On Yankee Stadium: Replacement Parkland now 67% over initial projected cost … and about those tax-free bonds

The Yankee Stadium “replacement” Parkland costs, originally projected at $ 116.1 million, have now risen 67% to close to $195 million, according to a report released yesterday by the Independent Budget Office as reported in Crain’s New York Business.

The only reason we know this is due to the fact that the Independent Budget Office is “a city agency that operates independent of the mayor.” I didn’t know any existed — agencies operating outside of the mayor’s reign — so this is mildly reassuring!

The article attributes “design revisions, project additions, unanticipated cleanup of hazardous materials and construction inflation” as the reason for the skyrocketing costs given by the NYC Parks Department.

Community members dispute this claim:

“Joyce Hogi, a member of Community Board 4’s parks committee and a longtime area resident, said community members told the city it was underestimating the amount of environmental remediation that needed to be done, but that its warnings went nowhere. “We knew the costs of the parks were going to escalate,” she said. “During our protests, we said ‘there are tanks under the soil, there’s remediation that needs to be done.’”

And, “while the Yankees are financing the stadium — with the help of city and state subsidies — the parks are being paid for by the city.”

So, the city gave the Yankees 1 and 1/2 parks(all of Macomb Dams Park and part of John Mullaly Park), 22 acres of parkland, in the green-space challenged South Bronx, to then be re-distributed into “eight smaller parks” (some on top of parking garages!). (Doesn’t exactly sound like a good deal, does it?)

And then there are those tax-free bonds. Sports writer Mike Lupica gave a great overview in the New York Daily News on January 17th which is worth reading:

The Yankees had a perfect right to make the best possible deal for themselves, even though somebody like the IRS is eventually going to ask why the assessed value of the land the Yankees needed to build the new Yankee Stadium went from $26 million to $204 million one day because that’s what the bond underwriters wanted.

Nobody ever doubted that the Yankees, and the Mets, would get the additional tax-free bonds the city’s Industrial Development Agency gave them Friday. The IDA does what it is told by Bloomberg the way our valiant City Council does on term limits.

You are not supposed to say no to this mayor. You are not supposed to say no to the Yankees when they want an additional $370 million in these tax-free bonds (on top of the nearly $1 billion in tax-free bonds they’ve received originally). All you are supposed to do is this: When told this is a sweetheart deal for the city instead of for the Yankees, you are supposed to nod your head and act grateful.

These aren’t stadium deals between Bloomberg and the baseball teams. They are mergers. And Bloomberg needs them as much as the Yankees and Mets do. Because without them, New Yorkers would start asking this mayor who promised big, huge growth projects where those projects are.

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Today’s New York Times has additional information in its article, “Report Cites Unexplained Costs of New Parks in the Bronx” (apparently $16 million is unaccounted for), to which the Parks Department responds: basically, that’s “old news.” Story here.

Privatized Stadium in Public Parks – On Yankee Stadium, the Bloomberg Administration and that Luxury Suite

the sign for the former macombs dam parkThe Bloomberg Administration agreed to obliterate one and a half parks (and 400 trees) in the green space-challenged South Bronx with the City’s highest asthma rates in order to provide the Yankee Corporation the land for a new stadium. More and more details about this “deal” keep being revealed and it’s just as murky as you might expect.

The Bloomberg Administration aggressively pursued a bigger luxury suite and gave the Yankees 250 parking spots and three advertising billboards in their push to wrangle this. This is on top of already having given them city (park) land to put their stadium on and allocated taxpayer funds for the questionable rebuilding of the two parks.

The New York Times reported on this Sunday 11/30 in “City Pressed Hard for Use of Yankee Luxury Suite:”

The city’s push for the perks has been known, at least broadly speaking, since Mr. [Richard] Brodsky [New York State Assemblyman] began raising questions earlier this year about the stadium deals for the Yankees and Mets, from whom the city also secured a luxury box. But the e-mail messages offer a revealing snapshot of the behavior and marching orders of the people involved in the deal for the construction of the billion-dollar Yankee Stadium.

