New York Baseball Teams’ Win Is Taxpayers’ Loss

January 23, 2009

Last Friday,

just one day

after a heavily attended

public hearing

, the New York City Industrial Development Agency



hundreds of millions

of dollars in additional tax-free bonds for new stadiums for the New York Yankees and New York Mets. Adding in the subsidies approved in 2005, this brings the total public cost of the new Yankee Stadium well above

$1 billion

and the Mets’ new Citifield Stadium to over

$600 million


The IDA’s approval came despite increased media attention and new opposition to the city’s deal with the Yankees. Over the past several months, the Yankees’ plea for more public assistance has been met with increasing opposition, extending well beyond those of us who have long been demanding more transparency to the

public giveaways for the new Yankee Stadium project.

After receiving wide support from New York City’s daily newspapers in 2005, criticism of the project has grown among major media sources. While

The New York Times

had been

mostly silent

on the public finances of the stadium subsidies, last week its editorial board

called on the city to renegotiate the Yankees deal

before providing the team with more financing. And reporters who have long been critical of the project, like Juan Gonzalez of the

Daily News

, joined Neil deMause and Patrick Arden to continue to question the additional subsidies. Gonzalez even had extra fodder when

project documents

revealed that the Yankees wanted more money for improved video boards, suite upgrades and “

fancy johns


Two New York politicians who initially voted in favor of the Yankees project also stand out: State Assembly Member Richard Brodsky, whose recent


with city officials and the Yankees’ Randy Levine has garnered wide attention, and New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. Last year, Assembly Member Brodsky joined U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich, chair of the Domestic policy Subcommittee, in

investigating the financing scheme

that allowed the city to provide the Yankees with $942 million in tax-free bonds in 2006. And more recently, Comptroller Thompson, a member of the IDA’s Board of Directors, spoke out against additional subsidies for the Yankees. In deviating from standard IDA practice, where the Board unanimously approves most proposals before it,

Comptroller Thompson voted against additional financing for the Yankees


While it was refreshing to see IDA board members debate at last Friday’s meeting,

it’s disconcerting

to those of us concerned with transparency and accountability that the projects moved forward. One of the

many reasons

is that Representatives for the Yankees and Mets each made presentations during the hearing, though by the IDA’s own rules comments in favor or opposition to projects are limited to public hearings.

Despite increasing opposition to public financing for the new Yankee Stadium, the city has continued to let the Yankees play by their own rules.