As Bloomberg departs, an arena deal emerges
Mayor Michael Bloomberg may have just three weeks left in his term, but he hasn’t given up on his administration’s dreams for a major league soccer arena in New York City.
The New York City Football Club, a consortium backed by the Yankees and Manchester City owner Sheik Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, has been working with the Bloomberg administration to hammer out the broad outlines of an agreement to build a soccer arena just south of Heritage Field, the site of the old Yankee Stadium.
According to a confidential outline of the formative deal obtained by Capital New York, the 10-acre site would encompass three of Yankee Stadium's financially troubled parking lots, a portion of 153rd Street, and a building on the same street now occupied by an elevator parts company called GAL Manufacturing that employs about 400 people.
"NYCFC is looking for a home, not simply a place to play,” said Risa Heller, a spokeswoman for the soccer club, in a statement. “As we have said from the start, we are reviewing sites all over the City."
Paul Seifried, a GAL executive who was recently in the news touting his company’s creation of the borough’s largest commercial solar panel installation, did not respond to a request for comment.
According to the terms of the rough-hewn agreement, the New York City Football Club would pay to purchase the elevator-company building and relocate the business to a new site. The team would also pay an unspecified sum to the unlucky folks holding $240 million in underwater debt on the underutilized, city-subsidized parking lots built in conjunction with the new Yankee Stadium.
“It's never a good idea to be discussing negotiations until they are done," Edward Moran, the restructuring expert working with the Bronx Parking Development Company, emailed me.
The city, in turn, would demap a portion of 153rd Street, take over the GAL site and give the team a 99-year lease. Only after 38 years would the team pay the city fair market rent. The city would also agree to issue tax-exempt bonds to finance the $350 million project, and it would grant the team $21.5 million in other tax waivers.
But, in contrast to the Yankee Stadium negotiations conducted at the tail end of the Giuliani administration, this deal framework does not appear to entail the city laying out any hard cash.
"We remain committed to working with our partners on the plan that will make New York City FC the country's preeminent Major League Soccer franchise, which includes a world-class stadium they can one day call home," said Patrick Muncie, a Bloomberg spokesman, in a statement. "Just this weekend MLS crowned their newest champions, and we look forward to the day when NYC FC makes their first trip down the Canyon of Heroes."
If the agreement is finalized by the spring and the city’s land-use review process completed by summer 2015, the first match could be held at New York City's first soccer arena by spring of 2018. In the meantime, the team will play its home games at Yankee Stadium.
To design the arena, the team has swapped out SHoP Architects, which was working on the original Major League Soccer-backed proposal for Flushing Meadows Corona Park, for Rafael Vinoly Architects, designer of the Princeton University Stadium.
“We have no comment on the project," Raymond Lee, a Vinoly spokesman, told me.
The tax exemptions in question would have to be approved by Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio's Industrial Development Agency.
His stance on this sort of thing isn't all that clear.
De Blasio has a history of supporting city-subsidized projects in New York City, including the development of one very famous Brooklyn arena. But he has also called for the redirection of subsidies for "wealthy corporations" to education and workforce development.
CORRECTION: The original version of this article incorrectly cited the Beijing National Swimming Center, in addition to the Princeton stadium, as a Vinoly project.