At this point, is anyone really surprised that the Yankees have asked for and are receiving more tax-free bonds? Charles V. Bagli, take it away:
With opening day for the city’s two newest baseball stadiums only four months away, the price tag for taxpayers continues to rise. The Bloomberg administration has issued fresh estimates for utility work, lighting and the cost of replacing the parks and ball fields that once stood where the new stadium for the Yankees is being erected.
The city also plans to issue $341.2 million in additional tax-exempt bonds on behalf of the Yankees and Mets to complete the stadiums, whose combined cost is about $2.2 billion. The teams are responsible for paying off the bonds, but they pay tens of millions of dollars less in interest because payments to bondholders are exempt from city, state and federal taxes.
The city and the state are also investing more than $660 million in parks, garages and transportation improvements around the stadiums and are providing the teams with an estimated $500 million in tax breaks related to construction materials and other items. The city had planned to issue a public notice of the latest bond offering and a required public hearing on Monday but decided to wait at least a week until it completed a cost-benefit analysis. With public costs mounting, critics of the deals say the city will be hard pressed to demonstrate that the economic benefits of the stadium projects outweigh the cost to taxpayers.
Neil deMause questions the accuracy of the exact figures, but the fact remains the same. As services throughout the city — education, security and public transit — suffer, the taxpayers are yet again shouldering more of the burden of the stadium than we originally expected we would.
I realize by now the stadium is pretty much a moot point. The Yankees aren’t going to fork over money denied to the public, and the new structure will open in a little over three months as scheduled. But one of the roles a healthy media should play is that of public watchdog. New Yorkers had little chance to understand the public ramifications of the new stadium because the newspapers didn’t start reporting on these issues until it was far too late. The teams could have built new stadiums without these subsidies, and while there will be benefits the neighborhoods and communities enjoy from the stadiums, they won’t justify the costs.