Also:

“There’s this ‘Alice in Wonderland’ quality to the question of, what is the public interest here and who’s protecting it?” said Mr. Brodsky, who conducted a hearing on the issue of public financing of sports stadiums this summer. “We can’t find the money for the M.T.A., or schools, or hospitals, and these folks are used to the perks and good things of life, and expect them.”

It’s an interesting read and is quite revealing about the methods of the Bloomberg Administration. At the same time, the city gave so much to the Yankees. It would have been great if they had fought so hard to keep our two Bronx city parks in place. It’s just another example of how arrogant and out of touch Mayor Michael Bloomberg is, always ready to put the wishes of private developers and corporations over people and their communities.

Previous entry: Play Ball: How New York City Destroyed Two Bronx Parks

Yankee Stadium and the Replacement Parks – Time and Cost Rise(Recycled Entry)

I’ve wanted to write more about Yankee Stadium (and I will). For the moment, here’s a still-relevant recycled post from May 25th: Time and Cost Rise for Yankee Stadium Parks in the South Bronx.

Excerpt:

The Bronx lost part of John Mullaly Park (18.5 acres) and ALL of Macombs Dam Park(28.4 acres). Yes. ALL. of. this. park. (and part of another) was given away in the Bronx so that the Yankees, a private corporation, could build their new stadium there. It tells you something about the climate in our city under CEO Mayor Bloomberg that this idea was initiated – and achieved.

As the [New York Times] article notes, “The stadium is being financed by the Yankees with city subsidies, while the eight new parks for the South Bronx, which range in size from .24 acre to 8.9 acres, are being paid for by the city.” (We give away 2 parks to a private corporation and the City pays to rebuild them.) The cost is now projected to be $174 million; the original estimate was $95.5 million.

[Timothy] Williams writes: “Some residents have been critical of the trade-off. While Macombs Dam and Mullaly Parks were almost contiguous stretches of grass and trees amid the concrete topography of the South Bronx, the replacement parks are small parcels scattered around the area. The sites include sports fields atop a planned stadium parking garage and a park along the Harlem River, which is on the opposite side of the Major Deegan Expressway.”

Read the full entry here.

NYC Parks Department Motto: Stick to the plans, no matter how irrational or unwelcome they are.

AstroLand Park, Coney Island

AstroLand Park, Coney Island

The NYC Parks Department never ceases to amaze. Operates as a pure business model. Promotes privatization ventures without fail. Destroys thousands of mature city trees to put forth splashy expensive redesigns of parks. Pitches “MillionTreesNYC” “initiative” with little planning given as to how to care for and maintain the trees. Lets parks fall into disrepair so communities are desperate for change. Redesigns parks that don’t need redesign. Corporate giveaways of parks in areas where they are most needed (see: Yankees. The Bronx.) and the city pays for the new parks. Reduction in public space. No concern for community mandates or input. Manipulates Community Boards, NY City Council, and other city agencies by lack of transparency and purposefully withholding information and misstating plans.

If Mayor Bloomberg did not view city Parks as corporatizing entities that are exploited for their real estate value to property owners, businesses and tourism, and was looking for someone to care for and cherish our Parkland, NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe would be out of a job and working for, say, Chase Manhattan, Madison Square Garden, or, perhaps, Bloomberg LP.

If there isn’t enough confirmation that the Parks Department digs in its heels and won’t abandon its plans no matter what damming evidence is in front of the Commissioner … than take the recent articles about artificial turf, that synthetic substance made from recycled tires that has been placed in 94 parks and ballfields across NYC’s five boroughs thus far.

Today’s Metro NY follows up a story in Saturday’s New York Daily News investigating the high temperatures the artificial turf reaches when a child, adult or animal walks or plays on it.

In Saturday’s (7/5) NY Daily News, Jeff Wilkins and Elizabeth Hays report: “Artificial turf installed in city fields can heat up to a blistering 162 degrees even on a mild summer day, a Daily News investigation has found.” This is twice as high as the temperature of natural grass.

The writers encountered 9 year old Yannick Pena at Macombs Dam Park in the Bronx after he walked on the artificial turf there. He said, “My feet are burning! I had to dump cold water on my shoes just to walk around.”

What would Commissioner Benepe say to that? Commissioner Benepe is, after all, a big advocate of synthetic turf.

