NYC F.C. Bronx stadium plans get muddier, could face long public approval process

The Urban Land Institute, a nonprofit that has consulted on other sports venue deals in the past, yesterday issued a report for Bronx Community Board 4 on the prospect of a new soccer stadium for NYC F.C. on the current site of city-owned parking garages being used by the New York Yankees, the soccer team’s part-owner. And while there’s nothing definitive in the report — both the city and NYC F.C. continue to say that no deal is in place, or imminent — it does make the case for ways in which a soccer stadium could be more beneficial to the surrounding neighborhood than the baseball stadium that was opened atop a former public park in 2009:

  • A new soccer stadium “could be the touchstone for enhanced community programming, the catalyst for improved pedestrian connections and walkable experiences, and the foundation upon which other community improvements may be built,” writes ULI. This seems to be a reference to the fact that a soccer stadium would require the neighborhood to be rezoned by the city — as confirmed in an article yesterday in the Commercial Observer — which ULI thinks could be an opportunity to add trees and more walkable sidewalks to the surrounding blocks, which could maybe happen, though the city doesn’t exactly have a long and glorious history of rezoning low-income neighborhoods in ways that benefit current residents.
  • The report further suggests that any soccer stadium plans take care (somehow) to meet the needs of local small business owners, noting that while Yankees-related retail outlets have opened around the baseball stadium, “these stores largely remain closed on the other 280+ days of the year when the Yankees are not playing. These closed storefronts leave the streetscape in a state of perceived desolation and interrupt what could otherwise be an active retail corridor.”

That Commercial Observer piece, meanwhile, sheds light (of a sort) on one important piece of the soccer stadium financial puzzle, which is how exactly NYC F.C. and its developer partners, Maddd Equities, would obtain the parking garage properties — and 153rd Street itself, which would be closed to make way for the stadium — from the city. While the New York Times reported last month that Maddd would pay $54 million for the land, the Commercial Observer cites the city Economic Development Corporation as saying that “the city will continue to own the land on which the garages and parking lots were developed, and the stadium development team will buy out the remainder of the 99-year leases for the garages” from the Bronx Parking Development Corporation, the nonprofit that was set up by the city to run parking for the Yankees and has since stiffed taxpayers and bondholders alike on expected payments. If the city continues to own the land, that would raise the possibility of Maddd getting to subsidize its proposed mixed-use development alongside the stadium by getting an exemption from property taxes — though it could also be asked to pay payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs), though those have their own inglorious local history as well.

Reading tea leaves furiously, the mere fact of CB4 engaging ULI to find out what it can ask of a new soccer stadium indicates that the community board is eager to be more demanding than it was in 2005 when the Yankees came knocking for approval of their new home. (Though it’s worth noting that CB4 voted to oppose that plan, and the city summarily ignored them.) If the stadium becomes wrapped up in a larger rezoning effort, that would drag out the approval process by a year or more at minimum, especially in a climate where New York City neighborhoods and local officials are increasingly pushing back against rezonings that are seen as giveaways to developers, sometimes killing them outright. More on this story as it develops, but it looks like NYC F.C. fans should probably get used to attending home games at farflung sites for a while longer — while that’s no fun, nobody held a gun to MLS’s head and forced them to approve an expansion team without a guarantee of a stadium to play in, either.

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3 comments on “NYC F.C. Bronx stadium plans get muddier, could face long public approval process

  1. This reminds me of the Ice Skating Complex at Kingsbridge Armory. A total mess that will happen in 2030 ( if at all).

  2. “enchanced community programming… pedestrian connections… walkable experiences…”

    Hey, that sounds like the highline doesn’t it?

    I would only point out that all these ‘benefits’ (and they are benefits) can be had much more cheaply and much more effectively without tacking them onto a $400m stadium spending plan. Just as the 1980s school lunch program would have been a lot more cost effective without a $3-4Bn missile program appended to it.

    The single best thing about this is that it firmly and permanently puts the lie to the notion that ‘ballparks revitalize’. Yankee stadium – old, renovated or new – did not revitalize the area. This statement admits that the commercial spaces that did open near the ballpark remain closed when the Yankees aren’t playing – JUST as they would have if the stadium had been built on non-park land out in a suburb somewhere. So the stadium development occupies high value municipal land, does not generate tax revenue and does not revitalize the supposed blighted area.

    And this is NEW YORK. Imagine how little an effect these types of developments have in cities that aren’t the city that never sleeps…

    The second best thing is that the entity that is seeking to ‘redevelop’ the parking garages that those dastardly Yankees stiffed the public on (who could see that coming, honestly?) is… partially owned by the Yankees themselves.

    Finally, the statement admits that the 60 or so dates Yankee stadium is in use annually do not allow the businesses surrounding to maintain operation the rest of the year. Yet it presupposes that adding 17 MLS games (less any that can’t be played there) ‘will’ without ever formally stating that it will or how.

    The jokes just write themselves don’t they…

    1. Sorry, typo. 90 or so dates… never use numberpad when you don’t have to…

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