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Posts from the "Yankee Stadium Parking Scandal" Category

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Will the Tide Turn on City Parking Policy?


 
A few weeks back Atlantic Yards Report posted a compendium of recent writings that point to the contradictions inherent in, and problems resulting from, parking requirements for urban development plans.

Mayor Mike Bloomberg's much-praised PlaNYC 2030 contains a glaring omission, a failure to address the antiquated anti-urban policy that mandates parking attached to new residential developments outside Manhattan, even when such developments, like Atlantic Yards, are justified precisely because they're located near transit hubs.

Transit-rich Manhattan isn't exempt from such requirements either, as the city fights in court to turn Hell's Kitchen parking maximums into minimums.

AYR cites a December New York Times op-ed, written by planners Alex Garvin and Nick Peterson, as one indicator that awareness of the parking paradox is entering the mainstream. And yesterday, Metro published a piece questioning the value of Community Benefits Agreements. Touted as a way to smooth possible tensions between neighborhoods and developers through a give-and-take planning process, some argue that CBAs are being abused by builders and the elected officials who support their projects.

This New York style of deal making worries California attorney Julian Gross. “The entire future of the community-benefits movement could be threatened by CBAs being sidetracked and taken over by developers and electeds who want to steer and channel the community participation,” he said. 

One result, in the case of Atlantic Yards and the new Yankee Stadium, is an influx of cars essentially legislated into neighborhoods that don't want them, even as the city preaches the virtues of sustainable growth. From that perspective, the hiring of DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and other planning dream-teamers can seem less a sign of hope than another symptom of the city's schizophrenic approach to urban mobility -- unless, whether due to publicity or change from within, a lot more stuff like this happens.

Photo: Photogrammaton/Flickr

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Carrion Gets $30K Donation Following Yanks Walkway Deal

The Village Voice is reporting that Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion received $30,000 in campaign contributions from a firm that scored a $5 million air rights agreement for a pedestrian bridge to the new Yankee carrion.jpgStadium. 

Last summer the city agreed to pay $5 million to construct part of a pedestrian walkway to the new stadium over a piece of property on East 153rd Street, according to the Voice. That land is owned by the Glaser family, which operates G.A.L. Manufacturing, a successful elevator equipment company. Though the Glasers had previously never contributed money to local candidates, they gave the Carrion campaign a total of $30,000 around the time the air rights contract was signed.

The Glasers didn't return the Voice's phone calls. A spokesman for Carrion referred questions to his campaign office, which said, "The borough president has many first-time contributors, as people throughout the city have taken notice of his proven track record in governing."

The pedestrian bridge is a small but key piece of the massive stadium project because it connects the new Metro North station to the stadium property. An existing pedestrian bridge is considered too narrow and out of compliance with federal disability laws.

Under the deal signed last spring, the city agreed to pay $5 million to the Glasers for the air rights over their property to allow for widening and improving the concrete pedestrian bridge leading to the foot of Yankee Stadium. The air-rights deal will cost taxpayers almost as much as the $6.5 million that the city plans to spend actually renovating the bridge.

City officials say that the $5 million bought three things: access to the property for two years, the right to put the bridge over the property, and a piece of land on which to set a column that will support the bridge.

As Streetsblog readers know, mayoral hopeful Carrion has been an outspoken supporter of the new Yankee Stadium and its publicly-subsidized parking decks, despite community opposition to the extra year-round traffic the project promises to bring to the polluted South Bronx. After the contentious parking deal cleared its last hurdle, Carrion bragged that the stadium would set off a chain reaction of development in the area.

How much his constituents will benefit, or suffer, from that development remains to be seen. But Carrion's mayoral campaign is making out quite nicely. In addition to the $30K from the Glasers, the Voice reports that his campaign has accepted over $34,000 from Related Companies, which is building the controversial Gateway Mall complex near the stadium -- a project criticized for, among other things, its auto-oriented design.

As it happens, according to the Voice, "At the same time that G.A.L. negotiated the $5 million air-rights deal, Related got $1.2 million from Metro North for an easement over a small sliver of its property to allow for the widening of rail tracks."

