Wednesday, January 14, 2009

YanKeys to the City

Bill Thompson has joined with his erstwhile Democratic opponent, Anthony Weiner, in lambasting the city's sweetheart deal with the NY Yankees. As Liz tells us: "Thompson, who says he intends to fight with Weiner for the right to challenge Bloomberg on the Democratic line in November, accused the mayor and the city IDA of "financial incompetence" and "incredible mismanagement" during negotiations on paying for the the new Yankee Stadium. Since the IDA initially approved stadium deals for both the Yankees and the Mets in 2006, city's capital contribution to the Yankees project has ballooned from $129.2 million to $325 million, Thompson said, adding: "While our financial review cannot determine intent, this incredible mismanagement begs the question: Was this plain old incompetence or a blatant attempt to mislead the public? Either way, New Yorkers now have a box-seat view of fiscal mismanagement."

Hear here, and all praise Richard Brodsky who has subpoenaed Randy Levine and EDC's Seth Pinsky: " New York Assembly committee investigating the use of millions of dollars in public funding to build the new Yankee Stadium has subpoenaed the team's president. Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, a Democrat from Westchester County, said Tuesday that his committee subpoenaed Yankees president Randy Levine as well as city Industrial Development Agency Chairman Seth Pinsky. Brodsky said the subpoenas compel the officials to appear for questioning at a hearing Wednesday, and to provide documents the committee wants for its investigation into whether public money should be used for the new stadium in the Bronx."

This doesn't sit well with the mayor's folks who, against all evidence and good sense responded to Brodsky's request: "Brodsky's move was criticized by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office. "I guess it makes for good political theater because it's the Yankees, but when it comes to valuable taxpayer dollars, decisions should be made on return not rhetoric," said Bloomberg spokesman Andrew Brent. "The deal leverages a federal program and will result in New York City getting back more tax revenue than it will cost and the South Bronx getting thousands of new jobs and more than $1 billion in private investment."

Talk about a real Phyrric victory for the South Bronx! It seems that the use of the South Bronx appellation here is a refuge for the scoundrels who are stealing tax dollars for the nation's richest sports franchise-as if those "thousands of new jobs" and $1 billion investment will actually be some real boon to the surrounding neighborhood that has seen its one real attraction, its lush local parkland, destroyed for the construction of the new ballpark.

Apparently, however, both Comptroller Thompson and Assemblyman Brodsky simply are blinded to all of the obvious stadium benefits: "The city comptroller William C. Thompson Jr., on Tuesday accused Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the New York City Industrial Development Agency of bungling the negotiations over the new Yankee Stadium, saying the project’s direct cost to the city has skyrocketed to $325 million from $129.2 million as a result of a series of oversights and mistakes."

Thompson went on to outline the "litany" of mistakes: "Even so, Mr. Thompson’s report amounted to a stinging rebuke of the Bloomberg administration over what the comptroller called a litany of lapses. The cost of demolishing the old Yankee Stadium was underestimated by more than 50 percent, he said, while officials failed to conduct environmental reviews that might have uncovered the problem of waterfront oil tanks at the site of the new stadium. Furthermore, Mr. Thompson said, officials underestimated the cost for a rooftop park and retaining wall; the projected costs have risen by 30 percent, to $44.5 million."

And Thompson goes on to underscore the lack of real oversight by the Bloombergistas-another example of the class mindset and lack of fiscal acumen that has come to characterize this overrated group: "Mr. Thompson’s review also identified several instances in which the city gave up potential sources of revenue. It agreed to surrender use of 250 parking spots to the Yankees as part of its negotiations for a luxury suite, resulting in a loss of $500,000 in revenue per year, and continuing discussions will probably result, Mr. Thompson said, in an additional loss of $750,000 in annual revenue from three billboards, on which the Yankees want the rights to advertise."

So, as we anticipate another election cycle where Mike Bloomberg will once again break all spending records, dramatically injecting his own version of an economic stimulus into the local economy primarily for his own benefit, we will be able to add the Yankee Stadium development to a long list of mega projects launched by a mayor who has lost sight of the needs of average New Yorkers in the pursuit of monuments to his own ego.

The question remaining is, will this have political resonance? As the NY Times points out this morning: "Voters may recall a similar controversy: four years ago, Mr. Bloomberg’s push for a West Side stadium gave his Democratic opponent what seemed like a huge campaign issue — until the stadium project was killed by state legislative leaders, and the issue quickly evaporated. What could give the stadium issue traction this year, however, is the city’s dire financial condition — presenting a stark contrast between struggling, insecure New Yorkers who don’t earn major league salaries, and the hundreds of millions of dollars the new stadium complex is costing them. “Bloomberg is the businessman mayor, that’s been his big claim to competence, and here they’re whacking him where he is the strongest,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute."

Add to the jarring nature of the excess, is the jock sniffing and sophomoric attempt by the EDC lackeys to grab a choice luxury box for their use: "Mr. Bloomberg is already distancing himself from the more controversial parts of the deal with the Yankees. After embarrassing e-mail messages surfaced that showed his aides zealously pursuing a luxury suite in the new stadium, his administration announced that it would give the luxury box back to the Yankees in exchange for payments of at least $100,000 a year."

We'll give the pollster Carroll the last word here: "My guess is this won’t be the end of it by a long shot,” he added. “These are tough economic times, people are being told we’ve got to economize, we’ve got to tighten our belts, and the Yankees are blowing money by the carload for players.”