The City, the web publication with the ungoogleable name that was funded with Craig Newmark’s guilt money over accidentally destroying newspapers, ran an article last night headlined “Yankee Stadium Parking Lot Woes Block Soccer Field Goal, Cost Taxpayers Millions.” This is a subject that should interest FoS readers on a couple of levels — the New York Yankees garage fiasco is a sad tale that has been ongoing for more than a decade now, while the NYC F.C. stadium plans are now almost two and a half years in and threatening to compete with the garage story for long-running fiascos — so I’m sorry to say that the headline is mostly wrong, and the part that isn’t wrong is incomplete.
The actual story is kind of interesting, though, as is what we can divine from the fact that this article even exists, so let’s tackle it piece by piece:
The Parks Department is threatening to terminate its lease with Bronx Parking Development Company LLC over the outfit’s defaults on $237 million in bonds issued in 2007 by the city Industrial Development Agency, documents show.
None of this should be surprising. Bronx Parking Development Company LLC was a bizarre concoction in the first place, a nonprofit shell company set up to sell parking spaces at $25 a pop to Yankees fans when there was plenty of cheaper parking nearby, not to mention two subway stations and a commuter rail station right next door. The company soon went into default on those $237 million in bonds (which were used to build still more garages — for some reason, somebody in the Yankees hierarchy 15-20 years ago thought New Yorkers were going to start driving everywhere) and stopped paying rent to the city, causing bondholders and city officials alike to squawk about the money they were owed.
It’s the bondholders, though, that have more to squawk about. The rent payments to the city — $3.2 million a year for 100 years, because yes, IDA agreed to a century-long lease with these bozos — amount to about $43 million in present value, which while real money, is a drop in the bucket compared to the nearly $700 million the city is already on the hook for with the Yankees stadium project. As the city’s Independent Budget Office noted back in 2013, “While the bonds were issued by the city’s Industrial Development Agency, the city is technically not responsible for repaying the bondholders.” So if the parking garages go belly-up, which they’ve been doing in slow motion for a decade now, most of the $237 million bag will be held by those people foolish enough to buy Yankees parking garage bonds.
Then there’s the soccer project, which is being pushed by the Yankees, who are co-owners of NYC F.C., but apparently team execs are claiming it can’t move forward with the plan because the parking doofuses are such doofuses:
Meanwhile, Yankees officials contend the company is stalling a move that could help pull it out of the red: a deal that includes razing a four-level parking structure on 153rd Street to make way for a 25,000-seat soccer stadium for NYCFC…
In the July 20 letter to the president of US Bank, Yankees attorney Michael Mellis complained of dilapidated conditions and security lapses at the 11 sprawling lots and parking structures, which hold nearly 9,300 spaces.
The parking company “has materially failed on all counts” on its obligations to maintain its lots in a “safe, secure, clean and reputable manner,” Mellis wrote. Among the problems cited: poor lighting, out-of-order elevators, dirty surfaces and vermin running wild.
The Yankees lawyer wrote that the ballclub will not give its needed consent for the soccer stadium deal until the parking company cleans up its act.
Yes, you read that right: The owners of the New York Yankees are saying they won’t agree to tear down unused parking garages so they can build a stadium for their own soccer team unless the failed company that it maneuvered to have operate the garages cleans them before demolition.
Clearly there’s something more going on here than meets the eye. One likely theory is that the soccer stadium project still faces numerous other obstacles, from an elevator company that won’t vacate its building until a new home is found to a highway bridge that needs to be decommissioned and nobody wants to take responsibility for, and throwing the garage operators under the bus is a convenient way to blame somebody else for NYC F.C.’s problems. (One of the few people The City got to comment on the record for this piece was local city councilmember Diana Ayala (D-Bronx), who said of the soccer stadium plan, “I know that there has been interest but to date no proposal has been introduced, and I have not heard from anyone related to this proposal in quite some time.”) Or maybe even get somebody to kill all the rats that are lurking uncomfortably near the Yankees’ stadium. It’s a win-win, or at least a we’ve-got-nothing-to-lose.
So back to that headline: The parking lot woes are indeed woeful, but while they’re costing the city “millions,” it’s not the $237 million mentioned at the top of the article, and it’s money that the city has pretty much written off years ago anyway. And they almost certainly have nothing to do with “blocking” the soccer stadium. Also, a “field goal” isn’t a term in soccer, so that’s a terrible play on words. I like my headline a lot better, though it is a bit wordy — maybe “Yankees Threaten To Blow Up Own Soccer Stadium Deal Over Garage Filth”? “Yanks To City: Drop Rats”? No wait, that’s a different story.