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Carrion Supports Congestion and Congestion Pricing

Last week AMNY ran a profile of Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion, Jr., playing on the angle that he may make a run for mayor in two years. The piece is mostly flattering, but does make mention of Carrion's controversial support for the new Yankee Stadium, which, as Streetsblog readers are probably sick of hearing by now, will bring ~4,000 parking spaces to what was public park land, further polluting the asthma-stricken South Bronx with additional year-round traffic.

carrion.jpgCarrion is unapologetic in his advocacy of the stadium, as well as the $225 million in taxpayer-subsidized parking that will come with it.

Carrion gives himself credit for helping to "turn the tide" in the Bronx from "an acceptance of failure" to an environment in which investors are optimistic enough to put millions of dollars into housing, parkland and a new stadium for the Yankees.

In today's Daily News, Carrion refers to last week's approval of parking deck financing as "yet another important step toward realizing the goal of investment and community participation in the redevelopment of this area."

But not everyone would paint such a rosy picture. Last year Carrion was accused of purging community board members who opposed the stadium project. More recently, some South Bronx residents have vowed to fight construction of the garages. Simply put, they don't want the traffic or the pollution necessitated by an auto-dependent vision of economic prosperity.

Ironically, in the AMNY profile, Carrion also makes a case for congestion pricing.

"The fact that we can reduce millions of tons of particulate matter from the environment, and reduce the heat effect that we create and get more people to live healthy is a good thing. It's the objective that's more important than the inconvenience."

Carrion may not see the disconnect between his negative view of traffic congestion his zeal to bring more of it to the South Bronx, but others do. Again, the Daily News:

"All along I've been opposed to the stadium and the traffic and congestion it would bring to the neighborhood," [Council Member Helen] Foster said. "And this [garage] project will just encourage even more people to drive to the west Bronx."

Many of Foster's constituents worry the 9,000 parking spaces around the stadium will turn their already traffic- and asthma-choked neighborhood into a de facto park-and-ride hub -- especially if the mayor's Manhattan congestion pricing plan becomes reality.

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City Approves Subsidized Yankee Stadium Parking

Yes, the Yankees' season is over. But on the bright side, this morning the city handed the team a nice consolation prize: $225 million in tax exempt bonds for parking deck construction at the new Yankee Stadium.

Under the agreement, the city will give up some $2.5 million in taxes, with an estimated $5 million forfeited by the state. And the asthma-plagued South Bronx will get almost 4,000 new parking spaces, in garages the city aims to draw traffic to year-round.

Today's approval of the Yanks' parking subsidy by the board of the NYC Industrial Development Agency can only be described as a fait accompli. Despite last month's surprising postponement, caused in part by the IDA's failure to provide requested information to Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion (himself a parking subsidy supporter) -- not to mention the revelation of one sad, shocking detail after another in the local media -- the unanimous vote came with relatively little discussion, one item on an agenda of about a dozen. The entire meeting took less than an hour.

Still, there were a few noteworthy aspects surrounding the decision:

  • it was announced that an economic feasibility study is now underway (as opposed to, well, conducting same before the package was approved);
  • the IDA signed off on the project though a finalized ground lease apparently does not yet exist;
  • the deal includes possibly as many as 600 free parking spaces for the Yankees (Streetsblog has a call in to the IDA to confirm the number);
  • Carrion's representative on the IDA board, Rafael Salaberrios, was not present for the vote, but walked in shortly after it occurred.

Bettina Damiani, Project Director of Good Jobs New York, an NGO that has tracked the stadium project closely, says the IDA's promise of 12 full-time and 70 part-time parking garage jobs, with an average wage of $11 an hour, hardly justifies the impact on surrounding South Bronx neighborhoods.

"There would be a stronger economic benefit if they threw cash off the elevated subway," Damiani says.

Fittingly, Damiani is headed to Washington, DC, tomorrow to testify at a Congressional hearing on how professional sports stadiums shift funds away from public infrastructure.

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Yankees’ Subsidy Deal Gets Stranger and Stranger

The Yankee Stadium subsidy package is the gift that keeps on giving. If you're the Yankees.

Following up on his tour of the smelly swath of plastic turf the Yankees installed in the South Bronx after turning actual park land into a stadium construction site, Neil deMause reports in the Village Voice that a yanksbill.jpgclause in the Yanks' lease agreement with the city -- initiated by Mayor Rudy Giuliani and extended by Mayor Bloomberg -- allows reimbursements for stadium "planning" expenses. As of 2005, deductions include apparent write-offs for food, alcohol, and thousands of dollars in schwag, like caps and souvenir crystal baseballs.

