WNYC On Welfare for the Well-to-Do in the Bronx

Talk about an emblem of welfare for rich folks: Parking garages built for the New York Yankees to accompany their new luxury-suite-stacked stadium in the Bronx.

The Yanks are by far the richest team in baseball, and if you’re driving to a game in the Bronx, rather than taking the subway, which goes right to the stadium, then you’re probably not hurting too much for cash. So the city handed over prime park space to developers to build 2,000 parking spots to be used three hours at a time, eighty or ninety times a year. That includes one garage that’s strictly for VIPs.

A WNYC piece on the fiasco has a great lede:

In the far North Bronx, near the Yonkers border, right fielder Stephan Alamies of the All Hallows High School varsity baseball team is batting against Mount Saint Michael. This is a home game for All Hallows-but they’re playing on their opponents’ field. They drove 45 minutes by bus to get here. Coach Edgardo Guttierez says the team used to play four blocks from school.

“Unfortunately, the Yankees built their parking lot on the field that we used to practice on,” he said.

On the team bus, the players weren’t any happier than their coach. “We feel like a bunch of gypsies just traveling all over the place,” said Alamies before the other players chimed in: “It’s depressing.” “People want to come see us but they can’t see us. We don’t have a home field, we don’t know where we’re at.”

The team, like the rest of the neighborhood around Yankee Stadium, is still waiting for promised replacement fields.

It’s an urban planning nightmare. The city has the most extensive public transportation system in the country, but it handed over scarce parkland in the poorest district in the country to build parking lots for folks paying $338 for a family of four to see a game. And if you are going to screw local residents in favor of outsiders with money, at least use some common sense and build something on top of the parking, like housing or hotels. It’s a dense area and that space has to be worth money to non-parking developers.

The city did commit to building new parks to replace the old ones, but those will cost it some $200 million. And it’s supposed to get rent from the garage developer, but it’s unlikely it ever will, according to the back in March.

That’s because, to top this all off, it turns out the parking garage development is a white elephant. Its $35 parking spots sit two-thirds empty even on game days, and the developer has defaulted on the $237 million in taxpayer-subsidized bonds used to build it. It owes $17 million, including back rent, to the city. Great work, guys.

The garages, of course, are just a small part of the corporate welfare New York City and State gave the Yankees. Good Jobs New York, a corporate-welfare watchdog group, put their combined subsidies at half a billion dollars.

Meantime, the Yankees are doing just fine, thanks. Revenue at their new taxpayer-subidized stadium, sure to be deemed outdated and in need of new subsidies in ten to fifteen years, has doubled from the old one.

(h/t Atrios, who, as usual, puts it as succinctly as possible.)

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu. Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , ,