Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Parking up the Wrong Tree

As the NY Times is reporting today, the city council hearing on the replacement parks for the ones lost to the new Yankee Stadium, brought forth some interesting information: "A parks department official, called before the City Council to explain why an effort to replace recreation space lost to construction of the new Yankee Stadium has been plagued by delays and cost overruns, said on Tuesday that the department’s inexperience with such complex projects was partly to blame."

The council rightly asked whether the delay demonstrated that the city had sold the legislature a bill of goods when it was trying to insure that the stadium redevelopment package would get the council's green light. As stadium critic Diane Foster told the paper: "On Tuesday, council members asked Liam Kavanagh, the parks department’s first deputy commissioner, a series of pointed questions, including whether the agency had been dishonest about its original cost estimates. “Is there a possibility the numbers were watered down or made less to make the package more appealing?” asked Councilwoman Helen Diane Foster, the committee chairwoman."

Parks denied skulduggery, but skeptics can't help but wonder: "When Councilman Alan Gerson asked why the agency had not done a more thorough analysis of replacement park sites to determine what they contained before starting construction, Mr. Kavanagh said that in many cases, the department had lacked access to do proper studies. Mr. Gerson said, “All the reasons you cited are reasons why we should do full-fledged estimates before funding is in place.’’

And it appears that one of the sites in question-down by the water front-has an expensive clean up before it can be used for a park. That's part of the site that the Related Company (remember the Velodrome for the Olympics?) swapped to the city in exchange for its lucrative development deal at the Terminal Market: "Another replacement park, on an abandoned site along the Harlem River waterfront, ran into trouble when crews found more oil barrels buried there than they had been told to expect, he said. That led to significant costs for removing the barrels and cleaning toxic substances. “This site is much different than something we typically deal with,” he said. The park along the waterfront will cost about $56 million to build, the department now says."

The entire fiasco cries out to be investigated: what did Related and Deputy Dan know, and when did they know it? The BTM deal was outrageous enough without a bait and switch land swap that needed a full environmental cleanup. Where's the US Attorney when hundreds of millions of dollars are ceded to a member in good standing of the city's permanent government without competitive bidding or proper oversight? Instead we get the indictment of the hapless Asquith Reid. Way to go!