The conundrum over the Yankee Stadium parking lots is one I’ve focused on frequently over the past few months. The corporation awarded the rights to run the lots has been struggling financially since early September, and despite looming rate hikes, the Bronx Parking Development Co. is about to default on its bonds.
As Crains New York’s Hilary Potkewitz reported yesterday, the company is in dire straits, and the neighbors aren’t happy. Many in the South Bronx had protested the parking lots surrounding the most transit-accessible stadium in the majors, and residents now aren’t happy. Potkewitz reports:
Bronx Parking Development Co., which runs the garages for the new stadium, faces an April 1 due date for a $6.8 million interest payment on bonds issued to fund construction of three facilities. The company had to dip into reserves to make a similar payment in October, and—barring a last-minute renegotiation—all signs point to a default this time.
A default could set up a seizure by bondholders and would leave the garages’ future in question. The property, which covers some 21 acres, was part of parkland taken over to make way for the current incarnation of Yankee Stadium.
The potential irony has some in the community seething. “Our community loves its parks, and we could always use more,” said Pastor Wenzell Jackson, chairman of Bronx Community Board 4, which includes the stadium and the surrounding area. “Now there’s just empty parking garages that are not benefiting the community.”
With that news in mind, there are of course many questions surrounding the lots. Chief among them is the why of it. Why are Bronx parking lots so empty? According to those who run the Bronx Parking Development Company, the answer is a mixture of supply and demand. The company claims that the lots were, at most, 60 percent full during game days, but those running it also claim that the Gateway Shopping Center has been siphoning off cars for far less.
To park in the stadium lots costs well over $20 a game while Gateway charges under $5. Officials claim that 800 cars per game are taking advantage of the price discrepancy, and thus, the company is raising rates to $35-$45 per car in 2011.
Furthermore, the Metro-North stop has been a hit as well. Bronx Parking executives claim that they are losing money as nearly 4000 fans per game take commuter rail to the stadium instead of their cars. From an urban policy perspective, I believe Metro-North provides a better route to the game than a car does.
So what’s next then? Ruben Diaz, Jr. wants to create artificial demand for the parking lots by building a hotel in the South Bronx. “We’ve been working diligently to bring a top-flight hotel to the area near Yankee Stadium,” the Bronx Borough President said in February. “As many of you have heard, the Yankee Stadium parking lots are facing severe financial problems, and we believe one of the garages could be used for the hotel development.”
Still, others would prefer to see the city cut bait on the parking lots entirely. “The first step should be to reconsider how they’re using these parking lots,” Lourdes Zapata, an official with the South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corp., said to Crains. “Looking at them exclusively for parking is a shortsighted way of looking at development in this area.”
Of course, New York City’s approach to development around Yankee Stadium has always been shortsighted. The city treated the ballpark as though it were in the suburbs and not amidst three subway lines, a ferry and commuter rail with little need for parking. Now, we’ll all pay the price in reduced public space and much higher parking rates. The lots should go, but for now, the prices will just continue to spike ever upward as fewer drive to the stadium.