Well, Liam Kavanagh, first deputy Parks Commissioner, told the News: “The temperatures can get very high during the heat of the day. But people are smart. They are not going to use a place that is uncomfortable to play on.”

Other than the heat, there are other problems: “Earlier this year, The News reported concerns that the millions of tiny crumbs contain heavy metals like lead and cadmium, as well as volatile organic compounds and other chemicals.”

Deputy Commissioner Kavanagh said the city would begin using a “carpet-style turf” and “plans to stop using the crumb-rubber infill because of excessive heat.”

However, in testing a field at Macombs Dam Park that has the “new turf,” The Daily News found that it also registered “as high as 160 degrees.”

In today’s Metro NY, Patrick Arden reports new signs are now appearing in the NYC parks and ballfields that contain artificial turf. The signs state: “This field can get hot on warm, sunny days. If you experience symptoms of heat-related illness, such as dizziness, weakness, headache, vomiting, or muscle cramps, move to a shaded area. Drink water, rest, and seek medical attention if you do not feel better.

Metro’s investigation backed up the Daily News report, “One day last month, the artificial turf at Brooklyn’s Cadman Plaza was 165.5 degrees, while a nearby plot of grass measured just 83 degrees. Waves of heat rose from the field.”

Will the Parks Department follow the logical route and abandon their turf dream of installing these substances in 68 more locations? All evidence points to the contrary.

NY Daily News: “Fort Yankee Stadium” Or … Mayor Bloomberg further shows his true colors

From yesterday’s New York Daily News:

Fort Yankee Stadium

Mayor Bloomberg apparently has adopted a bunker mentality on the new Yankee Stadium project, as serious questions arise over “equal” replacement of parkland, huge cost overruns, questionable financing and other issues.

Parks Commish Adrian Benepe is now under orders to pass any media inquiries about the project directly to Mayuh Mike’s press office.

Maybe City Hall needs to build a bunker under the new stadium.

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Want to know more? Click here.

Yankee Stadium Parks update: Parks Dept is “inexperienced” in building parks on top of parking garages.

The New York City Council Parks & Recreation Committee called the NYC Parks Department forward to ask a few questions yesterday about the delays (2 years) and skyrocketing costs (from budgeted $99.5 million to now $174 million) of replacing parkland in the South Bronx taken away to create the new Yankee Stadium. Remember how NYC government took away 40 acres from 2 parks (destroyed one entirely) in their quest to give the Yankees Corporation whatever they wanted for their expensive, high tech building? The Parks Committee decided it was time to offer some oversight.

Timothy Williams reports in today’s New York Times: “On Tuesday, council members asked Liam Kavanagh, the parks department’s first deputy commissioner, a series of pointed questions, including whether the agency had been dishonest about its original cost estimates.”

Kavanagh was sent forth by Parks Commissioner Benepe to explain the situation. He asserted that “the department’s inexperience with such complex projects was partly to blame.”

City Council Parks & Recreation Committee Chair Helen Foster asked about the largely increased costs, ““Is there a possibility the numbers were watered down or made less to make the package more appealing?” (Was it ever appealing?)

Mr. Kavanagh responded, “I can assure you there was no attempt to underplay the cost of the replacement program.” (Would they admit that?)

Finally, Parks representative Kavanagh explained the real problem was the “unusual locations” chosen for the replacement parks, “including one atop a stadium parking garage.” “It is not something we are fully familiar with,” he commented.

Imagine that they decide to take over some of the parkland at Central Park for, say, a new DisneyLand and, by way of explanation, the Parks Department says, “You know that public space you ran on, where you rode your bike, and walked your dog? We’re going to replace it and it’ll be even better. Trust us. We’ll be cutting down 400 mature trees but … we’ll plant more! And, yes, your new space will be on top of a parking garage blocks away and you’ll have to cross the West Side Highway to get there. But, don’t worry, you’ll adapt.”

That is the equivalent of what happened to the people in the South Bronx who watched their parks destroyed all in the interest of privatization for Mayors Bloomberg & Guiliani‘s “vision” for our city.

In the News: “Green Thievery in the South Bronx”

the sign for the former macombs dam parkIt continues to astound me that New York City and the Yankees Corporation got away with destroying TWO parks in the South Bronx to construct a new Yankee stadium.

