The other shoe drops today, as the New York Yankees have scheduled a 4 p.m. press conference to announce their plans for a $1 billion stadium in what’s currently Macombs Dam Park across the street from the House That Ruth Built. According to the New York Times, the team would pay the $800 million construction cost – about 40% of which he’d recoup from other MLB teams via reduced revenue-sharing payments – while the state and city would spend $220 million to build new parking garages and compensate for the destruction of Macombs Dam Park by building a new waterfront park along the Harlem River and new athletic fields atop the garages.
Meanwhile, new details have continued to emerge about the city’s twin stadium plans for the Mets and Yanks, some of which I discuss in my article in today’s Village Voice:
Both deals would take advantage of the same fake property-tax dodge that the Jets would have used for their stadium (and which the Nets plan to use for their proposed Brooklyn arena), whereby the teams pay no property taxes, instead giving “payments in lieu of property taxes” (PILOTs) to the government, which would use them to pay the teams’ own stadium costs. Whether this is considered a public subsidy is bound to be hotly contested, as it was in the Jets case: The teams will doubtless argue that the city currently gets no property-tax revenue from the land where the stadiums would be built, so this is no loss to the city. On the other hand, one could easily argue that if you’re going to pave Macombs Dam Park, you could just as easily do it for a housing development as for a baseball stadium – and that would pay property taxes, likely in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
While both the Yankees and Mets would pay stadium operations costs, neither would pay rent. Assuming that annual rents on the team’s existing stadiums are about $5 million a year (the Yankees’ average payment in recent years, according to the Times), this would amount to another public subsidy to each team of about $75 million apiece in present value.
Under the terms of the Mets deal, the team would get the first $7 million a year in parking fees at their stadium, money that currently goes to the city. This could amount to a present-value subsidy of another $100 million.
There could be additional public costs that have not been revealed. Earlier reports, for instance, said that the 161st Street subway station would need to be extended to accommodate the new stadium; no price tag has yet been established for mass transit improvements, which could include both subway and commuter-rail projects in Queens and the Bronx.
Add it all up, and you get a combined public cost of somewhere from $400 million (the official reported cost) to well over $1 billion (if all of the above hidden costs are counted, including the loss of property-tax revenue). Now you’re starting to talk real money.
One more tidbit that’s leaked out about the Mets plans: Apparently deputy mayor Dan Doctoroff let slip at Sunday’s news conference that the city’s “infrastructure” costs would include sinking girders in the swampy Queens soil to serve as a foundation for the new stadium. Sound familiar?