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Posts from the "Yankee Stadium Parking Scandal" Category

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Weisbrod and Kimball Tie Their Own Hands on Parking Reform

Reducing the amount of parking in new development promises to make housing more affordable and curb traffic congestion, but it hasn’t gained much traction in Bill de Blasio’s first months at City Hall, despite the mayor’s ambitious promises to ease the housing crunch. Today, two top city officials explained why, unlike their counterparts in more car-dependent cities, New York’s leaders are suggesting only the meekest changes to off-street parking policy.

City Planning Commission Chair Carl Weisbrod and EDC President Kyle Kimball. Photos: DCP and EDC

City Planning Commission Chair Carl Weisbrod and EDC President Kyle Kimball. Photos: DCP and EDC

The mayor’s housing plan recommends lower parking requirements for affordable housing near transit, senior housing, and commercial development that also includes residential units. At a Municipal Art Society forum this morning, Planning Director Carl Weisbrod highlighted these reforms as one of the ways the mayor’s housing plan aims to reduce the cost of construction — but only in places where car ownership is very low.

“Other areas have to be examined more carefully,” Weisbrod said after the event. “What we’re looking at is how we can appropriately reduce the cost of construction while not having a significant — or any — impact on the quality of life in neighborhoods.”

This outlook matches the philosophy of DCP’s nascent parking plan for “inner ring” neighborhoods, which lists “maintaining an adequate supply of residential parking for people who choose to own a vehicle” among its ”quality of life” goals. The result: DCP tries to tailor the city’s parking regulations to local car ownership rates, rather than using parking policy as a tool to make housing more affordable and reduce traffic.

DCP isn’t the only place where the tail wags the parking policy dog. If anything, things are worse at the Economic Development Corporation.

EDC President Kyle Kimball said he follows Streetsblog and that while he supports our policy angle, he takes issue with how we’ve reported about EDC projects. “[EDC] never had a policy of incentivizing parking as an economic development strategy,” he said. “Actually, at the end of the day it ends up costing the city. Developers don’t want to build parking, either.”

Yet EDC’s projects often include massive amounts of parking. At Yankee Stadium, EDC arranged public financing for 9,000 mostly-empty parking spaces whose operator defaulted on tax-exempt bonds. “The Bronx parking situation was one where they put in the right amount of parking at the time, given what they thought and what the Yankees were willing to pay for,” Kimball said of the subsidized project.

To hear Kimball tell it, the parking was done in by an over-performing train station. “There has turned out to be more commuting from that Metro-North station than the EIS anticipated,” he said. “So do I think it was a mistake to build the parking? No. Do I think the EIS could have been done differently? Yes.”

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Anybody Interested in Tearing Down a Couple of Yankee Stadium Garages?

Another attempt to salvage something positive from the Yankee Stadium parking boondoggle is underway. The company that operates the garages, having defaulted on hundreds of millions in triple-tax exempt bonds, has issued a request for proposals for the sublease and redevelopment of two lots.

Even back in 2007 and 2008, when the NYC Economic Development Corporation (via the Industrial Development Agency) closed the deal before an economic feasibility study could be completed, and Albany authorized the seizure of public parkland, the writing was on the wall. Other than the EDC, the Yankees, and the Bronx Parking Development Company, most anyone could see that a new stadium with fewer seats, a new Metro-North station, and acres of existing (EDC-financed) parking nearby wouldn’t need 2,000 more parking spaces than Tropicana Field.

Yet here we are: a 9,000-spot parking complex that’s at 38 percent capacity on game days, and all but empty in the off-season. According to the city’s Independent Budget Office, Bronx Parking missed its April payment to bondholders, and the company has yet to pay the city a cent in rent or payments in lieu of taxes. City and state taxpayers are at the back of the line, since the deal was structured so bondholders are paid first.

Responses to the RFP were due June 5, according to the IBO. A 2011 request for expressions of interest to develop a hotel to complement or replace the garages fell through when all potential developers wanted — you guessed it — subsidies from the city. And Neil deMause reports on Field of Schemes that the sites proffered in the RFP aren’t big enough to accommodate a Major League Soccer facility — though the Queens Chronicle notes that a new soccer arena near Yankee Stadium would satisfy the MLS’s “close to mass transit” requirement.

