I-Team: Bronx Garage Near Yankee Stadium Nearly Empty on Home Opener

Neighbors say the garage, built with millions of dollars in tax-free bonds, was a wasteful project

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    NEWSLETTERS

    On the day of the Yankees home opener, more than 49,000 fans packed the stadium. The skies were clear. The No. 4 subway was crowded. But the garage was nearly empty. Chris Glorioso reports. (Published Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012)

    On the day of the Yankees home opener last week, the stadium was packed with more than 49,000 fans, but inside a nearby parking garage on 153rd Street, three of the four floors were empty.

    Parking cashier Janee Addison estimated about 20 percent of the 2,300 spots were actually being used, and that was during the third inning, when even the latecomers had scanned their tickets.

    The garage, along with about a dozen other lots and garages, was built with millions of dollars in tax-free bonds by a firm called Bronx Parking Development Company, to accompany the new stadium.

    Residents had opposed the building of the structures, saying the construction would deprive the community of parks for children. The parks have since been rebuilt, but neighbors say the years of inconvenience were not worth building garages that are now underutilized.

    Last year, the Bronx Parking Development Company's average game-day lot was 43 percent full. This year, on the day of the Yankees' home opener, the garages increased the price of a parking space by $12 to $35, amid the sluggish demand.

    On March 23, the company filed paperwork with the Securities and Exchange Commission notifying them that it will likely default on its tax-free bonds within 60 days.
     
    Joyce Hogi, a South Bronx resident who lives near the stadium, is not surprised.

    According to Hogi, many Yankees fans began opting last year to park in a garage attached to a nearby shopping center. It is cheaper, she said, and nearly as close to the stadium. And unlike the garages owned by Bronx Parking, the shopping center garages don't kick out fans two hours after games end.

    "Everything that we have railed against have really come to pass and the Yankees have not been inconvenienced one day," Hogi said.

    William Loewenstein, president of the parking garage parent company, did not return calls from News 4.

    The New York City Industrial Development Agency, which approved the tax-free financing, said in a statement that taxpayers have nothing to lose if the garages go into default.
     
    “We continue to actively assist the BPDC Board as it evaluates all options to address the financial concerns," said Kyle Sklerov, a spokesman for the IDA. "The bonds are not a general obligation of the city or the IDA in any way, shape or form. IDA is a conduit bond issuer and we expect that bond investors will continue to evaluate future IDA projects on their own merits.”

    Critics of the Yankee Stadium deal challenge the IDA's assertion that tax dollars aren't at risk if the garages go under. 

    "I think it's hogwash," said Bettina Damiani, executive director of Good Jobs NY, a nonprofit that tracks tax breaks, government subsidies and acts of so-called "corporate welfare."

    Damiani points out that New York state taxpayers kicked in $70 million to help build the garages. That award was approved by the Empire State Development Corporation, an agency appointed by the governor. The IDA underwrote $237 million in tax-free bonds for the garages.

    "Taxpayers did lose money on these," Damiani said. "These are tax-exempt bonds, so we're not getting money into our treasury like we should have. And secondly, we don't want the city to put its name behind projects that fail. It looks bad."

    The company was able to strike a deal last year with private bondholders to delay foreclosure on the garages. It is unclear if the bondholders will grant another waiver this year. 

    On the cover page of the parking company's latest financial disclosure, Bronx Parking Company wrote, "Absent a waiver by the Required Bondholders, an Event of Default under the Indenture will occur upon adoption by the Company of its 2012 budget."
     
    The company expects that it will adopt the new budget by the end of May.

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