City Pitches in for Yankee Stadium Parking

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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

  • Yet another reason to be a Mets fan, I suppose.

  • We need someone to calculate the greenhouse-gas impact of projects like this.

  • rlb

    …I saw somewhere that there are plans for 9000 spaces, so:

    If each car averages a 10 mile trip at 20mpg, that’s one gallon roundtrip, 9000 for the whole lot, and times 81 for the season (not counting playoffs), that’s 729000 gallons a year. Every burned gallon of gas puts out about 20lbs of CO2, so that’s 14,580,000lbs or 7,290 tons a year.
    Seems like the kind of thing PlaNYC should be trying to avoid.

  • sustain me

    Maybe the 9000 car parking structures will have a green roof and solar panels to power the energy efficient light bulbs. Nests will be built on the sides for rare migratory birds and the elevators will be designed by ambidextrous Swedish artists and made of recycled coconut husks and old hot dog wrappers.

    In front will be high concept bike racks that look like bent baseball bats and have room for 9 bikes.

  • Nice, but no one wants to “offset the the impact” or anything lame like that. We’ll settle for not funding unprofitable garages through tax exemptions, and having them not be built. Hate to put out your Swedish artist friends tho! xo

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    That’s very funny, Sustain me! Or it would be if it weren’t so close to the truth.

    I emailed Governor Spitzer, who controls the EDC and thus the IDA. Hopefully he can stop this thing before it’s too late.

    This Metro article was informative, in an infuriating kind of way, especially this quote:

    “We’re the 501(c)(3) corporation, which is the pass-through to give the parking garages tax-exempt financing,” explained CIDC senior vice president Joseph Seymour, the former executive director of the Port Authority. “Instead of the city taking on the debt, and having that put under consolidated debt, it goes through Community Initiatives Development Corp.”

    “We’re only providing the tax-exempt status,” said Seymour. “We get a fee, which hasn’t been negotiated yet. We don’t get the revenue — there’s a trustee that gets the revenue and disburses it to the bondholders and pays off the development.”

    Nice. So even though there are laws requiring for-profit companies to pay taxes and preventing the state from lending them money tax-free, our friend Seymour set up this little shell nonprofit to circumvent those laws … for a fee, of course. With this kind of “good government,” why did the Times endorse Pataki three times? Why would anyone even think twice about voting for him for President?

  • This issuance of tax exampt bonds is a NYC EDC initiative, not NY State ESDC.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Thanks, Jon. What a mess. I guess there’s no real point writing to Bloomberg about this, is there?

  • BorschtBelt

    Freaking pathetic. Get these sports team tycoons off of the public teat once and for all – they just keep coming back for more.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Hate to bring this up, but if the city wanted people to take transit to baseball games, it should have put a single stadium for both teams in a central location — like the West Side yards, or Sunnyside Yards.

    A large share of Yankee fans are in New Jersey, and a transit ride home from the stadium after a late night game is, to say the least, unpleasant and long. It’s tough getting up for work or school after arriving home at 2 am, and God Forbid you miss the last train from Penn or bus from the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

    True, we take transit to Shea, but it is at least 1 1/2 hours each way from a fairly close in part of Brooklyn. We only go once a year, to a day game.

  • I think all you can do is flog the sustainability rhetoric vs car planning reality, and hope the new garages don’t work even with the added subsidies.

  • And I hate to bring this up (I do!) but other cities have managed to keep enormous sports arenas outside their dense centers while providing good transit options from the suburbs as well as the center. Like the Stade de France, whose access instructions begin cutely, “Make your choice! Give preference to public transport!”

    It’s not a dilemma when good options are available.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    You’ve put your finger on the problem, Larry, but I think Doc’s point is excellent. The Stade de France is served by the RER B line running straight from Paris and the southern suburbs, and the RER D running to the southeastern suburbs. It’s two stops and ten minutes from Notre Dame Cathedral, including time for a change of train operators because it runs on lines controlled by two different authorities. Many of the eastern suburbs are accessible by a single cross-platform transfer, and at least half the commuter lines are accessible by a single transfer.

    To transplant this to New York City, imagine that Yankee Stadium is between the Harlem and Hudson lines, with stations for both close by. But instead of terminating at Grand Central, they stop at a station below the existing Lower Level. The Hudson Line trains continue on to a station under Penn Station and down the Raritan Valley Line to the end, while the Harlem Line trains make a stop at 14th and Seventh before crossing under the river to Hoboken Terminal and going up the Erie Main Line to Ridgewood. Naturally, connections are available at Grand Central, Hoboken, Secaucus and Ridgewood for other trains.

    This wasn’t an easy thing to accomplish. Between 1969 and 1977, large tunnels were dug under the center of the city, linking four different commuter rail stations, and a huge pit (see the last picture) was dug on the former site of the central market for the transfer station. This required a large expenditure of public money.

    What were we spending money on between 1969 and 1977? Oh yeah, things like this, this and this.

  • Larry Littlefield

    When I was at DCP we had some airy discussions of using the SAS as a trunk line for something like the RER, with a premium fare as a way of financing it.

    But you really can’t compare NYC with Paris. Paris is the place the rest of France dumps money into; NYC is the place the rest of the U.S. sucks money out of. It took 12 years of study to get a 30% federal contribution to an overpriced three-stop extenstion of the BMT Broadway line, probably not even paying for the cost escalation during that time. And after 2015 or so, ever last dime will be doing to the seniors. We’ll be lucky to keep what we have.

  • This is so unfortunate. All that money spent on a new stadium. These stadiums are always built in the poor neighborhoods and never bring about any kind of revitalization to them.

    Chicago’s Soldier Field renovation cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but at least all of our stadiums have excellent transit connections.

  • Larry Littlefield

    It is unfortunate, but remember it was Bronx politicians who insisted the Yankees not leave, not matter what it cost the city.

    As to how things could be improved, one option could be “point to point” bus runs for special events and desitnations at non-central destinations, with pick-ups and drop offs at several neighborhood points. Kind of like the Atlantic City buses do.

    But federal policy — a ban on using transit buses for charter service backed by the charter companies — gets in the way. The TWU blocks private vans and private bus companies prevent transit riders from using buses paid for with their own tax dollars. In government producers, not consumers, rule.

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