Seems the Yankees haven't been spending enough on stadium "planning" to take full advantage of the rent break, so to justify additional deductions, the club began handing over loads of receipts to the Parks Department.

[W]hereas the earlier receipts were limited to stadium-related expenses -- although questionable ones, like the $700-an-hour lobbyist bills and restaurant tabs for engineering consultants -- by late 2005, the files had begun to look like those of an organization hastily trying to spend down its account by billing the public for everything but the kitchen sink.

Here's a sample itemized list, courtesy Good Jobs New York:

  • $31,364 in food and bar tabs at Yankee Stadium for two nights of the 2005 post season
  • $1,978 for a dozen crystal baseballs
  • $8,600 in "rivalry" wool caps for home games against Boston and Toronto
  • $1037 for 550 logo baseballs for an annual sales meeting
  • $2,037 in gifts for corporate clients like Sony, Ford and Continental Airlines
  • $25,000 for office space near Newark Airport
  • $10,145 for press room rental
  • $1,948 for party for Verizon
  • $78 to ship batting helmets from Yankee Stadium to Tropicana Field

Images of actual receipts are here, here and here.

GJNY has issued a media release calling for an audit by City Comptroller (and potential mayoral candidate) William Thompson -- something the city has not done since 2004, when it examined the Yankees' stadium planning costs from 2001 and 2002.

"Considering the impact the new Yankee Stadium has had on the taxpayers and the neighborhood," reads the GJNY statement, "Good Jobs New York calls on Comptroller William Thompson to bring up to date all audits of the team to ensure no improper expenditures were in fact borne by the taxpayers."

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Eyes on the Street: Inside the Stadium

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Yankee_Stadium_Scoreboard.jpg

Here are snapshots of the scoreboard at Yankee Stadium last Sunday. (The Yanks beat Toronto, 7-5.) Despite the perceived parking hardship, average attendance at the stadium has been 52,739 this season, an all-time record.

Naturally, this casts further doubt on the need for all those (all together now) publicly funded parking spaces -- a project that has already caused actual hardship for South Bronx residents who, to add injury to injury, saw neighborhood park land poached and replaced (temporarily, at least) by a stinky plastic heat island.

Assuming the garages are built as planned, and prove as unprofitable as expected, will the scoreboard still "strongly suggest using public transportation"?

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No Vote on Stadium Deal by Bronx Borough Board

We wrote a couple weeks back that one of the problems with the new Yankee Stadium parking subsidy deal is that the Bronx Borough Board has yet to vote on it -- perhaps because board members, along with the borough president himself, are still waiting for information on the project from the Industrial Development Agency.

The Bronx Borough Board was expected to take up the stadium parking issue today, but Streetsblog has received word that it was not on the agenda after all. Though this will presumably affect the scheduling of an IDA vote to issue the $225 million in tax exempt bonds sought to finance construction of three stadium parking garages, an article in today's Sun -- referring to the complex as  "the most expensive baseball park ever built" -- quotes a Yankees rep who says the project is proceeding as planned.

The Yankees have refused to provide interviews with those involved in the construction of the new stadium. A spokeswoman for the Yankees, Alice McGillion, said, "We are on schedule with construction, on budget, and fully expect to be operational and ready for opening day 2009."

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City Hopes to Draw Constant Traffic to Subsidized Stadium Garages

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If you thought it was bad enough that the city seized public park land in the asthma-choked South Bronx, turned that public land over to the New York Yankees to use for parking, and is currently on course to have taxpayers subsidize said parking to the tune of $8,000 per space, well, you'd be wrong. It gets worse.

The triple tax exempt bond plan for the new Yankee Stadium was hatched when no developers stepped up to bid on stadium parking deck construction, and their inherent unprofitability has now led the city's Industrial Development Agency to seek year round operation of the garages.

Via onNYTurf, the Observer does the math:

If all the new parking slots (9,179 total) are filled every game day (81 times a year), the operator will bring in $18.59 million annually from Yankees-related revenue. But the $225 million in bonds, if paid back over 30 years at 6.5 percent, would require $17.04 million a year in payments.

