NYCFC Bronx stadium plan could hit $422m in subsidies, isn’t even a formal proposal yet

I spent a good chunk of yesterday researching that report of a new NYC F.C. stadium to be built in the South Bronx for this Village Voice article, and uncovered a few more things:

  • Not only did developer Keith Rubinstein (who’s actually part of the development group behind the new plan, along with NYC F.C. and Stephen Ross) pay $58 million for five acres of adjacent land just three years ago, but he sold it again for $165 million earlier this month. At that price per acre, then, the 12.8-acre site being targeted for the soccer stadium should be worth $432 million — and yet the development proposal offers New York state a mere $10 million (in present value) worth of future lease payments.
  • And that’s not even counting any tax breaks the project would get from not paying property taxes, thanks to being built on state land. The state could always demand payments in lieu of taxes as part of any deal, but there’s no guarantee that would bring in as much revenue as if the land were delivered to private hands and put on the property-tax rolls.
  • Though the New York YIMBY article that leaked the stadium plan made it sound like all but a done deal, it’s far from that: The state Empire State Development agency has only issued a Request for Expressions of Interest, which is what it does while trolling for potential bidders for a formal Request for Proposals, and it doesn’t even have a timetable yet for issuing an RFP. So the Ross/Rubinstein/NYC F.C. proposal isn’t even really a proposal yet, more like a brightly colored press packet with delusions of grandeur.

And speaking of that press packet, I got it last night from ESD, and oh man, is it over the top. Some highlights:

  • The soccer stadium “is an essential element of our transformation plan, bringing an iconic, facility – unique in the City –that will give this too-often under-appreciated community a distinctive identity and widespread recognition.” (All weird-ass grammar and punctuation in the original.) I thought giving Port Morris/Mott Haven a “distinctive identity” was what the Piano District fiasco was supposed to be all about, but I guess you can’t have too many distinctive identities, or something.
  • Under “Stadium Benefits,” the proposal includes: “Stadium cost is estimated to be $75m more expensive than a stadium built on a development site without rail tracks to build over.” They’re building an extra-spendy stadium just so freight trains can keep passing through like they already do now! It’s like money in your pocket!
  • KidZania, a “miniature kids’ size city that combines inspiration, fun and learning through realistic role play for children 4-14.” And in case you don’t give a crap about kids, it would also “generate economic activity in all seasons, and local job opportunities.”
  • There will be no dedicated parking, thanks to all the subway stations within a few blocks; instead, fans who insist on driving “will be directed to park at the nearby Yankee Stadium and arrive via a dedicated stadium shuttle network, which could include rail, bus, ferry and bicycle.” Yankee Stadium is almost two miles from the proposed soccer stadium site.
  • This, whatever this is:

And there is so much more — the damn thing goes on for 159 pages, though many of them are just such things as photos of kids holding astronaut helmets. (See for yourself at the links to the full proposal below.)

It looks like ESD has only received one other proposal for the rail yards so far — from a housing developer that is interested in building there, but doesn’t give a proposed sale price for the land — but that’s not unexpected at this stage of the game, especially when the two biggest Bronx developers (plus NYC F.C., which is part-owned by the Yankees, who are the big dogs in the South Bronx) are already in cahoots on a single plan. Real estate monoculture is bad for taxpayers and other living things.

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23 comments on “NYCFC Bronx stadium plan could hit $422m in subsidies, isn’t even a formal proposal yet

  1. One note on Metro North. I believe the train tracks there are under-utilized freight tracks. The Metro North trains cross the Harlem River on a bridge just north of this site. Commuter trains would not pass underneath it. There is an old rail line that runs along the Bronx bank of the Harlem River, but I’m pretty sure it’s mostly for freight, if anything at all.

    • You’re right — I was confusing it with trains that go over Hell Gate Bridge to the south, but they all head northeast from there and up toward Connecticut. Will fix.

  2. Kidzania is like Disney world/land except for instead of going to the park and rides and seeing Snow White, the kids get to be the ticket vendor or the burger flipper or the get to process your loan application for a BRAND NEW FORD. http://cuicuilco.kidzania.com/es-mx/activities
    http://cuicuilco.kidzania.com/es-mx/pages/establecimientos-agencia-de-autos

  3. No mention that the UAE royal family – among the wealthiest people on the entire planet – are majority owners of the soccer team? Not sure any public subsidies should be provided to an organization with that kind of backing. Not to mention their politics!

