Yankee Stadium shocker: Taxpayers fleeced?

A legislative report says the public is paying up and getting nothing in return but higher ticket prices. City and team: It's not true.

Published September 17, 2008 11:00AM (EDT)

New York Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, D-Westchester, released a report Tuesday that said the city of New York played games with the assessed value of the new Yankee Stadium to get tax breaks for the team.

The report, by the Assembly Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee, which Brodsky chairs, also says the city promised the stadium project would create 1,000 permanent new jobs in order to win approval for massive public subsidies, and that the actual number of permanent new jobs being created is 15.

The report says the taxpayer price tag for building the stadium is somewhere between $550 million and $850 million. In exchange, Brodsky points out, the Yankees have raised ticket prices by orders of magnitude, something the city has made no effort to stop.

"The price of tickets to the new Yankee Stadium is a matter of legitimate public concern, given the enormous public subsidies involved," Brodsky wrote.

The Yankees and the city both dismissed Brodsky's report.

"Assemblyman Brodsky has never let an accurate fact stand in the way of his grandstanding in a press release or press conference," the Canadian Press quoted Yankees spokeswoman Alice McGillion saying. McGillion also pointed out that Brodsky twice voted for the stadium proposal in the Legislature, and said, "The project has been one of the most transparent transactions undertaken in the city of New York."

She said there will still be affordable tickets to Yankees games available in the new stadium.

Seth Pinsky, president of the New York City Industrial Development Agency, reiterated that the new stadium will create 1,000 permanent jobs, as did McGillion.

"The state and the city put in a relatively small amount for infrastructure, which is incidentally the job of the state and the city," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, according to the Associated Press. "That's what we're supposed to do."

The report accuses the city of using land values in Manhattan, not the Bronx, to assess the value of the new stadium property in order to meet IRS requirements allowing the city to issue tax-exempt bonds, Bloomberg News reports.

It's certainly shocking to hear even a hint that a new stadium would fail to create massive economic development without unduly burdening taxpayers, as promised.

Whom to believe? The legislative oversight committee or the city and the baseball team?

I'm reminded here of my favorite sports quote of the 21st century so far. It's by Denny Hocking, who was an all-talk, no-hit utility infielder for the Minnesota Twins in 2002 when Forbes magazine published a report calling into question the claims of commissioner Bud Selig that Major League Baseball was losing money hand over fist.

"Gee," Hocking said, "should I believe a magazine that spends 365 days a year researching finances, or a guy who has zero credibility?"

Some of the principals have changed in this case, but the principle is the same.

By King Kaufman

King Kaufman is a senior writer for Salon. You can e-mail him at king at salon dot com. Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr

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