More than two years after the city Parks Department threatened to boot a Bronx parking lot operator from city-leased land due to its astronomical debts, the operator has accumulated still more unpaid rent and other funds due to the city — with the total now topping $162 million, new financial records show.
The five garages, with 9,300 spots, were built using city bonds in the 2000s during the Bloomberg administration. The garages were intended to serve the new Yankee Stadium but have been unable to make payments to investors for more than a decade.
Hopes ended last month that a new soccer stadium for the NYC Football Club could score an exit from the parking lot money pit. The new stadium location was announced as Willets Point, in Queens — with no word from the administration of Mayor Eric Adams about what happens now with the Bronx parking boondoggle.
In 2021 alone, Bronx Parking Development Company LLC — a nonprofit created to receive the tax-exempt city bonds and oversee construction and management of the parking facilities — accumulated another $17.2 million on its bill for unpaid rent, payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT), and interest due to the city.
The nonprofit is also falling short on payments owed to investors on the $237 million in bonds that were issued by the city’s Industrial Development Agency in 2007 as part of a major project to rebuild Yankee Stadium and the area around it.
In all, the parking lot project owes nearly $240 million, the bond investor disclosure records show.
“The Yankees, they got what they wanted — they were handed this gift without a concern in the world for the taxpayers or for the residents in that neighborhood,” said Geoffrey Croft, a parks watchdog who has long monitored the Yankee deal’s use of park property.
“And the city at large is still paying for this and will until the deal is terminated,” Croft said. “Every year it just gets worse and worse.”
Reps for the Yankees didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Parking for Yankee baseball games doesn’t draw nearly the number of vehicles needed for the lots to turn a profit — particularly after a new Metro-North station opened nearby in 2009.
City officials have also faulted the rise of ride-hail services, an overestimate of parking needs by an independent evaluator and competition from cheaper parking lots nearby. Some baseball fans have criticized parking prices of $45 per game as too steep.
The Bronx Parking Development Company (BPDC) has been unable to make its bond payments since April 2011, according to city documents, and first defaulted on the bonds in 2013.
In August 2020, then-Parks Department Commissioner Mitchell Silver sent the firm a letter warning that the city was taking steps to potentially terminate the parking lots’ lease on city parkland based on the failure to pay rent. The lease appears to still be in effect.
One outside observer said the city’s options may be limited given the lack of parking revenue.
“The best course of action would be to reach a settlement with the bondholders or do some sort of redevelopment of the parking garage, because clearly it’s not generating the revenue it needs to to pay off the debt,” said Lisa Washburn, a managing partner at Municipal Market Analytics based in Concord, Mass., which reviews bond defaults.
“I don’t think there’s any magic wand for improving the parking garage to an extent that it’s going to all of a sudden be producing the revenue it needs to,” Washburn said.
A spokesperson for the Parks Department referred questions to the city’s Economic Development Corporation, which signed a 99-year lease agreement with BPDC in 2007.
An EDC spokesperson said the city is willing to continue talks with bondholders about any potential restructuring of the bonds — a move that could help the BPDC emerge from its debts.
The spokesperson noted that the payments to the city are an “accrued liability” rather than “payments due” because the bonds — which are still in default — must be paid back first.
The EDC and its partners came close to a possible solution to the quandary last year with the bid to secure a new soccer stadium for the NYC Football Club (NYCFC) — which for years has been playing its home games at Yankee Stadium.
That plan would have allowed a group of developers, including the firm Maddd Equities, to buy some of the parking lots and develop the area surrounding a 25,000 seat soccer arena with affordable housing, a hotel and a school.
The terms of that deal show that EDC was willing to forego the entirety of the debt owed to the city in order to cement a plan that, for the first time, could yield actual revenues for city taxpayers.
“Because it is not financially feasible for BPDC to cure the payment default on the IDA bonds, due to insufficient parking revenue, it is not anticipated that the City will receive any payment of accrued or future amounts of rent, PILOT, or interest thereon, during the term of the BPDC Lease,” reads a document that described the proposed deal in April 2021.
A few months later, a required vote by Bronx Community Board 4 was called off in the face of the deal’s collapse.
Community board reps didn’t respond to an email seeking comment, and the office of Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson didn’t respond either.
Local City Councilmember Althea Stevens (D-The Bronx), who’s in her first year in office, said she has spent plenty of time trying to get to the bottom of what’s been happening in the lots outside of Yankee Stadium for the past 15 years.
Stevens said she’s getting different stories from each stakeholder, and that it’s been a challenge getting paperwork that states everything that was promised early on.
“I’m more aware of how it’s impacted my community because they were under the impression that they’d be able to use the parking lots in the off-season and that hasn’t been the case,” she told THE CITY. “There’s no reason to have all this space here that’s not being used at all.”
On top of everything, private auditors have questioned financial transactions undertaken by the former management company that operated the BPDC parking lots and garages, Quik Park Isabel LLC, between 2017 and 2019.
Among the oddities was a weekly stipend of $400 to a Quik Park employee that was characterized as “reimbursement,” but that the company never explained to auditors.
That same employee was also awarded nearly $27,000 in payments toward the lease of a 2017 Infiniti SUV that the parking management firm also did not explain to auditors — who were unable to identify the employee in question.
BPDC terminated Quik Park as the parking management firm in March 2019 and replaced it with City Parking, documents show.
Reps at Quik Park couldn’t be reached for comment.