That leaves just $1.55 million a year for salaries, maintenance, utilities and other operational costs—not to mention rent that the operator, the Bronx Parking Development Corporation, is supposed to pay the city.

With recent and ongoing South Bronx developments, such as the development of the Bronx Terminal Market and the new Metro North Station, we expect there to be strong demand for parking on non-game days, which certainly help the financial viability of the project,” a spokeswoman e-mailed The Observer.

So, with the stadium deal, the city hopes to get into the business of inducing parking demand -- in an area it says will benefit from congestion pricing.

Photo: The Foo Fighter/Flickr

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Meet Your Industrial Development Agency

Last week, the board of the New York City Industrial Agency postponed a vote on whether to subsidize the construction of parking facilities at the new Yankee Stadium through the issuance of $225 million in triple tax exempt bonds. Streetsblog has no word yet on when the vote will occur, so in the meantime here is a list of the people who will be making the decision, with as much background as we could gather on the lesser-known members.

If anyone knows more about any of these folks, or if you spot any outdated info, please share.

The IDA board:

  • Robert C. Leiber, Chairman. President of the New York City Economic Development Corporation. Former real estate executive. Mayoral appointee.
  • Derek Park, Vice Chairman. Senior Executive Vice-President, Cohane Rafferty Securities. Mayoral appointee.
  • Amanda Burden, ex officio. City Planning Director, City Planning Commission Chair.
  • Michael Cardozo, ex officio. New York City's Corporation Counsel.
  • Albert V. De Leon. General Counsel, Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken.
  • Dan Doctoroff, ex officio. Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Rebuilding.
  • Joseph I. Douek. Chairman and CEO, Willoughby's Konica Imaging Center, friend of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, and subject of this 2006 critique on Room EIght.
  • Kevin Doyle. Executive Vice President, Local 32BJ, "the largest property services union in the country." Doyle was profiled by the Observer when he joined the IDA board. Appointed by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.
  • Bernard Haber. Member of Queens Community Board 11. Queens Borough President appointee.
  • Rafael Salaberrios. President, Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation. Chairman, Bronx Tourism Council. Bronx Borough President appointee.
  • Robert D. Santos. Vice President for Campus Planning and Facilities Management, City College of New York. Former executive with construction firm Lehrer McGovern Bovis, Inc. Former Assistant Commissioner, NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development. Former Deputy Commissioner for Operations, NYC Department of Parks and Recreation. Mayoral appointee.
  • William C. Thompson, ex officio. New York City Comptroller.

Alternates:

  • Barry Dinerstein. Deputy Director for Housing, Economic Development and Infrastructure Planning, NYC Planning Department.
  • John Graham. City Comptroller appointee.
  • Angela Sun. Doctoroff appointee.
  • Leonard Wasserman. Chief, Economic Development Division, New York City Law Department (Corporation Counsel). 
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Vote Postponed on Yankees Parking Subsidy

In an unusual move, the board of the New York City Industrial Development Agency (IDA) this morning postponed a vote on whether to issue tax-free bonds for parking facilities at the new Yankee Stadium.

At a hearing last week, residents of the South Bronx, along with public advocates, protested the $225 million triple tax exempt bond issue, which would be used to finance the construction of three stadium parking garages. Speakers testified that making so many parking spots available would encourage stadium-goers to drive to the asthma plagued area, rather than take public transit -- and at taxpayer expense, as the bonds are estimated to cost New Yorkers some $8,000 per space in lost revenue.

Also at last week's hearing, a representative of Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion, Jr., Deputy Director for Planning & Development Paula Luria Caplan, told the IDA that Carrion's office had been denied "vital information" concerning the project, and said the IDA should not act before "statutorily required approval" by the Bronx Borough Board. (Streetsblog contacted Carrion's office for an update, but had not received a reply as of this writing.)

Today's session, closed to public comment, featured no discussion of the parking bonds. Instead, it was announced that several IDA board members had concerns and questions, and that the matter would be decided later at a special-called meeting, for which no date was given.

"I hope that the board realizes that you can't dress this up pretty," says Bettina Damiani of Good Jobs New York, an NGO that opposes the Yankees parking subsidy and has followed it closely (witness GJNY's 28-page chronicle, "Insider Baseball"). "You can put lipstick on it all you want. It's still a parking garage. The IDA has a tough job ahead of them."