stadium for 30 years, objected to the "snarling traffic" that "consumes" the area, and said the new garages would amount to "induced demand" for otherwise unneeded parking, "providing an incentive to drive into an already overburdened neighborhood." Of the new Metro-North station, Hogi asked, "We spend millions on public transportation and now we plan to spend millions to encourage them not to take it?"

Hogi suggested public moneys would be better spent on upgrades to the Melrose Metro-North and 161st Street subway stations, which would benefit surrounding neighborhoods year-round.

Bettina Damiani, director of Good Jobs New York, said that the parking subsidy, if approved, would bring the public commitment to the new stadium to a total of approximately $795 million.

Photo: Michael Dietsch/Flickr