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.

Great quote about Mayor Bloomberg from Mike Lupica in the Daily News

Why do we always find the best, right-on-target analogies about our Mayor from the sports writers at the New York dailies? Is it something about covering sports that leads to having a clue? Nothing against political journalists but I have not seen this written anywhere else – and it really needs to be said. Often.

NY Daily News
Sunday, October 19, 2008

Mike Lupica, in the Sports pages:

“If Mike Bloomberg is such a beloved, indispensable figure in our city, how come he has to keep spending so much of his own money to be mayor?”

Exactly.

Now About the Mayor…

Columnist Mike Lupica in the Daily News : “Who died and made the New York Mayor royalty?”

Lupica reminds us how Mayor Rudolph Giuliani decided he was indispensable post 9/11. Now his successor, Mayor Bloomberg, feels he needs more time (8 years is not enough?) to finish what he “started” — that New York City can not manage without him (his billionaire friends agree).

The fascinating thing with Mayor Bloomberg is the free pass he gets in the media most of the time. I watch cautiously but I feel he may just have hit the thing-that-will-bring-reality-out-into-the-open with this overturning Term Limits (or extending the “Term”) thing.

Lupica writes;

It’s clear how much Bloomberg likes his job, running the city as an imperial mayor. So did the guy before him. The problem is the same for both of them: same law, the one saying the job has to end. At which point it’s not the city’s job to find them something to do. …

Bloomberg … is as ambitious as Giuliani ever was in New York, and is never wrong, not on the Olympics, not on a West Side stadium for the Jets, not on congestion pricing, not when he wants the area on Broadway south of 42nd St. and almost all the way to Madison Square Garden turned into our big, bad city’s version of the Champs Élysées.

On Bloomberg toying with the idea of pushing the City Council to overturn term limits without quite stating his motivations (as if this is some secret?), Lupica states:

He does not quite come out and say this, because that is not his style. You read the accounts of the dance he is currently dancing with the City Council in general and Council Speaker Christine Quinn in particular, and there is one adjective constantly applied to Bloomberg, and it is the same one applied to Giuliani seven years ago. And the word is “coy.”

Yes, Bloomberg’s style (so to speak) is to the pull the strings behind-the-scenes. But the word I would use to describe this stated style of our CEO Mayor is not “coy.” It is duplicitous.

Mayor Bloomberg’s behind-the-scenes string-pulling can be linked to Washington Square Park‘s redesign as well as the major changes to Union Square Park, the giveaway of one-and-a-half Bronx City parks to the Yankee Corporation, and so much more.

It’s time for Mayor Bloomberg to accept that he will be packing up his bags soon. He never moved into Gracie Mansion so it should be easy, right?