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Hatchet Job: NYT cherry-picks facts in report on NYCFC stadium cost to city

The Newspaper of Record gets all hotted up that NYCFC’s proposed stadium won’t be subjected to property taxes — just like every other arena in the city

MLS: Colorado Rapids at New York City FC
NYCFC President and CEO Brad sims with New York City Mayor Eric Adams: A deal is a deal.
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Those of us who read the New York Times are usually delighted when we find a mention of New York City FC in those storied pages. Earlier this morning, the Times published an article titled “Will New York City’s Soccer Stadium Cost Taxpayers $0 or $516 Million?” While Newspaper of Record can’t always be bothered to cover a deep run in the playoffs, it will sniff out a story if it involves politics, real estate, and a headline that can include a fat, juicy dollar amount.

The article takes a report issued by the Independent Budget Office stating that the city will lose $1.7 billion in property taxes over the course of the 49-year lease for NYCFC’s proposed stadium at Willets Point, or $516 million in today’s dollars. Because the land was leased, and not purchased, no property taxes will be paid.

How could NYCFC do New York City like that? After all, the New York Times certainly knows that every not a single sports arena within the Five Boroughs pays property taxes.

That’s right: No stadium or arena in the city pays property taxes.

In other words, NYCFC aren’t the beneficiary of some some crafty exemption negotiated in smoke-filled backrooms and signed in invisible ink, it’s simply business as usual here in Gotham. In fact, the proposed NYCFC stadium will be the have the lightest economic burden of all of the major venues in New York. The corporate welfare doled out to Yankee Stadium ($110.9 million), Citi Field ($106 million), Barclays Center ($85.2 million), and Madison Square Garden ($42 million) – that’s a combined $345 million for those of you keeping count – dwarfs the estimated $10 million the NYCFC stadium would owe. If you want to see the figures yourself, click on the city’s Annual Report on Tax Expenditures for Fiscal Year 2022 and scroll down to page 170. Fun stuff.

Despite what the Times piece implies, the NYCFC stadium deal is remarkably transparent and forthright. We’ll even go so far as to say it’s the most beneficial development of its kind in New York State:

• NYCFC will pay rent to the city that will start at $500,000 per year and climb to $4 million by the end of the 49-year lease, while the Yankees pay just $1 per year for the parkland under their stadium.

• NYCFC will finance their stadium themselves, while the Buffalo Bills received an $850 million giveaway when the state agreed to directly subsidize construction costs.

• The NYCFC stadium will be the catalyst of a $2 billion complex of 2,500 units of affordable housing, and construction on the stadium will start only after the housing is underway, while Barclays Center anchors a luxury development with 4,000 market-rate apartments and 2,250 affordable units – 877 of which have yet to be built a full 12 years after the arena opened.

• The property tax exemption for the NYCFC stadium is a part of the terms of the development, while Madison Square Garden’s exemption is the result of a 1982 law that specifically benefits the arena, and that is renewed periodically.

Not only does the New York Times article elide these key considerations, it treats the Willets Point development as some sort of billionaire land-grab by citing the estimated personal wealth of Stephen M. Ross, chairman of Related Companies, one of the developers of the project, and Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan, owner of City Football Group, the parent company of NYCFC. It’s guilt by net worth, but all it really tells us is that the people who build mega-developments in New York and who own major league sports teams tend to have piles of money.

Our educated guess is that the city’s Independent Budget Office crunched the numbers for the Willets Point development and issued a report stating that the stadium will cost $1.7 billion in property taxes over the course of the lease, which works out to $516 million in today’s dollars, and that the New York Times decided to sensationalize that figure in order to turn a ho-hum Metro piece into something that would catch the eyes of their readers.

It seemed to have worked. We took the bait.