Freedom Rider: Bronx Bombers Grand Theft
by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley
"The Yankee deal should
be the last of its kind."
In 2006, public officials in New York City allowed the New
York Yankees fox into the public asset hen house. They brokered an agreement
which allowed the sports team to take two large New York City parks in order to
build a new stadium. Of course the Yankees didn't spend their own money for the
stadium; taxpayers in New York City did that. To make a long and sad story
short, the city of New York gave the Yankees public land to build upon and then
promised to spend more money to replace what it had given away.
The Yankees deal was an obvious theft from the start. If the
team owners were to be tried for the crime, the accessories after the fact should
be elected officials who drove the getaway car. The story has an all too
familiar ring. In city after city, sports team, multi-national corporations and
real estate developers get public money and public property and give nothing in
return. The Bronx case is even sadder because there was supposed to be some
community "benefit" for the larceny.
Bronx politicians were responsible for forming a group that
up the crumbs, $1.2 million per year over 40 years, from the Yankees'
table. (The total government subsidy haul for the Yankees is $833 million).
Eighteen months after the deal was done, that group had only one member and was
not registered as a 501c3 non-profit, or a New York State charity.
That group exists now, but only because reporters began
asking about its non-existence. Now it turns out that the replacement parks
will cost nearly twice as much as originally estimated and will take years
longer to construct than originally announced. To add insult to injury, the
replacement spaces will have four fewer acres
than the parks taken by the Yankees.
"In city after city, sports team, multi-national
corporations and real estate developers get public money and public property
and give nothing in return."
The New York City government subsidizes the cost of making
films, gives tax payer dollars to the Yankees and the Mets, as well as to
corporations to entice them to locate the former World Trade Center site.
Anyone ungrateful enough to complain about this foolish largesse is told to
shut up because the giveaway is always "good for the city."
When these raw deals are presented, there is always a
community benefits agreement to be had and black and Latino elected officials
giving assurances that minority contractors will get a piece of the action. The
fact that their constituents get the shaft is never of any consequence.
The lack of movement politics and a system that is
compromised by corporate interests makes Yankees type schemes inevitable. This
deal was particularly crooked, even by New York standards, when it was rushed
through almost over night. There were no public hearings held, and New York
City Council Members had only few days to make a decision. In the end, only 2
out of 51 said no. The rushed vote kept any inconvenient questions at bay and
allowed systemic inertia and lobbyist pressure to rule the day.
Voters of color are especially vulnerable to the bad deal.
Only citizens with the ability to write and deliver campaign checks have access
to political power. Without viable political opponents, lackluster black and
Latino politicians have carte blanche to make any deals they want. They then
dangle the possibility of prominent individuals getting a cut in the action.
Incredulous citizens who stand up for their rights are then accused of standing
in the way of so-called progress.
"This deal was particularly crooked, even by New York
Black and Latino voters are presented with no options for
change. They are supposed to be grateful when some beneficiaries of malfeasance
look like them. The presence of brown faces in high places can provide useful
cover for world class thievery.
Citizens are left to struggle on their own, without ever
getting an opportunity to plan for truly beneficial projects that might benefit
them. The Yankees grand theft is just the latest and most prominent example of
government of the corporation, by the corporation and for the corporation.
While the problem is acute and long standing, the solution
is relatively simple. Mass action propels progress. Deals do not, politicians
do not and corporations most certainly do not. Only movements can fight deep
pocketed lobbyists and craven politicians. The alternative is more of the same,
increased corporate power at the expense of the public. The Yankee deal should
be the last of its kind. After all, it is supposed to be time for a change.
Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York
City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgandaReport.Com.
Ms. Kimberley maintains an edifying and frequently updated blog at freedomrider.blogspot.com.
More of her work is also available at her Black Agenda Report archive