Damn Yankees: NYCFC Stadium Partners Strike Out
As stadium progress inches closer to entering the public review process, Maddd Equities and the Yankees have stirred up distrust among the local community.
New York Yankees President Randy Levine was as clear as he could be:
Not even 24 hours after the interview with Levine, a procedural vote that would advanced New York City FC’s stadium plan was delayed by last-minute actions taken by the Yankees and Maddd Equities. More mind boggling is that it was the Yankees themselves that had forced the current vote to take place in June. The earliest the vote can now be held is during Bronx Community Board 4’s, which will break for a summer recess, next meeting in late September-- at least 99 days after the comments made by Levine.
This was not the first time that Levine’s comments have been disruptive in NYCFC’s nearly decade long stadium search. A source with knowledge of the situation told The Outfield that NYCFC club officials have been displeased with public statements that the Yankees President has made in the past in regards to the stadium.
One of the last remaining challenges to be solved in New York City FC’s long drawn out stadium search has been resolving a lease between the city and the Bronx Parking Development Company (BPDC). As part of the new Yankee Stadium development, the BPDC signed a 99-year lease with the city in which they agreed to provide ample parking spaces for the Yankees on home game days. Over a decade later, the parking has been underutilized and the company has fallen into more than $136 million in debt to the city alone with even more owed to NYC Industrial Development Agency bondholders.
As BPDC continues to hemorrhage money, Maddd Equities and NYCFC’s interest in acquiring the garages as part of a stadium development south of Yankee Stadium potentially gives the city and bondholders a way to potentially collect at least some of the debt owed. Securing the land that the garages currently sit on in addition to the GAL elevator part factory across 153rd Street are the lynchpins to any NYCFC stadium plan.
A source confirmed to The Outfield that an agreement, first reported by the New York Times, has been in place for NYCFC and its developers to acquire the GAL facility. However, the BPDC garage remains a trickier situation as it was a piece of the “Yankee Stadium Parking System” (YSPS), including a contractual agreement for the city to provide the Yankees with a predetermined amount of parking spots for game days. Any disposal of this property would require sign-off from the Yankees.
According to documents obtained by The Outfield, the Yankees, along with development partner Maddd Equities, are contemplating severing the lease between New York City and BPDC, splitting the garages and lots as part of the YSPS into two leases: one leaving BPDC to supply the Yankees with sufficient parking, and the other providing several lots and garages to Maddd Equities to be operated as parking facilities until development on the stadium site begins.
Performing this split would require a vote from Bronx Community Board 4 (CB4), followed by a vote from the Bronx Borough Board, and then authorization from the mayor. CB4 was looking to complete this first step in September allowing board members ample time to sufficiently review the proposed terms, but the Yankees strong-armed community board members into holding the vote in June.
In the June CB4 General Board Meeting, board members echoed frustration with the Yankees. CB4 member Paul Lozito said, “We were basically threatened and told that we had to consider this now or this deal was done.” New York City Economic Development Corporation representatives Waheera Mardah and Jamie Horton confirmed in the June board meeting that the Yankees provided a strict deadline to CB4.
The Yankees did not participate in the board meeting on June 22nd, and have not responded to requests for comment.
Considering the threat of a June vote or nothing, the lack of a vote elicited anger from board members. CB4 District Manager Paul Philps noted, “We have bent over backwards to accommodate a timeline for June. We have done eight months of work in three months time.”
“I don’t want to get profane. But it's such BS. And then everybody in the last month, kind of with these veiled threats, that if a vote didn’t happen, at this point in time, and kind of weeks going on with that foolishness, that they were going to pull out of everything. I just really get sick and tired of people trying to act as if we are completely and totally idiots and that we can be messed on all the time. And you’ll have to excuse me if you don't like some of my words, cause I'm using messed on instead of another word. But it gets to be a little ridiculous to put us through all of this stress and then at the last minute when a vote is supposed to take place today.”
CB4 member Marie McCullough
The reason for the vote being taken off the table at CB4’s board meeting? Both the Yankees and Maddd Equities had last minute changes to the lease terms-- terms that they had drafted themselves. The Yankees wanted the lease to clarify the difference between “attended” and “unattended” parking, while Maddd Equities sought changes to the $46.25m package they proposed to pay bondholders.
The Yankees did not participate in the board meeting on June 22nd, and attempts to reach the Yankees for further comment have been unsuccessful.
A spokesperson from Maddd Equities, Wendy Gallegos, was in fact present in the board meeting. Gallegos argued that there were potential restrictions being imposed on Maddd’s potential operations of the parking lots that threaten the viability of the investment, but did not actually reveal what those restrictions were and how Maddd would be negatively impacted. Maddd Equities has not responded to requests for further comment.
The ultimate end result of Tuesday evening’s board meeting is two-fold. One, the demand of vote by June or else, followed by last minute changes to terms that were months in the making, has caused incredible distrust with the local community and rebuilding that trust will be of the utmost priority. Two, this is yet another delay in stadium progress that is already well over six years behind.
With primary elections underway, New York City is just months away from bringing in a new Mayor, City Council Chamber, and Bronx Borough President. The government officials which NYCFC, Maddd, and their small army of lobbyists have spent cozying up to, may no longer be in power. Will the new government be in support of this potential development? That is very much up in the air.
It’s well understood that massive development projects in the Big Apple are exceptionally difficult. But until NYCFC’s development partners can act as considerate and valuable community partners, exceptionally difficult begins to slide more towards impossible. ❧
Image: Caravaggio, Sacrifice of Isaac