Many of us said a few years ago that building thousands of car parking spaces at the new Yankee Stadium was a terrible idea, a waste of precious funds, and an insult to the community. So it is no big surprise that the Yankee Stadium parking operator recently defaulted on its bond payments.
Aside from causing more car travel, which is consistently raised as the top concern of South Bronx residents, this debacle quite perfected illustrates why we should never use public funds to construct private property. Because sports stadiums are among the worst uses of public money.
Proponents of stadiums make grand claims about new jobs, expected tax revenues and neighborhood revitalization, but in reality sports teams don’t help the city anywhere near as much as people think they do. Many cities feel desperate to attract or retain whatever little bits of tax revenue they can, and a stadium seems like a good deal until you realize just how much land it takes up and how little it gets used, and remember that it’s not open to the public.
The lies about jobs, taxes and community development — and the phony threats sports teams make to move outside the city if they can’t rob the public to pay for their own private buildings and further enrich the 1 percent — are all part of a ploy to convince the city to open its cash drawer.
Since a typical arena operates only a few hours a day, its contribution to street life is negligible at best and can actually be negative since it makes vast areas undesirable and unsafe except during events. These massive buildings also have the effect of dividing communities, especially if parking facilities are included.
New York City made major investments to the subway and regional rail networks serving Yankee Stadium, including a new station. And now — surprise! — fewer people than anticipated are driving there. The need to pay market rates for parking is a strong disincentive to drive a private vehicle, and the rapid transit and regional rail networks in the Bronx and Brooklyn (where another new stadium recently opened) make transit very convenient. This is great news for the community, but it’s apparently a “problem” if you’ve invested lots of money on parking that isn’t being used.
Regardless of the parking debacle, New York City paid millions of dollars to build each stadium — millions of dollars that we would never see again even in the best case scenario. At a time when living costs are rising, wages are falling, public services are being gutted due to austerity, and thousands of people in New York City alone don’t know where their next meal is coming from, can anyone honestly say that subsidizing private stadiums is money well spent?