What could be worse than replacing neighborhood parks with private parking decks, built with the specific intent of increasing car trips by the tens of thousands through a community already suffering from so much disease-causing pollution that its nickname is "Asthma Alley"?
How about forcing afflicted residents to help foot the bill?
That’s what could happen in the South Bronx, courtesy of the New York City Industrial Development Agency (IDA) and the New York Yankees.
Though the sweetheart deal orchestrated to fund a new stadium for the richest team in baseball went off with barely a hitch — including the seizure of public park land, accomplished in just eight days — construction of the planned parking decks for the new facility has been another matter.
Apparently recognizing the decks as a losing proposition, no private developer wants to build them. So to get things rolling, the IDA — the financing arm of the NYC Economic Development Corporation — is now set to award some $186 million in triple tax-exempt bonds for deck construction to a group called the Community Initiatives Development Corporation (CIDC), a non-profit that sets up tax-free loan packages.
In testimony from last week regarding the deck plan, Bettina Damiani of Good Jobs New York (GJNY) offered an analysis of how the project made its way to the CIDC, which has set up a ‘local’ Bronx division (BCIDC) for the stadium deal:
Despite the fact that these garages went through an official Request For Proposal the financing structure and selection process has the appearance of yet another backroom subsidy deal. BCIDC president William Loewenstein is a strategic partner of lobbying powerhouse Stadtmauer Bailkin, LLP, which specializes in securing public subsidies for its clients. The firm’s promotional materials identified him as such until last fall. Stadtmauer Bailkin is listed on the IDA’s core application as the attorney of CIDC.
This is a very tidy loop. Stadtmauer lobbies City Hall on behalf of Central Parking Systems, the business claiming it will operate the parking lots. Stadtmauer needs no introduction here. One of its managing directors has promoted herself as having written incentive guidelines as an employee of the New York City Economic Development Corporation. And the firm’s incentive procurement practice was recently renamed Biggins Lacy Shapiro & Co. Jay Biggins is a former executive director of NYCEDC. CIDC’s senior vice president Joseph Seymour is the former executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
The proposed deck plan would push total subsidies for the new Yankee Stadium to somewhere north of $400 million, according to GJNY. It would also increase the current parking stock by 55 percent, even as plans for a new Metro-North station to serve the park languish for lack of funding.
All of which smacks of hypocrisy to Kate Slevin, associate director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, who also submitted testimony to the IDA:
In January, Mayor Bloomberg announced his PlanYC initiative, which envisions a city in 2030 with faster travel times, more green space, and with the cleanest air of any big city in the USA. Providing more public subsidies for parking garages — especially when funds for a transit station are precarious at best — flies in the face of these goals. It’s hard to take an initiative like PlanYC seriously when the city is throwing money at parking for a transit-oriented site like Yankee Stadium.
In the interest of equal time, the Mets are encouraging fans to use transit for today’s home opener — at least while construction of their new stadium continues to take away parking. To avoid the ‘shortage’ during last year’s playoffs, nearly half of Mets fans attended the games without their cars — proving that even if you don’t build it, they will come.
Note: Prior to publication, Streetsblog contacted Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff’s office for comment on this story. Mr. Doctoroff could not immediately be reached.
Image: duluoz cats via Flickr