Skip to main content

The "Free Lunch" for sports team owners and the starving of parks

In an interview yesterday on Democracy Now, New York Times writer David Cay Johnston described the country's subsidies for sports teams--though he didn't mention the Nets/Atlantic Yards--that he criticizes in his new book, Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (And Stick You with the Bill).

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, I was struck—you have numerous chapters in the book on the various aspects of this transfer, but I was especially struck by your material on the New York Yankees and Steinbrenner and Joyce Hogi, who you mention in the book, who I know well, and this whole issue of sports teams across America and how the public is subsidizing them. Could you elaborate on that part of it?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Sure. George Steinbrenner is getting over $600 million for the new Yankee Stadium in New York. The New York Mets are getting over $600 million. In fact, the City of New York gave them money to lobby against the taxpayers to get more money. Rudy Giuliani gave $50 million to the two teams for that purpose.

The new owners of the Washington Nationals baseball team in Washington, D.C., paid $450 million for the team. But, in fact, they got the team for free, because the subsidy they’re getting for the new stadium is worth $611 million. We actually paid these people to buy the team.


Note that Bruce Ratner and partners paid $300 million to buy the New Jersey Nets and the direct subsidies for Atlantic Yards--not all for the arena--total $305 million, and the indirect subsidies and tax breaks total much, much more.

Starving public parks

JOHNSTON: Now, in this country right now, we are spending $2 billion a year subsidizing the big four sports: baseball, basketball, football and hockey. It accounts for all of the profits of that industry and more. Now, there may be individual teams that make money, but the industry as a whole is not profitable. And that’s astonishing because the big four leagues are exempt from the laws of competition. By the way, irony is not dead, because here are people who are in the business of competition on the field who are exempted by law from the rules of economic competition.

If you go to England and you want to start a soccer team, they have to let you join the soccer league. There are thirteen commercial soccer teams in the London area. New York City, the biggest city in the country, there are two baseball teams, because there’s no free entry into the market. In Los Angeles, there’s no football team. And the owners use this power to prevent others from owning teams, to prevent municipal governments from owning teams, to prevent nonprofits from owning teams, to extract money from the taxpayers to build them new stadiums.

At the same time that we’re doing this, we are starving our public parks for money. And I show in Free Lunch how the rise of urban gangs and now suburban gangs is connected to this. We used to have all sorts of programs in this country after World War II for young men and young women on Saturdays and during the summer and school holidays, where even if you didn’t have any money—didn’t matter that your parents didn’t have any money, because—and I know this because I did it as a child—you could go to any one of a half-dozen different places, and there were organized activities to keep you out of trouble. After all, idle hands are the devil’s workshop is not exactly a radical new idea. Well, we’ve cut and cut and cut those programs to fund two different subsidies: one to sports teams’ owners, one that goes to Tyco, General Electric, Honeywell and some other big companies. And, lo and behold, we’ve had a big rise in urban violence because of the vacuum being filled by young people who no longer have these organized activities.


Then again, a privately-owned sports arena within Atlantic Yards, named for Barclays Capital, would provide opportunity for (paid) amusement and thus qualify as "recreational," according to Justice Joan Madden's January 11 decision.

Comments

  1. What do George W. Bush, Michael Bloomberg, Eliot Spitzer, Bruce Ratner and the New York City Council all have in common?

    They all participate in the scam of using “stadium-building” (yes, that includes Ratner’s arena) as a way to make those in the “rich club” richer. Do people who buy professional sports franchises actually like sports? Or is it just the price of a ticket to play the scam that nobody but the rich can play?

    This same story (David Cay Johnston on How the Rich Get Richer) was also covered by Terri Gross’s January 3, 2008 Fresh Air interview with David Cay Johnston which became NPR’s top e-mailed story available at:

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=17808622&sc=nl&cc=es-20070120

    The first 20 minutes of the interview cover how George W. Bush, just like Ratner with Atlantic Yards, used the “stadium-building” scam together eminent domain abuse to transfer taxpayer money into his and his partner’s pockets. Bush himself, pocketed $17 million (failing to pay full taxes on it). The interview also covers the evidence that these stadiums/arena scams are not good for local economies.

    The end of the interview does a pretty good wrap up pointing out that these schemes constitute an objectionable thwarting of Adam’s Smith’s “invisible hand.”

    One problem is that the public does not understand these scams while the likes of George W. Bush, Michael Bloomberg, Eliot Spitzer, Bruce Ratner (and the New York City Council) do. (Do people really understand that the arena is being given to Ratner as a gift through an R-TIFIC-PILOT agreement- pronounced “Artifice- PILOT”?)

    Another problem is that George W. Bush was successful in carrying out this scam and has shown others like Bloomberg and Spitzer that you can get away with it and even become president(?).

    Finally, what Bush learned he could get away with building a stadium in Arlington Texas for the Texas Rangers surely set the stage for his confident pursuit throughout his career of further wealth transfers to the super-rich club at the expense of the general public and for other schemes like Haliburton in Iraq and New Orleans.

    ReplyDelete
  2. If you have not read How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill). you are missing one of the most important books of this century. David Cay Johnston’s writing is riveting, and his expose on how government regulations are helping take from the many to help the few is essential knowledge or all who wish a good and prosperous future for America. As you can see from the others posting this is a must read.

    Instead of bring a bottle of wine to our friends when visit, we are now bring a copy of the book. We have never had such a positive reaction to our thank you gift! Conservatives, libertarians, progressives are all appalled by information in this book. We need to get the message out and take our country back. You owe it to yourself and future generations, if you read no other book this year, to read this one. What Mr. Johnston has done provides a major service for America and it will only be useful if we read it and take action. In case you missed it Mr. Johnston was just on Bill Moyer’s, http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/01182008/profile.html
    and Terry Gross’s Fresh Air http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=17808622
    They are well worth listening to and passing on to your friends who love America and want to help it have a great future.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website Matzav.com explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

Not quite the pattern: Greenland selling development sites, not completed condos

Real Estate Weekly, reporting on trends in Chinese investment in New York City, on 11/18/15 quoted Jim Costello, a senior vice president at research firm Real Capital Analytics:
“They’re typically building high-end condos, build it and sell it. Capital return is in a few years. That’s something that is ingrained in the companies that have been coming here because that’s how they’ve grown in the last 35 years. It’s always been a development game for them. So they’re just repeating their business model here,” he said. When I read that last November, I didn't think it necessarily applied to Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, now 70% owned (outside of the Barclays Center and B2 modular apartment tower), by the Greenland Group, owned significantly by the Shanghai government.
A majority of the buildings will be rentals, some 100% market, some 100% affordable, and several--the last several built--are supposed to be 50% market/50% subsidized. (See tentative timetable below.)

Selling development …

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

"There is no alternative": DM Glen on de Blasio's affordable housing strategy

As I've written, Mayor Bill de Blasio sure knows how to steer and spin coverage of his affordable housing initiatives.

Indeed, his latest announcement, claiming significant progress, came with a pre-press release op-ed in the New York Daily News and then a friendly photo-op press conference with an understandably grateful--and very lucky--winner of an affordable housing lottery.

To me, though, the most significant quote came from Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, who, as the Wall Street Journal reported:
said public housing had been “starved” of federal support for years now, leaving the city with fewer ways of creating affordable housing. “Are we relying too heavily on the private sector?” she said. “There is no alternative.” Though Glen was using what she surely sees as a common-sense phrase, it recalls the slogan of a politician with whom I doubt de Blasio identifies: former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a Conservative who believed in free markets.

It suggests the limits to …