NYCEDC’s Yankee Stadium Parking Debacle: Who Woulda Thought?

In news that should surprise no one, the taxpayer-financed Yankee Stadium parking garages have been declared an unmitigated disaster.

Photo: Crain's

Anyone could have seen the deal was a loser from the start — that a sports stadium served by subways, buses and a new commuter rail station, a stadium that would have fewer seats for fans, would have no need to increase parking stock by 55 percent. Then there was the dirty business of seizing public parks, and counting on the fact that the garages would attract drivers year-round — drivers who would be willing to pay more to park at the stadium than at the nearby Gateway Center mega-mall — to an area that neither wanted nor needed more car traffic. It was a scheme so predictably wrong that no private developer wanted any part of it.

Among those privy to the nuts and bolts of the deal, it seemed the only ones oblivious to the fact of its eminent failure were former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion and the folks at the New York City Industrial Development Agency, the financing arm of the New York City Economic Development Corporation. In an act of blind faith or incestuous backroom dealing — take your pick — the IDA issued well over $200 million in triple tax-exempt bonds to the non-profit (ha ha) Bronx Parking Development Corporation to build and operate the garages.

Four years later, as Crain’s reports, the garages are a bust — with “more competition than any party involved anticipated,” they “were never more than 60 [percent] full on game days.” Bronx Parking is expected to default on the bonds, and the neighborhood has thousands of unused parking spaces where there was once public parkland.

The potential irony has some in the community seething.

“Our community loves its parks, and we could always use more,” said Pastor Wenzell Jackson, chairman of Bronx Community Board 4, which includes the stadium and the surrounding area. “Now there’s just empty parking garages that are not benefiting the community.”

Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. and others are hoping to draw a hotel to the area, which would presumably make use of some of the excess stadium parking. Bronx Parking officials, meanwhile, blame cheaper rates at Gateway Center, and “Metro-North and its new train station … which the company said is reducing the number of cars — the very purpose for building the station (with public money).” But not everyone considers more traffic a solution.

“The first step should be to reconsider how they’re using these parking lots,” said Lourdes Zapata, senior vice president of SoBro, the South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corp. “Looking at them exclusively for parking is a shortsighted way of looking at development in this area.”

“Shortsighted” — a generous word for a billion-dollar subsidy based on a foundation of extortion and cronyism, rather than sound economics and community interest.