Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Beneath the Surface
2006-07-27 12:13
by Alex Belth

Neil deMause has a column in the Villiage Voice about politics, the city of New York and the New York Yankees.

City documents newly uncovered by the Voice reveal that the New York Yankees billed city tax- payers hundreds of thousands of dollars for the salaries of team execs and high-powered consultants to lobby the city and state, thanks to the team's sweetheart lease deal engineered by the Giuliani administration.

"You've created this weird circular situation where the city is, effectively, paying with taxpayer money to have itself lobbied for potentially more taxpayer money," says Common Cause's Megan Quattlebaum, one of several government watchdogs who were dumbfounded when the Voice told them last week about the deal. "Taxpayers would not be pleased at all to hear that the city is subsidizing someone to come back and hold their hand out to lobby for more."

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Continue reading if you have the stomach for such things.

2006-07-27 12:37:46
1.   bobtaco
"As a result, according to the city parks department, which oversees the teams' leases, from 2001 to 2005 the Yankees charged the city $15.97 million under the "planning cost" clause; the Mets, $20.2 million."

What's funny is that they itemize a lot of the Yankees' charges, but never go on to mention any of the Mets'. After saying in the beginning of the article that the Mets charged the city almost 25% more.

The title of the article is "Yankee Lobbyists on Taxpayers' Tab". Not to excuse the shadiness of the financial dealing here, but doesn't this seem like a double standard to anyone else?

2006-07-27 12:48:39
2.   Knuckles
No kidding. Shady as the article is, it's also pretty slanted. I must have missed the disclosure at the end saying:

"The Village Voice owns 17% of the New York Metropolitans Baseball Club, NESPN, the Boston Red Sox & Bud Selig's used car lots, and is wholly owned by a subsidiary of the NY Times and Steve Phillips's 401(k)."

2006-07-27 12:56:06
3.   Ravenscar

Because no matter what is going on with the Mets, the Yankees are absolutely, positively the flagship sports franchise of the city and therefore the nation.

This is what will bring the issue to head, not stories on Fred Wilpon, who 95% of America and half of New York City doesn't know or care about. EVERYONE knows Steinbrenner.

To think otherwise and then whine about the Mets is naive, in my opinion. Yes, the big business of the Mets also sucks HARD, point definitely made and accepted. Now that it's admitted, your point is what?

I apologize for my tone and being so pointed, but it DOES deflect from the larger issues, I think.

2006-07-27 12:59:21
4.   Simone
What a slick scheme. The rich get richer. This is just the way it goes.
2006-07-27 13:22:44
5.   Alvaro Espinoza
I glossed this pretty quick (maybe too quick) but the article appears to focus on shady billing issues, specifically, in 2004. Yet, by it's own admission:

"Most of the $4.1 million that the Yankees charged to the city in 2004, records show, went for legitimate stadium expenses..."

And unless I missed it, while the Voice sought comment (and was declined) from the Parks Dept, Mayor's Office, et al., they never sought comment from the Yankees.

Hey, if these allegaions are true, (1) the Yanks should reimburse the city and (2) those municipal employees in charge of overseeing these expenses should be held accountable but the article is without any semblance of counterpoint.

2006-07-27 13:24:39
6.   Shaun P
I think this would be more likely to make me actually gnash my teeth and rend my garments than, say, seeing T-Ball Long back up in the majors with the Yanks. At least if I was a NYC resident.

Is there anyone here who doesn't think that $36 million could have been better spent on something worthwhile? What a crock of ____________.

2006-07-27 13:38:54
7.   vockins
I think the current Yankee Stadium is a dump, but if this is the cost of new digs, screw it. I'm fine with the way it is.

And the new seating arrangement looks crappy anyway.

2006-07-27 13:49:15
8.   Max
IMO, this is all on Giuliani's hands. Rudy wrote the lease that allows the baseball teams to get away with murder. Sadly, it's not uncommon for politicians like Rudy to get away with stuff like this as they're leaving office, though the current administration should be doing the proper audits to prevent such broad interpretations of permissible deductions.
2006-07-27 14:23:08
9.   marc
I'm sorry if I don't share anyone's outrage. This deal was done shortly after 9/11, the economy stunk and the stock market was falling and the anthrax scare was in full bloom at the time. Wall Street firms well all in various planning to move some or all their operations from the financial district. It was a time when just getting into crowded places like baseball stadiums left some people wondering if it was worth the hassle and risk of going through screening to get in and then facing potential death by some terrorist attack that would provide terrorists instant worldwide publicity in a place like Yankee Stadium.

So I really don't see a big problem in trying to make deals with appropriate incentives to assure that marquee places like stadiums would get built so "the terrorists don't win", the a phrase used to tell people to go shopping and every other trivial way of maintaining normal life.

So I'm more disturbed by the booing of a-Rod than this story which was not really put in context.

2006-07-27 14:41:16
10.   Chyll Will
8 Sadly again, an instance like this played out in the Heartland is enough to assure him the nomination in 2008 should he decide to run. I wouldn't expect anything of the sort from current administration unless Bill Thompson starts to spontaneously channel Shirley Chisolm.

New York politics is way to arcane to allow the public to do anything about it.

2006-07-27 15:35:24
11.   Ron Burgundy
This is shady business indeed. But I seriously dislike how the Mutts have charged the city even more and are mentioned just ONCE in the whole article.
2006-07-27 15:38:48
12.   joejoejoe
The Yankees play in an historic ballpark (refurbished in '75) in a dense urban landscape. The new Stadium will consume one of the few open park spaces, Macombs Dam, in the South Bronx.

The Mets play in Shea, built in '64, in the middle of an mixed commercial neighborhood with lots of low value property available for development. Flushing Meadows/Corona Park is a massive open space for residents of Queens.

The situations are not interchangable.

2006-07-28 07:12:13
13.   jayd
Speaking for all my Fellow Americans Across the Fruited Plain (FAAFP), let me tell you I am shocked, SHOCKED, that such public sector arrangements are taking place using taxpayer dollars.

And to those of you who are not consultants or have little business experience: "Consulting: If you're not part of the solution, there's good money to be made in prolonging the problem."

2006-07-31 17:53:31
14.   neil demause
Just ran across this thread (I was on vacation last week, with only dial-up access - the horror...), and wanted to respond to a couple of the questions raised:

For technical reasons, it was easier to file a Freedom of Information Law request for the Yankees' documents, so we did that first; as noted in the article, a request for the Mets' documents is pending. So while it's possible the Mets did the same thing with their lobbying costs, we don't yet know - hence the Yankees-only headline.

And I did call the Yanks (and Mets) for comment on the story, along with various city agencies - neither returned my calls on the subject. I'd actually meant for the article to indicate that, but it must have gotten lost in either the editing process or the crappy cellphone connection I was using to give last-minute updates to my editor.

Anyway, I'll be doing followups, either in the dead-tree edition of the Voice or on its Power Plays blog, so rest assured this story isn't over. If it turns out Fred Wilpon was charging taxpayers for Mr. Met's laundry bill, I'll do my best to give it a banner headline.

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