It was buried about as far as you can bury something without hitting Jimmy Hoffa — the Saturday edition of Thanksgiving weekend — but the Daily News‘ Juan Gonzalez revealed yesterday that the Bloomberg administration traded 250 free parking spaces and city approval of tax-exempt bonds for a luxury suite in the Yankees’ new stadium for the use of city officials.
According to records obtained by Assemblymember Richard Brodsky via the Freedom of Information Law, after Yanks COO Lonn Trost initially e-mailed the city, “No seats, no suites, no tickets and, as they say in Brooklyn, ‘No Nothin’,” City Hall agreed to sign off on $940 million in tax-exempt financing for the project, plus kick in an extra 250 free parking spaces at new taxpayer-built garages.
How does this compare to, say, the Bobby Abreu deal in terms of Steinbrenner clan wheeling and dealing? Let’s run the numbers:
Those 250 parking spots, according to Gonzalez, are worth $820,000 a year in revenue to the private developers who will be running the garages under the complicated management deal cooked up by city bean-counters. Given that the garage operator wasn’t signed up for more than a year after the suite tradeoff was arranged, though, it’s reasonable to assume that the city could have simply kept the 250 Yankees spaces for itself and still gotten the same payments from the garage company – meaning the $820,000 really should count as an annual cost to the city.
According to Sunday’s Times, the city also turned over to the Yankees three new billboards along the Major Deegan to help pry loose the suite. Estimated value of the billboard revenues, according to the Times: $750,000 a year.
Then there’s the tax-exempt bonds, which, according to the e-mail trail, city lawyers threatened to withhold if they didn’t get their free suite. (“‘No nothin’ can go both ways,” wrote city lawyer Joseph Gunn.) According to the latest figures from the city Independent Budget Office, the subsidized bonds will cost the city treasury about $100,000 a year in lost tax revenue.
Add it all up, and the city handed over more than $1.6 million a year worth of goodies in exchange for a single suite out near the left-field foul pole. Given that suites down the foul lines at the new stadium are selling for $600,000 a year — or not selling, as the case may be — it looks like the city got rolled like the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Meanwhile, it’s worth recalling that when Mayor Bloomberg was asked by WNYC radio earlier this year about the 600 total free parking spaces the Yanks are getting, he replied that while there was “some argument for handful of free parking spaces, that does sound like a large number, but I’m not familiar with actual details.” Maybe he should start reading his e-mail.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 30, 2008