Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Yankee Stadium CBA


The Yankee Stadium CBA, completed in 2006, has faced stiff criticism. The agreement, to begin with, was made between the Yankees, the Bronx Borough President and the Bronx Delegation of the New York City Council; it was not negotiated or signed by any community groups. On this basis alone it arguably should not be called a CBA. One of the agreement’s most controversial provisions is the trust fund that it created to be administered by “an individual of prominence” through distributions to local nonprofit groups. Because the fund’s trustee will be appointed by the same elected officials responsible for the CBA, it has been referred to as a “slush fund” by critics who fear that funding will be not be distributed impartially. The Yankee Stadium CBA has also been criticized by community members (see here, for example) due to the fact that the development will eliminate more than twenty acres of parks, leaving the city to pay for their replacement in addition to the subsidies already being given to the project.

These concerns have proven to be somewhat warranted. In January 2008, nearly seventeen months after construction began, the New York Times reported that none of the money set aside by the Yankees had been distributed. Apparently, the funding has been held up because the advisory panel that is responsible for administering the fund has yet to choose a chairman, register as a charity or select any grant recipients. The Yankees have indicated that their obligations were fulfilled by depositing the money into escrow and that the club is not responsible for the delay, and since no community groups signed the agreement, none exist that would have standing to bring an enforcement action. As a practical result, this has meant that the only people who could move the funding along are the four elected officials who signed the agreement and who, apparently, have not been very proactive about seeing to its implementation. Other elected officials are frustrated with the situation and have “complained that they are in the dark” about the CBA. Indeed, the names of people chosen to serve on the fund’s advisory panel have not been released, save for one member who has been credited with making political donations to one of the elected officials responsible for the agreement. All of this goes to show that negotiating a CBA may be only the first of many battles in ensuring that community benefits are actually received. But the Yankee Stadium CBA, despite its weaknesses, should not be totally discounted yet. The Yankees have promised that the community will receive all of the money pledged to it, and it may just boil down to a waiting game for the moment.

Good Jobs New York has produced a detailed report critical of the Yankee Stadium deal. They explain that:
To seize public parklands, win rapid permitting, and land massive taxpayer subsidies for their new stadium in the South Bronx, the New York Yankees hired numerous former public officials and benefited from the actions of a few current elected officials to play insider baseball, shutting out Bronx residents and New York City taxpayers.
More information from Good Jobs New York is available here, and text of the CBA is posted here.

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