News & Politics

Yanks Reach First Place … In Stadium Subsidies

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The House That Your Taxes Built: The new Yankee Stadium and the old, soon to be demolished one

Photo by Christopher Pierro

One of the enduring questions about the new Yankee Stadium, now rising
like a supersized doppelganger in the former public park across the street
from the House That Ruth Built, is precisely how much the Bronx Bombers’
new playpen will cost taxpayers.

Two summers ago, Mayor Bloomberg announced the project as “the state helping the way, but George [Steinbrenner] footing the bill,” but even then the city admitted that it
would be spending $135 million on replacement parks and “infrastructure.”
A subsequent Voice analysis of the numerous tax rebates, lease kickbacks, and
tax-free financing put the total taxpayer outlay at $374 million; the
following March, the subsidy-watch group Good Jobs New York issued a report that upped the ante
to $478 million.

Now that all the bills are starting to come in, Good Jobs has released a
new report, “Insider Baseball,” and with it a new estimate of the cost to
taxpayers: $663.5 million. Not only is that nearly five times what the
mayor claimed back in 2005, it would represent the most costly public
stadium subsidy in U.S. history—surpassing the $611 million that
Washington, D.C., is spending on a new stadium for the Nationals, a deal
that even one of the District councilmembers who voted for it said she
wished she could “throw into the ocean.

“It’s obviously not the first time there were major cost overruns
associated with a large development project in the city,” Good Jobs
research analyst Dan Steinberg tells the Voice—the city’s $100 million
cost for Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards project, he notes, mysteriously “leaped
to $205 million”
earlier this year, while the 1970s renovation of
Yankee Stadium was initially budgeted at $24 million before ballooning to
a final price tag of $101 million. Some of the new items taxpayers will be
stuck with the tab for:

  • The $135 million estimate for replacement parkland lasted only
    until the week before the council vote to approve the new stadium, when
    the city raised
    that figure to $160 million
    ; it jumped to $195
    million
    in Bloomberg’s most recent capital budget. (Underestimating
    projected stadium costs is a time-honored tradition in the stadium biz—a
    D.C. official told the Washington Post that his city had intentionally
    lowballed its contingency budget
    in order to secure city council
    approval.) As for what the added money is going for, it’s hard to say—
    one new line item in the capital budget, says Steinberg, is listed only as
    “new Yankee Stadium.”

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