On walkways, new stadiums and political donationsBy
On and off for the past few months, I’ve assumed the Neil deMause mantle when it comes to the new Yankee Stadium. DeMause, the author of Field of Schemes, an influential book (and blog) detailing sports stadium economics – with a new edition featuring a chapter on New York coming out in April – has long called for an end to taxpayer subsidies for every little detail of sports stadium construction.
I’m on his side. I completely buy into the argument that the economic returns on a stadium do not justify the few-hundred-million-dollar layouts by the cities. Look no further than the Twins. The richest owner in the game is getting a taxpayer-funded stadium when he and the team could easily afford to fit some, if not most, of the bill.
In New York, there are plenty of things that need the taxpayer money, from our infrastructure-challenged subways to our subpar public schools. Two baseball franchies – two of the richest baseball franchises in the sport – don’t need the payouts and tax breaks they’re getting.
All of which brings me to a recent Village Voice story.
Graham Rayman writes about a cozy deal between the Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion and a few Bronx landlords:
The Glasers—a family of Bronx elevator-equipment moguls—haven’t been too big on giving money to political campaigns. In fact, city campaign-finance records show that before this spring, they and their company—G.A.L. Manufacturing in the South Bronx—hadn’t given a single dollar to local candidates. Ever. So why did the Glasers suddenly drop almost $30,000 into Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion’s campaign war chest in May and July?
Could it have anything to do with the fact that the city had just agreed to pay the Glasers a whopping $5 million for “air rights” over their East 153rd Street property to make way for the renovation of an old pedestrian bridge to the new Yankee Stadium?
Basically, as part of the deal with the Yankees over the construction of the stadium and a new Metro-North stop, the city agreed to shell out $5 million for the air rights over some of the Glasers’ property in order to widen a pedestrian bridge that will provide access from the Metro-North station to the Stadium. No one, of course, would offer much in the way of comments for the Rayman’s story.
The city, according to a source at the Economic Development Corporation, is paying this money because they don’t have time to engage in a lengthy eminent domain battle and meet the construction schedule set forth by the Yanks. Meanwhile, the contract states that the bridge won’t impact the Glasers’ ability to expand their current buildings.
Right about the time the Glasers and the city worked out this deal, the Glasers started giving campaign donations to the Bronx Borough President. How convenient.
Now, I know many of you reading probably won’t care about this issue. It is after all good government-y of me to put so much thought into it, and really, the Metro-North station should have an impact in the South Bronx that goes beyond Yankee games. But for all the press the Yanks won’t got for offering to put forward money for their own ballpark, more and more expenses are coming out of the taxpayer pocket. This is just another $5 million example of the city is really on the hook for larger chunks of this ballpark than they should be.