Skip to main content

Smoking gun: emails show how Yankee Stadium valuation was "jacked up"

Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez continues to look into the astounding inflation (from $26.8 million to $204 million) in valuation of the land under Yankee Stadium, apparently aimed to qualify for the amount of foregone taxes needed to pay off construction bonds via PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes).

(Yes, Atlantic Yards watchers are waiting to see if something similar happens with the land under the planned $950 million arena.)

In a column yesterday headlined E-mails reveal how city went to bat for Yankee to inflate value of stadium land, Gonzalez describes how it took only hours for the Department of Finance's chief tax assessor to do an about-face and "jack up" the valuation.

Smoking gun

Gonzalez writes:
"This is the smoking gun," said Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, who has spearheaded a state probe into the stadium deal. "The professionals did their job. The political appointees then ordered them to change the assessment - and they did."

And Gonzalez points out that the emails contradict testimony from DOF Commissioner Martha Stark in October before the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chaired by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH).'

Here's one from Michael Kalt, an aide to former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff: "I don't want to get into this much further on e-mail, but we have to take into consideration that the AV [assessed value] is only so high because we're choosing a methodology to support the tax-exempt financing."

It's not over

Gonzalez observes that the city has refused to release to state and federal investigators hundreds more relevant e-mails. His conclusion:
That's why it's time for some prosecutor to step in, subpoena every document and figure out if the Bloomberg administration manipulated land assessments for the Yankees.

Potential impact

In the Village Voice, Neil deMause explains:
This wasn't just a matter of sloppy paperwork: If the IRS figure had been any lower, the Yanks' convoluted plan for getting tax-free bonds (involving setting property tax levels high enough that the team's private bond payments could be recast as public "payments in lieu of property taxes," or PILOTS) would have fallen apart; if the state figure were any higher, it would have been illegal to eliminate Macombs Dam Park without providing more new parkland to replace it.

More on the switch

The city's assessor, deMause reports, wrote a memo titled "Estimated Market Value for Proposed Yankee Stadium," that cited land values in the Bronx "growing by leaps and bounds," reaching $32.50 a square foot.

Twelve days later, a new paragraph cited comparables in Harlem, where "land sales north of 100 Street in Manhattan range from $200 to $323 per square foot."

deMause writes:
The "major revitalization" of Harlem over the past five years "has also spread across the river to the South Bronx," Kellman's memo now asserted, without explanation of why it concluded that Manhattan sale prices were considered a better means of valuing Bronx land than Bronx sale prices.

Beyond that, there's no mention in the Daily News, the Voice, or the memos of the astonishing inclusion of a vacant lot in Alphabet City as another comparable.

While deMause acknowledges that all the evidence is circumstantial, some is pretty juicy:
This past July, mayoral press aide Andrew Brent e-mailed a proposed statement to others in City Hall that concluded that the $204 million appraisal had been "made at the urging of EDC to satisfy the underwriters of the tax-exempt bonds that were to be used to finance the stadiums." Finance Department press officer Owen Stone e-mailed back, "I think you should skip that last sentence" about satisfying the underwriters, and suggested a more neutral replacement.

What next?

If the city cooked the books, the IRS could conduct an audit--and strip the bonds of their tax-exempt status. (Is there political juice for that?)

deMause adds:
And if nothing else, this should make for some fireworks when the IDA considers the Yanks' request for $259 million in new tax-exempt bonds -- now slated for a public hearing on January 15 at 10 am at 110 William Street.

That public hearing also involved $82.3 million in tax-free financing for the New York Mets. It was announced the other day via an ad on page 55 of the New York Post--and noticed by subsidy watchdogs Good Jobs New York.


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…

No, security guards can't ban photos. Questions remain about visibility of ID/sticker system.

The bi-monthly Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting June 14, held at 55 Hanson Place, addressed multiple issues, including delays in the project, a new detente with project neighbors,concerns about traffic congestion, upcoming sewer work and demolitions, and an explanation of how high winds caused debris to fly off the under-construction 38 Sixth Avenue building. I'll have more coverage.
Security issues came up several times at the meeting.
Wayne Bailey, a resident who regularly takes photos and videos (that I often use) of construction/operations issues that impact residents, asked representatives of Tishman Construction if the security guard at the sites they're building works for them.
After Tishman Senior VP Eric Reid said yes, Bailey asked why a guard told him not to shoot video of the site, even though he was on a public street.

"I will address it with principals for that security firm," Reid said.
Forest City Ratner executive Ashley Cotton, the …

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what might be coming + FAQ (post-dated pinned post)

This graphic, posted in February 2018, is post-dated to stay at the top of the blog. It will be updated as announced configurations change and buildings launch. Note the unbuilt B1 and the proposed--but not yet approved--shift in bulk to the unbuilt Site 5.

The August 2014 tentative configurations proposed by developer Greenland Forest City Partners will change. The project is already well behind that tentative timetable.

How many people are expected?

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park has a projected 6,430 apartments housing 2.1 persons per unit (as per Chapter 4 of the 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement), which would mean 13,503 new residents, with 1,890 among them in low-income affordable rentals, and 2,835 in moderate- and middle-income affordable rentals.

That leaves 8,778 people in market-rate rentals and condos, though let's call it 8,358 after subtracting 420 who may live in 200 promised below-market condos. So that's 5,145 in below-market units, though many of them won…

The passing of David Sheets, Dean Street renter, former Freddy's bartender, eminent domain plaintiff, and singular personality

David Sheets, longtime Dean Street renter, Freddy's bartender, eminent domain plaintiff, and singular personality, died 1/17/18 in HCA Greenview Hospital in Bowling Green, KY. He was 56.

There are obituary notices in the Bowling Green Daily News and the Wichita Eagle, which state:
He was born in Wichita, KS where he attended public Schools and Wichita State University. He lived for many years in Brooklyn, NY, and was employed as a legal assistant. David's hobby was cartography and had an avid interest in Mass Transit Systems of the world. David was predeceased by his father, Kenneth E. Sheets. He is survived by his mother, Wilma Smith, step-brother, Billy Ray Smith and his wife, Jane all of Bowling Green; step-sister, Ellen Smith Alexander and her husband, Jerry of Bella Vista, AR; several cousins and step-nieces and step-nephews also survive. Memorial Services will be on Monday, January 22, 2018 at 1:00 pm with visitation from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm Monday at Johnson-Vaughn-Phe…

Some skepticism on Belmont hockey deal: lease value seems far below Aqueduct racino; unclear (but large?) cost for LIRR service

As I wrote for The Bridge 12/20/1, The Islanders Say Bye to Brooklyn, But Where Next?, the press conference announcing a new arena at Belmont Park for the New York Islanders was "long on pomp... but short on specifics."

Notably, a lease valued at $40 million "upfront to lease up to 43 acres over 49 years... seems like a good deal on rent for the state-controlled property." Also, the Long Island Rail Road will expand service to Belmont.

That indicates public support for an arena widely described as "privately financed," but how much? We don't know yet, but some more details--or at least questions--have emerged.

An Aqueduct comparable?

Well, we don't know what the other bid was, and there aren't exactly parcels that large offering direct comparables.

But consider: Genting New York LLC in September 2010 was granted a franchise to operate a video lottery terminal under a 30 year lease on 67 acres at Aqueduct Park (as noted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo).


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 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…