This story was originally published in Newsday on April 21, 1998
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who has pledged that new stadiums for the city's two baseball teams will not require new taxes, yesterday proposed a financing plan that calls for the allocation of $600 million in anticipated public revenues.
The mayor said that money from the city's commercial rent tax - which is currently being phased out - would go into a fund for the creation of a New York City Sports Facilities Corp. and the building of new stadiums for the Yankees and the Mets.
While the plan would not require new taxes, the announcement marked the first time Giuliani acknowledged that large amounts of city taxpayer money would be used for the constructiion of new stadiums. He did not say where he thought the new Yankee Stadium should be built, but he continued to lay out the rationale for a move to Manhattan's West Side.
City Council Speaker Peter Vallone, who was in Israel yesterday, issued a statement saying he believed that an issue "so dear to our hearts as the future home" of the Yankees should be presented to a public referendum. And Douglas Criscitello, the executive director of the Independent Budget Office, said he believes the earmarking of tax collections for a specific purpose - such as new stadiums - "is generally not a good idea."
The commercial rent tax, which is now paid by 11,000 large corporations below 96th Street in Manhattan that pay annual rents of $100,000 or more, is expected to produce revenues totaling $600 million in the years 2000, 2001 and 2002, Giuliani said.
The funneling of the tax rents to stadiums would come at a time that the city is expected to face large budget gaps. In his recently released financial plan, Giuliani estimated that the budget gap would be $1.8 billion in the year 2000 and more than $2 billion in 2001.
But Giuliani said the proposal, which will need City Council approval, does not require the borrowing of money, would not increase taxes and adds nothing to the city's longterm budget gap. He said the spending of the commercial rent tax affects only "relatively large to gigantic businesses."
"This can fund a Shea Stadium or a Yankee Stadium in any borough, in any part of the city," Giuliani said. "The one thing it will not do is fund a Yankee or Shea Stadium in New Jersey."
As for Vallone's call for a Yankee Stadium referendum, Giuliani said: "That's sort of the absence of leadership. In the places that have done that they've driven their baseball teams away.
"I got elected to be a leader not a panderer, and the fact is I'm not going to see the two teams driven out of New York," added Giuliani. "Peter Vallone comes from a political philosophy that lost us four major league teams."
The plan would not require approval of the State Legislature or Gov. George Pataki, who has said he would like to see the Yankees remain in the Bronx.
"Given that this is city money, if it is something the city wants we will have to take a look at it," said Mike McKeon, a spokesman for Pataki.
The Yankees' stadium lease agreement with the city expires in 2002, and no decision has been made on whether the Bronx landmark will be renovated or if the team will relocate. The proposed Mets' stadium is much further along. Preliminary plans call for the building of a new stadium in the right field parking lot of Shea Stadium.
Giuliani said his plan is unique. "This is a sensible way to fund it," he said. "No other city has figured out how to do it this way."
He said other cities have financed new stadiums through sales tax hikes and taxes on such items as rental cars, tobacco, alcohol and parking or through lotteries.
"For all the ridicule I've taken for it, I think I'm doing the right thing for the city," Giuliani said of his proposals for new stadiums for both the Mets and Yankees.
Criscitello said the $600 million from the commercial rent tax "would be a hefty chunk of public subsidy," and added: "There are two things the government can do with tax monies: Either spend them or give them back in the form of tax cuts. This would be additional spending that would compete with other city needs."