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Did NYC Officials Deliberately Inflate Land Value of New Yankee Stadium to Turn Public Money into Private Profit?

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In his latest column in the New York Daily News, Democracy Now! co-host Juan Gonzalez writes, “In January 2007, the city assessed land under the new Yankee Stadium at 10 times the market value of virtually all other land in the South Bronx neighborhood. The assessment — not including the new ballpark — worked out to a fair market value of $275 per square foot. But a Daily News analysis of city property records shows that city assessors said land on a dozen blocks around the site was worth an average of less than $25 a square foot.” [includes rush transcript]

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Video squareStoryJul 30, 2008Field of Schemes: Congress Probes How New Sports Stadiums Turn Public Money into Private Profit
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Juan, you wrote an interesting piece in the New York Daily News about Yankee Stadium.

JUAN GONZLEZ: Yes. Well, you know, Amy, we’re getting very close now to the final game being played in the most famous sports arena in the United States — Yankee Stadium — because a new Yankee stadium will open up across the street in the Bronx on next year. And I’ve been looking into the financing of the new stadium, which is the most expensive stadium ever constructed in America. It started out at $800 million, then it went to about a billion, and now it’s already escalated to at least $1.3 billion, and that’s not counting another about $300 million or more in public subsidies that are going into the stadium. It’s a huge, huge project that makes the Bridge to Nowhere look like minor league stuff.

But what my column today focuses on is how the city, apparently — the City of New York, apparently, grossly inflated the value of the Yankee Stadium land at ten times the value of any other property in the surrounding Bronx neighborhood. And it did so, because the Yankees needed a very high assessment of the land in order to be able to pay off nearly $1 billion in tax-exempt bonds that the team floated in 2006. And next week, Congressman Kucinich, Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, is scheduled to hold a hearing in Washington looking into possible abuses of IRS regulations by city officials in the process of doing these evaluations of the land. There’s a separate investigation going on in the state assembly, and a report is going to be issued next week. And I look into — did city officials deliberately inflate the value of the land to benefit the Yankees?

And, of course, this is a major issue all around the country, because local governments are spending enormous sums in public subsidies and federally backed — federal tax-exempt bonds to create these huge stadium complexes. Here in New York alone, the Yankees have a stadium, a new stadium; the Mets are building a new stadium; the developer Bruce Ratner wants to build a new Nets arena. Across the river in New Jersey, the Giants and the Jets are building new stadiums. Minnesota, Washington — you go to any major city in America, they’re building new stadiums using huge amounts of public subsidies, and there are questionable practices, I think, in many of these cities as to how government officials are aiding these efforts.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’ll certainly continue to follow this.

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