Even if MLS takes an interest in redeveloping the Yankee Stadium garages, residents of the South Bronx still lost their parkland, and taxpayers may not be off the hook. To build a new stadium in the city, deMause reports, MLS is seeking an estimated $100 million in subsidies.

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For Bloomberg, No Lessons Learned From Yankee Parking Subsidies

If Mayor Bloomberg regrets his administration’s involvement in the Yankee Stadium parking disaster, he’s not letting on.

The Bronx Parking Development Company has finally defaulted on $237 million in triple-tax exempt bonds used to finance parking garages for the new stadium, and bondholders are looking for a way to recoup their losses.

It didn't work. Photo: Daily News

“There just wasn’t the business there that the owners, who made the investment, thought that there was going to be,” Bloomberg told Transportation Nation yesterday. “If the owners of the parking garage can’t make money, that’s sad. We’ve got to find a way to help them.”

See what the mayor did there? In one shot he ducked responsibility for his role in the deal and characterized the developers as hapless victims. The developers who were handed tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds and acres of public park land to build thousands of parking spaces that the stadium’s neighbors didn’t want, and that everyone — other than the developers, the Yankees and the city — recognized were unnecessary.

The Daily News reported on Tuesday that the New York City Economic Development Corporation tried to broker a deal to “bail out” BPDC and redevelop two stadium parking lots with affordable housing and retail, but talks fell through for reasons the EDC would not divulge. The Industrial Development Agency, the financing arm of the EDC, facilitated the stadium garage deal and approved the bonds.

Half of the members of the IDA board were appointed by Bloomberg, either directly or through ex officio memberships, at the time the bonds were approved. The IDA signed off on the bonds before an economic feasibility study could be completed.

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Yankee Stadium Parking Garages “Almost Certainly” Coming Down

How long now before the Yankee Stadium parking fiasco becomes an unpleasant memory?

The site of one Yankee Stadium garage, at River Avenue and 153rd Street, was proposed for redevelopment as a hotel and conference center in 2011. Photo: BOEDC

In a brief Crain’s item published last Friday (hat tip to Tri-State), Marlene Cintron, president of the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, said that occupancy rates at the taxpayer-financed stadium garages are down from last year, and now stand below 50 percent.

The Bronx Parking Development Company is in default, as expected, according to Crain’s, and bondholders are weighing their options.

Seven companies responded to a request for information to build hotels on the garages, which Cintron said would almost certainly have to be torn down.

Though there were rumblings of repurposing or replacing some stadium parking over a year ago, this appears to be the first time a public official has publicly suggested that the garages could be erased completely.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., who has his predecessor Adolfo Carrion and the New York City Economic Development Corporation to thank for this mess, broached the idea of siting a hotel near the stadium in his 2010 State of the Borough address. Ironically, Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez wrote last February that initial proposals were dismissed because developers insisted on “major city subsidies.” Diaz also reportedly asked the Bloomberg administration to replace “some of the garages” with low-income housing. This outcome seems unlikely, given that bondholders, unlike the EDC, expect a return on their investment.

Diaz spokesperson John DeSio told Streetsblog last year that whatever becomes of the garages, the next developer should learn from the city’s mistakes — the squandering of millions of dollars on parking that the neighborhood didn’t want, and the Yankees didn’t need; approving the deal before conducting an economic feasibility study, and so on. Regardless, given the sordid history of the stadium garages, residents of the South Bronx, and city and state taxpayers at large, would do well to keep their ears to the ground.

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The House That EDC Built: A 9,000-Car Complex With 8,930 Empty Spaces

In case you’re just tuning in, all that taxpayer-subsidized parking built for the new Yankee Stadium has failed beyond anyone’s wildest expectations.

Yankee Stadium parking in its natural state. Photo: Daily News

In today’s Daily News, Juan Gonzalez reports that Bronx Parking Development Company LLC is expected to default this year on the $200+ million in triple-tax-exempt bonds issued by the New York City Industrial Development Agency, the financing arm of the New York City Economic Development Corporation. Since the threat of default has loomed for some time now, let’s look at the more recent developments cited by Gonzalez.

