The city is planning to finance a set of garages and lots that would add almost 3,000 more parking spaces near Yankee Stadium even though the new ballpark is going to seat 6,000 fewer patrons than the current one.
A hearing Thursday before the Industrial Development Agency, an arm of city government, drew a limited but earnest response from watchdog groups and community organizations, asserting that the more parking spaces you build, the more people will drive. They argued that instead of using public funds to encourage driving, the money should be put toward a proposed Metro-North station that reportedly needs another $35 million to come into being.
The I.D.A. will vote on whether to authorize $190 million in tax-exempt bonds for the project in May or June, according to a spokeswoman. The agency’s analysis shows that the city will spend $20 million to reconstruct parkland on top of the garages and will lose another $2 million in forgone taxes on the bonds, which will be tax-free.
Eventually, the city will make more than double its money back through new taxes, lease payments and shared revenues, though it will do so over a 43-year period, the I.D.A. said; it would not release the assumptions for the revenue numbers.
Officials pointed to the final environmental impact statement as justification for the project, which states that the garages would reduce “excessive traffic circulation pre-game by motorists circulating on the local streets in search of hard-to-find parking spaces,” and would “eliminate illegal parking on local streets.”
Critics disputed the notion. “Fans park on neighborhood streets to avoid paying the expensive parking fees, which are projected to rise to $25 a game when the new stadium is completed,” Bettina Damiani, the project director of watchdog group Good Jobs New York, said.
Ms. Damiani said that the reason why tax-exempt bonds, which have lower interest rates, were being used for the garages was because “the free market decided the garages were not worth building.”
A spokeswoman for the Economic Development Corporation, which solicited bids for the garages said there were “multiple qualified bidders,” but would not say how many there were.
The impact statement counted 355 cars in illegal spaces on a typical game night, meaning that the new parking facilities would provide eight times as many spaces to ensure that people would follow the law. The statement predicts that the new and expanded parking lots and garages would overbuild to such an extent that they would siphon off 808 cars from existing stadium parking facilities every game night, leaving some of the privately-operated old ones as little as 60 to 80 percent full.
The winning bidder, the Bronx Community Initiatives Development Corporation, is a nonprofit which exists, according to its mission statement, “to lessen the burdens of local governments to service the needs of their residents.” Awarding the contract to a nonprofit rather than to a for-profit company enables the use of tax-free bonds, which lower the cost of the project by lowering the interest rate.
But municipalities can build garages with tax-exempt bonds also. Joseph Seymour, the former Port Authority executive director who is BCIDC senior vice president, explained the benefit of having a non-profit do it this way: “It doesn’t go on their consolidated debt.”
So why are the Yankees and the city–which included the new garages in the agreement for the new stadium–insisting on new garages, especially when the city will have to temporarily occupy current parkland in order to do so?
Convenience. The new garages will be right across the street from the new ballpark, while the old ones are farther away. It’s apparently worth $25 for the ticket-holder, and $22 million for the city, to not have to walk three or four blocks after a game.
– Matthew Schuerman