Juan Gonzalez of the Daily News (and one of the newest additions to the National Association of Hispanic Journalists Hall of Fame on Friday) has the latest on the Yankee Stadium funding scheme. Congress, he reports, is looking at the valuation the city and team put on the land for the new Stadium. A few representatives charge that the Yanks and New York may have overvalued the land to float more bonds than they should have.
A Congressional committee has launched a probe into whether the city and Yankees wildly inflated the value of the site for the team’s new stadium to float nearly $1 billion in tax-free bonds. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) last week demanded “specific documents and reports” that could show the city claimed the land beneath the new Yankee stadium was worth nearly seven times its true value.
The massive switcheroo allowed the city to sell $941 million in bonds for the stadium, which must by law be linked to a site’s actual value. That means taxpayers are getting rooked because bondholders avoid paying tax on the interest they earn – and it could jeopardize the financing of the whole project.
Kucinich, who heads the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, is zeroing in on dramatically different estimates the city offered for the stadium land – one of $275 per square foot and another of just $45. A hearing is set for September. “There’s no way vacant land in the Bronx is worth $275 a square foot,” said a veteran city assessor, who asked not to be identified.
According to one survey — that conducted by the city — the parkland in the Bronx was worth $204 million or $275 per square foot. But in other documents, the Parks Document said the land was worth $45 per square foot. With unnamed Finance Department officials alleging something akin to fraud, this story could get interesting.
In the end, odds are that nothing will come of this. The new stadium is nearly finished; the old one is destined for the wrecking ball in a few months; and nothing short of an act of God is really going to stop that now. However, as more and more information has come to light, it seems clear that taxpaying New Yorkers got a raw deal on the Stadium. I’ll be curious to read the book on the history of this project that someone will write in a few years. I can’t imagine the Yanks will come out in a positive light.