The promise of jobs to be created by the garages was never that grand to begin with — 12 full-time and 70 part-time positions, with an average wage of $11 an hour. But Bronx Parking LLC is so desperate for cash, writes Gonzalez, that “the company plans to slash the salaries of a handful of full-time garage employees and to reduce the number of game-day parking attendants from 76 to 57.”

“The people who continue to pay the price for this thing are the kids who lost their park space, and now the handful of people who got jobs and are going to lose them,” says Bettina Damiani, project director of Good Jobs New York, an NGO that has tracked the stadium project from its inception.

On top of that, a proposal to lure a hotel to complement or replace the garages has apparently cratered after four developers who expressed interest in the deal wanted “major city subsidies.” Gonzalez reports that Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., who inherited the stadium parking disaster from his predecessor Adolfo Carrion, “has been pressing City Hall to come up with an emergency plan to restructure the bonds, tear down some of the garages, and replace them with low-income housing.”

How bad is it for Bronx Parking LLC? According to Gonzalez its garages are 38 percent full on Yankee game days. When the stadium is idle, they have a total of 70 regular customers for 9,000 spaces.

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Replacement For Yankee Stadium Parking Will Still Have to Pay The Bills

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz is hoping that a new hotel can replace excess parking near Yankee Stadium. Photo: Crain's.

As the operator of the taxpayer-financed Yankee Stadium parking garages heads toward default, there’s no longer any question that providing so much parking in such a transit-rich location was a mistake on the scale of Carl Pavano’s contract. The decision to give up $2.5 million in city taxes and $5 million in state revenue has proven a poor investment indeed. The question, at this point, is what comes next.

One idea, from Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., is to convert one of the garages into a hotel. “One of the older garages is perfect for hotel development,” said John DeSio, a spokesperson for Diaz. Diaz advocated for a new Bronx hotel in his State of the Borough address two weeks ago, saying that “a new hotel would create hundreds of good-paying jobs offering health benefits, pension plans, and a chance for its workers to have a better life.”

While the garages were built on what used to be public parks, the South Bronx is unlikely to see that parkland return. “We have to come up with a plan that not only benefits the neighborhood but is palatable for the bondholders,” explained DeSio. The bondholders will have to okay any new use for the garages, so it will have to be a revenue-generator.

In terms of parking policy more broadly, DeSio said that while there aren’t any major developments where parking is an issue currently being considered by the borough president’s office, “I’m sure that we’d have to take to heart what happened here in the future.” (Plans for a new East Bronx mall anchored by a Target are too preliminary to comment on for now, he said.) DeSio also suggested that the private sector will notice this high-profile case of wasting resources on providing an excessive supply of parking.

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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.

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Yankee Stadium Parking Boondoggle Getting Worse Every Day

The subsidy for the new Yankee Stadium's 9,000 parking spaces keeps turning into a worse deal for New York City taxpayers. Juan Gonzalez reports in the Daily News that the garage operator is deep in the red, even after last year's extended championship season:

As of this month, Bronx Parking Development LLC owes the city $8.7 million in back rent and interest. That tab will soon grow to more than $10 million because city officials have allowed the firm to defer the rest of this year's rent as well.

Meanwhile, Bronx Parking, which has no connection to the Yankees, has yet to pay a nickel in property taxes.

yankee_stadium_traffic.jpgThe House That Subsidies Built: It's now in the city's financial interest to see more traffic overwhelm the streets around Yankee Stadium. Photo: Simon Akam/Bronx Beat
One thing I'd add to Gonzalez's excellent piece is that this whole outcome was predictable, given the sordid politics behind the Yankee Stadium deal. Back in 2007, the geniuses on the board of the NYC Industrial Development Agency approved the subsidized parking deal before conducting an economic feasibility study. As Gonzalez notes, profitable Yankee Stadium garages now appear to be a delusion of the wishful thinkers at the NYC Economic Development Corporation.

The larger point is that the current situation proves the folly of the initial parking subsidies. Perversely, if the city is ever going to see revenue materialize from these monstrous garages, it's in their interest to see more cars drive to Yankee Stadium and flood the streets of the South Bronx. That pretty much sums up why a city that's purportedly committed to a sustainability plan should never subsidize parking.

