If yesterday’s state assembly hearing on stadium funding focused on the big guns, today was for the hoi polloi. The city Industrial Development Agency is required to hold a public hearing before voting on new projects – in this case, $342 million in new tax-free bonds for the Yankees and Mets – so starting this morning, the 15-member IDA board (or a portion thereof) settled in for a long day of silently listening to the public’s thoughts on the matter.
No blow-by-blow today, but here are some highlights:
Politicians being members of the public, too, and city development chief Seth Pinsky, co-star of yesterday’s hearing, having announced at the outset that the IDA would give “priority to elected officials” in speaking, first on the stand was none other than Assemblymember Richard Brodsky, yesterday’s inquisitor. (Pinsky, introducing him, quipped: “Do I need to call my bodyguards?”) “This whole process has been replete with undue and illegal secrecy,” declared the chair of the assembly’s committee overseeing state authorities, including the IDA. “This event and this vote and this hurried process is only greater evidence of the complete breakdown of the issuance of public debt in New York State.”
Yankees president Randy Levine used his three minutes on the stand to tear into Assemblymember Deborah Glick, who opposes the stadium bonds (“The first thing she should do is get the facts right before she sends some poor staffperson to come testify”), decry Brodsky’s use of subpoena power to require his presence at yesterday’s hearing (“Man, you don’t get any more Soviet-style than that”), and reiterate the Yankees’ position as the 800-pound gorilla of the development world (“If you can find me another employer who’s putting this kind of money into the city of New York employing this many people in the city of New York, I’d like to know”.)
David Robelay, Coalition for the Homeless volunteer and self-described Yankee fan: “How can a responsible government that says its finances are in such bad shape that they consider cutting funding for basic services in need, offer $400 million in subsidies to the most popular and profitable sports franchise in the world? … For these reasons and the fact that the Yankees are raising their ticket prices so that the regular guy can only afford to see one game a year, unfortunately I think I need to reconsider my allegiance to the Yankees and join Mayor Bloomberg, at least as a Red Sox fan.”
Sister Ellen Rita Purcaro, executive director of the Highbridge Community Life Center: “The Yankee organization has sponsored Christmas day dinner for two years now, served at Highbridge for those in need. … I am here today to say thank you to the Yankee organization and your commitment to the people of the Bronx.”
D. Lee Ezell, who was installed as Bronx Community Board 4 chair after Borough President Adolfo Carrion’s purge of stadium opponents: “I understand that there are folks who are calling on you to postpone your vote that’s coming up. I’m calling on you to postpone ye not!”
Carrie Brunk, Jobs with Justice: “What are we gaining, it terms of new jobs? About 54 permanent full-time jobs, and 250 or so non-permanent part-time jobs. And then there are a thousand or so contract jobs that the Yankee president mentioned before, mostly in concessions, that are supposed to be created. But the wages and benefits of those jobs haven’t been disclosed, and we can only assume that they’re the same low-wage, part-time jobs that existed at the old stadium, jobs that you can’t support a family on. … We’re talking about more than $1 billion in public investment for mostly short-term part-time, and likely low-wage jobs.”
Joan Byron, Pratt Center for Community Development: “A lot of us are working side-by-side with the administration to bring the maximum amount of federal money to the city, and also to assure the federal government and the incoming Obama administration that the city will us that money wisely, and should maximum discretion. This project is embarrassing to come up at a time like this, in that context. To pay for upgrades to luxury boxes, the construction of a Hard Rock Cafe and a Yankee Steakhouse?”
The IDA board is supposed to take 24 hours to assimilate all this, then vote on both the tax-free bonds and tens of millions of dollars in new mortgage-recording and sales tax breaks for the two teams. Unless, of course, they postpone the vote. It wouldn’t be unprecedented, but given past history of these projects, it would be surprising.