In a couple of weeks, just one day after a public hearing and four days after releasing the appropriate numbers to the public, the New York City Industrial Development Agency is scheduled to hold a vote that would grant another round of tax-exempts bonds to the Yankees and Mets for stadium construction. The details of this $450-million bond have yet to be released to the public, and the IDA has scheduled just one hearing for Jan. 15. According to Assembly Richard Brodsky, this is not acceptable.
In a letter released yesterday and sent to the IDA, Brodsky called upon the board to delay the vote and solicit more public opinion, a sentiment a long time coming and a little bit late in the process. Brodsky originally called upon the IDA to move the vote from its originally scheduled time, three hours before Barack Obama takes the presidential oath of office.
This time, Brodsky would like more time to investigate the need for these funds. Wrote Brodsky:
The lack of public information, the controversial nature of the proposal, the undue haste and secrecy surrounding this deliberation are inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the state laws governing IDA procedures. As you can see from the Interim Report, the manipulation of the IDA process including the use of a Deviation Letter and an Inducement Resolution inconsistent with each other, the artificial inflation of property tax assessments by the City, the successful pursuit of a luxury suite for City officials, the failure to consider the affordability of stadium tickets, the lack of permanent job creation, the uncertainty about the Community Benefits Agreement and the parkland replacement are issues that must be considered as the additional funding is advanced. We are particularly interested in the justification for the new funding, inasmuch as the initial funding was justified on a supposed Yankee threat to leave the City. Since the Yankees have signed a non-relocation agreement, it is unclear what justification can be made for the additional funding.
And in a statement, the Westchester pol and head of the State Assembly’s Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions took a shot at the IDA:
“At a time when we can’t fund the MTA or schools, the Bloomberg administration’s insistence on an additional $454 million of corporate welfare makes no sense. The IDA is an independent State agency which is not supposed to be under the thumb of the Mayor’s office. We are asking IDA board members to allow for a deliberate and open process to ensure that all points of view are heard and that New Yorkers are protected from more corporate welfare for the wealthiest corporations in our area. The spate of taxpayer bailouts of large corporations was at least justified by the threat that they would otherwise go out of business. There is no reason to provide public assistance to these hugely successful businesses at a time when taxes are rising, services are being cut, and jobs are being lost. We call on the IDA to do the right and legal thing.”
I don’t disagree with Brodsky here. I don’t think the stadium financing has been nearly as public as it needed to be. Our elected officials should have questioned this deal a long time ago. But at this point, Brodsky needs to deliver an endgame that constitutes more than just being a thorn in the side of all involved.
For better or worse, the new stadium will open in April. It’s about 45 days away from completed, and the project passed the point of no return basically the day after Yankee and city officials broke ground in 2006. Brodsky and his fellow committee members can make sure the city coffers get the money it deserves, and they have already made sure that future projects will be subject to more oversight. I guess these are small victories we should celebrate in the fight of good government and stadium construction.