As spiraling construction costs and a weak economy have sent the price tag on the new Yankee Stadium soaring, the Yankees have been seeking some $350 million in tax exempt bonds beyond what they’ve already secured for the stadium. New York State politicians, however, are growing increasingly leery of the richest sports franchise’s continual cries of poverty.
This conflict came to something of a head earlier this week when city officials and Yankee club reps squared off with New York State Assembly Representative Richard Brodsky (Dem. – Westchester)and his Committee on Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions.
As Mark Gianotto reported in The Sun, Brodsky is big opponent of any further bonds at tax-payer expense for the stadium construction efforts:
At a hearing before the Assembly’s Committee on Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions in Lower Manhattan yesterday, the committee’s chairman, Assemblyman Richard Brodsky of Westchester, said the city’s Industrial Development Agency committed a “fundamental public policy breakdown” by ignoring the baseball team’s potential revenue streams and ticket prices when determining if public funding was necessary for the new stadium. In the process, Mr. Brodsky said, the city bypassed more worthy projects.
But Brodsky’s critique is only icing on the cake. As Juan Gonzalez wrote in the Daily News on Wednesday, the Yankees can cash in on a whole bunch of incentives including one that would allow them to operate 25 pushcart vendors if they don’t get 600 parking spots. Gonzalez writes about more of the deception uncovered prior to this week’s Assembly hearing:
According to other documents IDA released to Brodsky, Mayor Bloomberg and former Gov. George Pataki greatly exaggerated the number of permanent jobs the new Yankee stadium will produce.
At the groundbreaking in August 2006, Bloomberg announced that the new stadium would “result in about 1,000 permanent jobs.” The actual job figures the Yankees submitted in their application to the IDA told a far different story.
They show the Yankees had only 104 full-time permanent employees in 2005. Included in that total were all team executives, ballplayers, office workers and maintenance personnel. Barely half were city residents. The number of full-time permanent jobs, the Yankees projected, would increase to 140 by 2009, the year the new stadium will open. That’s a gain of just 36 permanent jobs.
The Yankees have reported part-time jobs as well even though employees for those jobs largely come from outside of New York City. This is yet another example of the city’s willingness to look the other way for the Yankees while allowing other services — education and transportation come to mind — to fall by the wayside. While I know a lot of Yankee fans don’t care about this issue or would rather see the city placate the team, as I’ve written before, the Good Government New Yorker in me would prefer to see the city take advantage of their potential tax revenues. The Yankees were never going to leave, and this stadium simply acts as an unnecessary gift.
Our local politicians, however, aren’t the only ones looking into stadium subsidies. As Keith Herbert and Michael Frazier reported earlier this week, the feds are looking into it too. The IRS is looking to close a few tax loopholes that allow corporations to exploit tax-exempt bonds while a House subcommittee plans to ask the Treasury Department why these exemptions are granted in the first place.
No matter what, it seems that the ostentatious Yankee Stadium plans will finally convince the government to crack down on public subsidies of sports complexes. This is a move that’s probably coming twenty years too late as most sports economists have been urging these changes for the duration of the stadium boom. But, hey, better late than never.