    • There has to be some kinds of public subsidies for this to happen. The keys are 1: What kind? 2: How much? One example of a positive public subsidy is fixing the 138th st 6 train station. Is it the worst? No Chambers St (J) and West 4th st (A, B, C D, E, F and M) win that title ( I would do anything to avoid the smell @ West 4th St). Why? A better train station does not just help soccer fans but the local community..

  4. Subsidy? So because someone doesn’t want to have to pay taxes on land they won’t even be allowed to buy, will have to let trains continue to operate on and to fund affordable housing on a big piece of it, they are asking for a “subsidy”? You’re ridiculous.

    • Paying less than market rate for rent is a subsidy. Do you think $500k a year for 13 acres is a market rate?

        • There seem to be two main problems when it comes to this kind of discussion on sports venues. The obvious one, is that a massive subsidy is being offered to rich individuals and corporations. More importantly though, I think is that people/politicians do not understand that a subsidy doesn’t have to constitute a cash transfer.
          For me as a non-New Yorker I cannot necessarily say unequivocally that a subsidy for NYCFC is bad local politics and locals should turn it down (I have my own opinion on the economic merits). But then the discussion shouldn’t be a charade around ‘private money’ but looking at whether or not the public wants to fund a stadium.

  5. Page 49~

    I love how they list the City of Manchester Stadium or Etihad or whatever as “stadium experience” since it is by far the most heavily subsidized stadium in the EPL (along with London Stadium…all this in a country with NO subsidies for private athletics.

    By showing their extravagant £200m training facilities…aligning themselves with the Yankees…and the UAE…doesn’t make much of a case that they’re too poor to pay for it themselves.

    Another excellent article btw Neil.

  6. What they want to do with the bridge is the best part of this proposal. That’s an ugly bridge. The LED lights have the potential to make it really nice. Neil, I know it’s your job to be cynical about these things. But this could work. Just look at how the lights on the SF Bay Bridge have transformed that bridge into a work of art.

    • This is a transparent attempt to curry favor with the governor, who LOVES bridge lights: https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2017/07/19/as-subways-suffer-cuomo-plans-choreographed-bridge-lights-113405

  7. Given that anything built on the land needs to be built on a platform over the entire property (a la Hudson Yards), this is not a comparable piece of real estate to the adjacent property. You can’t use a per acre rate to do a fair comparison. The proposal says the platform and other site prep will cost $1mm.

      • It’s actually $75m for a platform, and then $25m for a “waterfront esplanade,” which is nice but not essential. If we take the developers at their word, though, yes, then we should slice off the cost of making the site build-ready, which would make this just a $347m subsidy (plus any tax breaks).

        • Neil: I was reading todays Newsday and MLS head Garber said the Stadium for NYCFC will be ” The most expensive soccer specific stadium in MLS” ( $700m according to Crains). He also mentioned being from Long Island, he believes the Islanders Arena is much better then a soccer stadium @ Belmont Park. Very interesting comments..

        • Wait a minute, wasn’t the “esplanade” a key piece of a season long plot element in the Sopranos?

    • The other one is fairly perfunctory — basically “we want to build mixed-income housing” without much in the way of financial details. So hard to rate it on the evil scale.

      • And as a huge MLS fan, I also would love to see a new home for NYCFC in the Five Boroughs. That said, it’s hard for me to see how the club’s ownership wouldn’t have the capital to comfortably build this without public money. It’s an interesting proposal, definitely way better than the Columbia University idea that’s for sure.

        • Exactly. When the club’s ownership could afford to stock it’s reserve PL side with more expensive players than all but a couple of competing clubs had on their first team, it’s ludicrous for either the owners or MLS to claim the project ‘can’t happen’ without public money.

          That said, the Yankees successfully argued that if they didn’t get the largest subsidy in US history for an MLB stadium, they might have to move to Buffalo or Albany or maybe even Portland (which one? Does it really matter?)… so logic doesn’t really enter into this.