Cites Unexplained Costs of New Parks in the Bronx
With costs ballooning to replace two Bronx parks that were bulldozed for the new Yankee Stadium — the latest estimate is almost $195 million — the city’s Independent Budget Office said on Tuesday that more than $16 million of the higher expense “remains to be explained.”
The latest cost is almost $79 million over the 2005 estimate of $116 million, which itself was considerably more than the $96 million figure based on “conceptual designs” in an environmental impact statement using 2004 dollars.
The Yankees will be using their new $1.3 billion ballpark for opening day in April, but Little Leaguers, tennis players and picnickers are unlikely to have access to all eight replacement parks until the end of 2011, a year later than promised, the budget office said in a report.
“Since the plans were announced, the costs of these projects have risen significantly,” said the budget office, a publicly funded agency that provides nonpartisan information about city finances.
Part of the increase, the budget office said, was caused by expansion of the project and unanticipated cleanup costs. But, it said, since the parks department is withholding some figures until bidding is complete, “more than a fifth of the increase, $16.3 million, remains to be explained.”
The Department of Parks and Recreation called the findings old news. “It’s consistent with what we’ve been saying all along,” said Jama Adams, a spokeswoman. “None of these numbers are new. There have been cost increases just like every other construction project.”
Ms. Adams attributed the increases in part to the costs of removing buried oil barrels and other toxic waste. But she said some new parks would be available long before 2011.
A spokeswoman for the Yankees, Alice McGillion at Rubenstein Associates, said the team, which is paying for the stadium with the help of city incentives such as tax-exempt bonds, had put up $10 million for the new parks but had no control over the scheduling of their construction.
Building the new stadium one block north of the old one at East 161st Street and River Avenue required demolition of Macombs Dam Park and a portion of John Mullaly Park, totaling more than 22 acres. Because state law requires replacement of lost parkland, the city agreed to create eight smaller parks totaling more than 32 acres.
The largest is to be Waterfront Park, nearly 10 acres near the Harlem River and the Major Deegan Expressway, with 16 tennis courts (replacing the 16 lost at Macombs Dam Park), a beach, a seasonal ice rink, and a tennis and skating house in the former powerhouse building of the Bronx Terminal Market.
Also at nearly 10 acres, the new Heritage Field at the site of the old stadium is set to include ball fields and a promenade to the new Macombs Dam Park, more than seven acres atop a new Yankee Stadium garage. Smaller pocket parks are to be interspersed nearby.
In its report, the budget office said $30 million of the increased parkland cost was due to an expansion of the program, to more than 32 acres from an original conception of fewer than 25. Costs have risen 42 percent since 2005 just for the projects in the original plan, it said. In its expanded form, the project is 67 percent more expensive than estimated. Demolishing the old stadium and building Heritage Field and the promenade would end up costing more than $72 million, more than what was anticipated, the report said.
Before the economic downturn, construction costs outpaced inflation, it said. And there was another factor, it added: “Published reports also indicate that to the extent that New York City, as well as other public-sector entities, is perceived as a difficult client, potential bidders are reluctant to bid on city contracts, and many observers believe that those who do bid include a premium for working with the city.”
By RALPH BLUMENTHAL
New York Times