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Pro-Parking Policies Will Sully the Legacy of PlaNYC

10_doctoroff_lgl.jpgPhoto: Getty via Daily Intel
Former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, widely credited as the architect of PlaNYC, spoke at the Museum of the City of New York last week on the potential impact of Mayor Bloomberg's signature program. According to City Room, Doctoroff considers the two-year-old environmental blueprint on par with such grand projects as Central Park and the development of the Manhattan street grid.

Among the outcomes so far: The conversion of 15 percent of the taxi fleet to clean-fuel vehicles, the construction of 79 new playgrounds, $100 million a year to increase the energy efficiency of government buildings, 20 pilot projects to clean up city waterways, hundreds of miles of new bike lanes. Ninety-three percent of the 127 initiatives are under way, Mr. Doctoroff said.

"The biggest achievement of them all," he said, is a greenhouse-gas inventory showing a 2.5 percent reduction in citywide carbon emissions, "at a time when greenhouse gases in cities around the nation continue to increase."

There is little doubt that PlaNYC is an ambitious and noble undertaking, despite the failure of congestion pricing -- which Doctoroff rightly cites as a direct cause of the current MTA funding crisis. But it seems a little specious to brag about reductions in greenhouse gas emissions when the Bloomberg administration has continued to vigorously promote VMT-inducing suburban-style parking, a contradiction not lost on City Room commenters like Chris, who writes:

What’s most frustrating is how Bloomberg and his advisors fail to make some very basic connections between their policies, for example working for modest transit improvements while promoting development that is very parking-intensive. Bronx Terminal Market is a prime example of this. Big box development with considerable parking availability which will do exactly what it is designed for- bring more cars, congestion, and pollution into the city.

So give credit where credit is due, but so many people wish Bloomberg would connect the dots.

Indeed. Even as he lobbied for PlaNYC and congestion pricing, Doctoroff himself was a prime mover behind the Yankee Stadium parking deal and greenhouse gas catastrophes like the Gateway Center. There's the legal battle waged by the administration to bring some 20,000 parking spots to Hell's Kitchen. And just last week Bloomberg celebrated the opening of driving-intensive commercial development at the Gateway project -- one day after announcing a new "green" buildings initiative. In fact, when asked point blank by Streetsblog about the connection between more parking and more driving, the mayor either didn't understand the question or chose not to address it.

Chris believes there's something "far more complex than just ignorance" at work here. We agree. The question is, will the Bloomberg administration safeguard the progress of PlaNYC by reversing its disastrous parking policies?

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City Traded Parking Spots for Yankee Stadium Suite

yankpark.gifNot that we need more evidence that the Yankee Stadium parking deal was rancid to the core, but a Saturday story in the Times reveals the sad details of the Bloomberg administration's push for luxury game day digs -- a 12-seat suite in left field -- for which it traded 250 spots to the team.

The parking spaces were given to the team for the private use of Yankees officials, players and others; the spaces were originally planned for public parking. The city also turned over the rights to three new billboards along the Major Deegan Expressway, and whatever revenue they generate, as part of the deal.

The quest for perks first made news months ago following an inquiry by Assembly Member Richard Brodsky, but the nature of recently uncovered e-mails between the team, the city, and the Economic Development Corporation is depressingly banal.

At another point, raw personal feelings emerged, as evidenced during this exchange, starting June 29, 2006, between top city officials about Randy Levine, the Yankees president.

"If we want a deal on the suite, he wants 250 spaces," Seth W. Pinsky, then the executive vice president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation, wrote to Daniel L. Doctoroff, a former deputy mayor. After Mr. Doctoroff did not respond, Mr. Pinsky, a bit sheepishly, wrote the next day: "It comes down to how much we’re willing to rely on Randy’s word."

"Let’s not give," Mr. Doctoroff replied. "I don’t trust him."

The Daily News has more, including PDF files of some e-mails. The News notes that taxpayers could end up paying for the spots if stadium garages, as expected, take a loss.

And the kicker? Follow the jump for mind-bending quotes from Westchester's faux-populist-in-chief.

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