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December 9, 2008

As Stadiums’ Costs Rise, City Agrees to New Bond Offerings

The New York Times
by Charles V. Bagli

Here's one Federal (and State and City) bailout that hasn't gotten a whole lot of scrutiny. This is a must-read if you would like to learn how you and your fellow taxpayers are being screwed for the benefit of a few powerful and monied interests.

With opening day for the city’s two newest baseball stadiums only four months away, the price tag for taxpayers continues to rise.

The Bloomberg administration has issued fresh estimates for utility work, lighting and the cost of replacing the parks and ball fields that once stood where the new stadium for the Yankees is being erected.

The city also plans to issue $341.2 million in additional tax-exempt bonds on behalf of the Yankees and Mets to complete the stadiums, whose combined cost is about $2.2 billion.

The teams are responsible for paying off the bonds, but they pay tens of millions of dollars less in interest because payments to bondholders are exempt from city, state and federal taxes.

The city and the state are also investing more than $660 million in parks, garages and transportation improvements around the stadiums and are providing the teams with an estimated $500 million in tax breaks related to construction materials and other items. The city had planned to issue a public notice of the latest bond offering and a required public hearing on Monday but decided to wait at least a week until it completed a cost-benefit analysis. With public costs mounting, critics of the deals say the city will be hard pressed to demonstrate that the economic benefits of the stadium projects outweigh the cost to taxpayers.

The man who rammed through the overturning of term limits on the premise that only he can guide us through the financial crisis likes to pretend that this is a good deal.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has insisted that the city will earn a profit on its investment. And based on the city’s 2006 cost-benefit analysis of Yankee Stadium, the city would earn a net return of slightly more than $40 million over the bonds’ life.

Since then, however, project costs have swelled considerably. For instance, the city says it will cost $194.7 million to replace Macombs Dam Park and the ball fields now covered by the new Yankee Stadium on 161st Street, up 50 percent from the 2006 estimate of $129.2 million.

The city is also contributing $39 million toward the $91 million cost of building a Metro-North rail station nearby, an item that was not part of the 2006 cost-benefit analysis.

Economists generally take a skeptical view of public investments in stadiums because the costs are so great, while most of the jobs they generate are seasonal and part-time. George Sweeting, deputy director of the Independent Budget Office, said, “The additional costs that have emerged make it quite likely that that the city’s net benefit number is now negative.”


NoLandGrab: We can't wait to see that new cost-benefit analysis. Given the City's history of skewing the number to fit its goals, this one ought to be good.

We hope that the City's analysis will explain how the projects' costs have soared at the same time that the greatest concern among economists and regulators is falling prices and the ugly prospect of deflation.

Posted by eric at December 9, 2008 10:50 AM