Imagine Yankees management years ago looking across the way from the current stadium at those pesky parks, Macombs Dam and John Mullaly. These two parks comprised 20 acres, including 377 trees, grass, tracks, a pool and fields – all in the way of a new stadium.

Envision that call being placed to someone in the Giuliani administration(when the idea was first floated). Yankees official states: “Hey the Yankees corporation needs a new stadium and we’ve found a perfect location which will enable us to play in the old stadium and then move into the new one seamlessly.” The city official asks where? Yankee management says, “Those two parks across the street.”

It’s hard to imagine someone not just laughing at this notion. Alas, they did not and this proposal was pushed through under the tenuous idea that the Bronx would get more parkland. And then there was the destruction of the trees. We know how important trees are in a city, particularly mature trees. They help clean the air. Trees provide homes for wildlife and are an important part of the ecosystem.

Isn’t our Parks Department supposed to be stewards for the existing trees and parkland?

Do Parks Commissioners take any kind of oath or is Commissioner Benepe really just a privatizing businessman under Mayor Bloomberg?

The New York Times reported on the status of that parkland in a weekend Editorial, “Green Thievery in the South Bronx:”

“Many promises were made two years ago when the New York Yankees grabbed prime parkland in the South Bronx to build a new stadium. …

The Yankees took more than 20 acres of contiguous parkland – from Macombs Dam and John Mullaly Parks – to build a stadium adjacent to the original one. Hundreds of mature trees were felled, and even though thousands of new ones have been planted, the area feels like the construction zone it is. … the city, which is paying for the new green spaces, is moving too slowly.”

That the Yankees “took” the Parks isn’t quite accurate. They were given this space. The city is paying for the replacement parkland, NOT the team. They are also getting “hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies” and are asking for more.

The article relays that while the Yankees are ready to open their new stadium on schedule next year; the parks are delayed and will open two years later than promised. The New York Times, always ready to laud Mayor Bloomberg, leaves his name out of this critical piece, as well as any mention of Parks Commissioner Benepe, referring to those responsible for the delay under the vague title “the city.”

As the editorial continues, “The Yankees are the richest team in baseball. Their neighbors are among the poorest in the nation. The city should move faster to provide substitutes for the healthy green spaces that have been taken away.”

You think? They should have never have “been taken away” to begin with.

Previous entries on this here.

NY Times: Time and Cost Rise for Yankee Stadium Parks (in the Bronx)

Today’s New York Times has an article by Timothy Williams which covers the delay and increase in cost in rebuilding parkland that was sacrificed for the Yankees’ new stadium in the Bronx.

The Bronx lost part of John Mullaly Park (18.5 acres) and ALL of Macombs Dam Park(28.4 acres). Yes. ALL. of. this. park. (and part of another) was given away in the Bronx so that the Yankees, a private corporation, could build their new stadium there. It tells you something about the climate in our city under CEO Mayor Bloomberg that this idea was initiated – and achieved.

As the article notes, “The stadium is being financed by the Yankees with city subsidies, while the eight new parks for the South Bronx, which range in size from .24 acre to 8.9 acres, are being paid for by the city.” (We give away 2 parks to a private corporation and the City pays to rebuild them.) The cost is now projected to be $174 million; the original estimate was $95.5 million.

Williams writes: “Some residents have been critical of the trade-off. While Macombs Dam and Mullaly Parks were almost contiguous stretches of grass and trees amid the concrete topography of the South Bronx, the replacement parks are small parcels scattered around the area. The sites include sports fields atop a planned stadium parking garage and a park along the Harlem River, which is on the opposite side of the Major Deegan Expressway.”

The original parks housed tennis and basketball courts, a running track, baseball and soccer fields as well as 400 trees – all eliminated for the Yankees Corporation. Yankee Stadium is scheduled to open on time in April 2009. The parks, which were supposed to be up and accessible at the same time, will not be ready for close to a year later.

Bronx resident Anita Antonetty told the Times, “We’ve lost our biggest park, and what we’ve been reduced to is this parking lot. … We’ve lost hundreds of trees that were 80 years old, and now there’s this monstrosity of cement across the street from where people live.”

NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe was not available for comment for the Times’ article.