Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Bare Luxuries

In what looks a lot like a kind of death bed conversion, the Bloombergistas are apparently giving up the luxury box at Yankee Stadium that they had worked so hard to obtain. As the NY Times reported: "After intense criticism, the Bloomberg administration has given up a perk it worked fervently to secure: a free luxury suite at the new Yankee Stadium. The city will relinquish use of the 12-seat box in exchange for whatever revenue the Yankees generate by selling the seats, minus the cost of marketing them. Although neither the city nor the Yankees have publicly disclosed the market value of the suite, similar suites at the new stadium are being sold for as much as $600,000 a year."

Why such righteousness at this late date? Could it have something to do with next week's bond vote? Here's Richard Brodsky's take: "Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, who had sought details about the deals the city was making, described the city’s about-face over its use of the suites as “a terrible embarrassment.” “The taxpayers who are paying for the construction of Yankee Stadium cannot afford to buy tickets for the games, but the mayor was getting a luxury box, so he had to back off,” he said in an interview on Tuesday. “But the reason he backed off,” Mr. Brodsky speculated, “is because next week, the city is going to give the Yankees more taxpayer money.”

As we have opined, the Yankee deal symbolizes just how cozy the Bloomberg chazas are with all manner of big development; and we are still awaiting the announcement of the first new supermarket constructed with funds set aside for that purpose by an administration that believes we desperately need more markets for the sake of the public health. As we say in New York, however: "Don't hold your breathe."

Bloomberg has egregiously neglected neighborhood business-and any business that is a bit too distanced from the city's financial epicenter. If the mayor wasn't as wealthy as he is, there would be charges a foot about how cozy he was with Big Real Estate; but folks are disabused by his wealth in such a way that they are blinded to how his class-oriented world view dictates his policy choices.

The stadium deal, midwifed by Carrion, Baez and the rest of the Bronx gang, stands as a clear symbol of the mayor's myopic mindset. So much so that the Crain's Insider is reporting that Comptroller Thompson may use it in his electoral challenge. As Crain's tells us: "City Comptroller Bill Thompson could join Assemblyman Richard Brodsky’s war against subsidies for the city’s new baseball stadiums. Brodsky’s latest battle is to stop the city Industrial Development Agency from approving another $454 million in tax-free financing for Yankee Stadium and Citi Field on Jan. 16, the morning after a public hearing. Brodsky wants a delay in the IDA vote and has demanded all of the relevant paperwork and e-mails."

And, as Crain's goes on to point out, the issue could be a sensitive one during the current economic downturn: "Thompson could use the issue to portray Bloomberg as too generous with taxpayer money at a time when city revenues were plunging, taxes were increasing and services were being cut. The comptroller could bolster his image as a fiscal watchdog, too."

The real hero in this fight has been our old friend Battina Damiani, who told the Times: “Does the Bloomberg administration really think that giving up a suite at Yankee Stadium is going to soften the blow that this project has had on city taxpayers?” said Bettina Damiani, director of Good Jobs New York, a civic organization that has closely scrutinized projects subsidized by the city, including the new baseball stadiums."

The city's response, however, is priceless: "Andrew Brent, a spokesman for the mayor, said, “Other cities get boxes and through our negotiations we made sure New York got no less, but we’ve decided to take the value in cash payments to return it to the community.” Now if they could only return Mullaly Park to the community as easily as they talk out of both sides of their mouths..