N.Y. Judge Rejects Yankee Stadium Funding Subpoena

Fri August 14, 2009 - Northeast Edition
Michael Virtanen - ASSOCIATED PRESS

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) A judge has quashed a subpoena from lawmakers literally seeking a truckload of documents from the New York Yankees about construction and financing of the team’s new Bronx stadium.

State Supreme Court Justice John Egan Jr. said the Yankees already have made a good faith effort to comply with the January subpoena from two Assembly committees, a request he ruled July 30 was unreasonably broad.

Democratic Assemblymen Richard Brodsky of Westchester and James Brennan of Brooklyn sued to have the court further enforce their legislative subpoena. They said questions remain about the return to taxpayers for public financing of the team’s stadium project.

Brodsky wouldn’t immediately say if he will appeal the ruling or revise his subpoena. “We remain committed to the conclusion of our investigation,’’ he said.

Yankees’ attorneys Jonathan Schiller and George Carpinello noted the judge’s warning that subpoena power should not be used for harassment or as a fishing expedition. In a joint statement, they said millions of fans already have enjoyed the new stadium and the season is in full swing.

“It is time to move on,’’ the statement said.

The Yankees had argued that meeting the subpoena’s demands would be an unreasonable task involving millions of documents and e-mails. They said the roughly $1.5 billion stadium project has been fully vetted in 23 public hearings before various government agencies. Yankees executives appeared at Assembly committee hearings earlier this year.

Egan noted the growing national trend of using public money to help build sports stadiums for privately owned teams. He said the Yankees didn’t invent the practice, and instead only joined a long line of teams to apply for publicly backed stadium financing.

“The propriety of using tax dollars for such purposes or granting ’tax breaks’ is certainly debatable, and Mr. Brodsky is right to bring this issue to the floor of the Legislature for public debate,’’ Egan wrote. But he said requiring the team to produce “hundreds of thousands of pages, load them literally into a tractor-trailer and deliver them to the Legislature is neither reasonable nor productive of this goal.’’

The New York City Economic Development Corp. has said the stadium cost $1.4 billion, and the agency issued $1.2 billion in mostly tax-exempt bonds. The Yankees write a monthly check to the investors who bought the bonds. They are payments in lieu of taxes.

The agency’s analysis shows a $60 million net benefit to taxpayers over the 30-year life of the lease, which considered mortgage and sales tax forgiveness among other public costs. Another document cites the Yankees’ projection of 1,000 new permanent jobs.

By Brodsky’s accounting, the funding package is worth $4 billion to the Yankees, including the face value of the bonds, the interest offset by their in-lieu-of-tax payments, direct cash payments and mortgage and sales tax relief. Brodsky said Yankees’ documents show a net increase of only 50 permanent jobs.

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