Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Daily News Bashes Queens Delegation

In an editorial today, the Daily News excoriates Queens Councilman Hiram Monserrate and the other members of the delegation who demanded that the Mets agree to a community benefits agreement just as the Yankees did recently for their new stadium. Likening these elected officials to extortionist mobsters, the News opines, “What Monserrate & Co. are up to now is a squeeze play and an abuse of power.” This pro-developer piece, is not surprising coming from a paper published by a real estate mogul.

However, what’s interesting is that the paper has had no problem with community benefits agreements in the past, no matter how flawed or quid-pro-quo they may have been. In the case of the Bronx Terminal Market, the News hailed the awful CBA negotiated by the developer and a non-existent “coalition of neighborhood organizations.” In an editorial urging the approval of a new Yankee Stadium, the writers glowingly describe the community benefits package as a trust fund for the community, instead of a slush fund to be controlled by supportive Bronx electeds. So why all this sudden criticism when Queens decides it should be treated at least as well as the Bronx?

The other problem with the editorial is that it fails to consider the direct and indirect public subsidies the Mets will receive and how these incentives change the nature of the project. If the development is approved, the Mets will receive hundreds of millions dollars of taxpayer dollars for infrastructure improvements as well as tax-free bonds that will save the team $50 to $60 million. Therefore considering the huge public investment in this stadium, it is not unreasonable for Councilman Monserrate and his colleagues to ask the Mets to ensure that minorities and women will be hired and that neighborhood children have access to quality sports facilities, Mets games and job opportunities.

Since the Mets’ new stadium hinges upon the public’s generosity, and considering there will be a number of negative community impacts resulting from new construction, it makes sense to us for the franchise to reciprocate with an agreement similar to the those signed by other New York sports teams.