Team lawyers fighting release of records

Updated: June 1, 2009, 8:31 PM ET
Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. -- New York Yankees officials said Monday that taxpayers would face more than $5 million in document costs if the team is forced to provide internal records sought by lawmakers looking into public financing of the club's new stadium.

Assemblymen Richard Brodsky, a Westchester Democrat, and James Brennan, a Brooklyn Democrat, are questioning what Brodsky claims is nearly $4 billion in financing and tax breaks over 30 years that was used to build the new ballpark. The legislators say many ticket prices have been hiked beyond the reach of fans.

Yankees' attorney George Carpinello said the estimated $5 million is for legal review of some 1.4 million relevant e-mails and attachments and doesn't include reams of other documents.

"If he wants the documents, the standard rule is he pays for them," Carpinello said. "That's the law in New York. That's the case law.

"I hope they're spared. I hope the bill isn't put on the taxpayers."

Brodsky said the Yankees didn't provide information they promised and he disputed that the team's document costs would fall to him or the public, saying the Yankees are looking for another subsidy from the taxpayer.

Brodsky chairs the Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions. And by his accounting, the stadium included $1.4 billion as the face value of the New York City Industrial Development Agency bonds, $1.4 billion in interest, $700 million in direct cash payments and $300 million in mortgage and sales tax relief.

The Yankees dispute the $4 billion figure for the stadium that cost $1.5 billion, and said many ticket prices remain in reach. They said the stadium deal was fully considered by many public agencies.

After Monday's contentious hearing, state Supreme Court Justice John Egan Jr. said he will issue a written decision. He'll decide whether Brodsky has the subpoena authority, which the Yankees challenged, whether they must comply, and the scope and cost of any required information, and whether it's overly burdensome.

Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, a Manhattan Democrat, testified the Yankees' information would help lawmakers considering his legislation that would limit some ticket prices and set other terms in return for public stadium funding. He now has 70 Assembly co-sponsors.

Yankees chief operating officer Lonn Trost says 90 percent of non-suite stadium tickets -- some 42,000 seats -- cost under $100. Trost said Brodsky was "grandstanding." He said the Yankees have sold 87.5 percent of available tickets.

"We are leading Major League Baseball in attendance by a fairly wide margin," team president Randy Levine said. "Can we do better? We can always do better."

Kavanagh said he has heard complaints from constituents about ticket prices and questioned whether $100 tickets for a family of four, or $400 for a night of baseball, is affordable.

Trost countered that the team has 5,000 tickets priced between $5 and $14 and another 22,000 in prices ranging from $20 to $45.

Brodsky, who also took the stand, said he focused on the Yankees' deal instead of public financing for the new New York Mets stadium across town because the Yankees' deal was twice the cost. Brodsky also claimed the Yankees' deal appeared to manipulate the property tax assessments and had included $1 million to cover free tickets for city officials.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press