For the past few years, the news from the Bronx concerning parking rates has not been good for Yankee fans who drive to games. Despite opposition from neighborhood groups and urban planning advocates, the city’s Economic Development Corporation opted to build 9,000 parking spots around the nation’s most transit-accessible baseball stadium. With high vacancy rates, the company operating the parking lots cannot pay back money on its tax-exempt bonds and owes the city $25 million in back taxes. Without some relief, stadium-goers could pay even more in parking, and an eventual default seems likely.
When last we checked in on this story in March of 2011, the Bronx Parking Development Company had just announced a $35-per-car rate for 2011. While that rate is due to remain the same this year, it is likely to jump to $42 next year and $55 the year after, if the company is still in business. Juan Gonzalez isn’t so sure that will happen. He writes:
Bronx Parking Development Company LLC is running perilously low on cash reserves and faces a looming default by the end of the year, according to a report filed Friday by a trustee for the firm’s bondholders. Time is running out, in other words, to avoid one of the biggest failures in decades of bonds issued by a New York City agency.
The simple fact is that Bloomberg and his aides made a costly mistake when they succumbed back in 2005 to the Yankees’ demand for a 9,000-space garage system. It was all part of the deal for the team to build a new stadium in the Bronx. But Yankees fans have shunned the garages, where gameday self-parking rates soared last year to $35 — up from $23 previously and more than double the original $14 charge. Valet parking now goes for $48.
So many fans are staying away, in part due to the lure of cheaper local competition, that Bronx Parking Development now projects only 3,500 paying customers per game for the upcoming season. And that occupancy rate — a measly 38% — will exist only on days when the Bronx Bombers take the field. For the rest of the year, the garages will remain a ghost town, since a mere 70 South Bronx residents currently park there each day.
To make matters worse, the company owes $25 million in taxes as well and does not believe revenue from the looming baseball season will be sufficient to cover expenses, let alone bond payments and tax bills. The city agencies responsible for issuing the bonds has said it will not provide financial cover, and a plan to develop a hotel on the site of some of the unused parking lots went nowhere when potential bidders asked for significant city subsidies. South Bronx residents who long opposed the garages are hoping that the city will simply knock them down and build affordable housing instead. Right now, that’s besides the point.
As the Yanks gear up for another season, those coming to the game are wondering what this news means for them. While a majority of fans take the city’s buses or subway or Metro-North to the stadium, some are not near enough to transit to do so. Many of those who eschewed $35-per-car parking for on-street space or a spot at the nearby Gateway Center lots.
It is likely then that prices will continue to climb, and spaces will go unused. If Bronx Parking goes belly up, the city will try to find another operator, but the economics of the spaces will remain the same. There are, simply put, too many parking spots around Yankee Stadium. The city may have to admit defeat and return the new empty lots to better uses. No matter what though, the fans who drive will be paying for this costly mistake for years to come.