NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A charity created by the Yankees in 2006 to help win support from Bronx residents upset about the team’s plans to build a new stadium — seizing 25 acres of public parkland — has been spending most of its money in communities, often wealthier ones, that were not impacted by the construction, according to a report.
The New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund promised to distribute $40 million in cash grants and sports equipment and 600,000 baseball tickets to community organizations in the Bronx over four decades. But The New York Times reported Tuesday that of the $6.8 million allocated by the fund from 2008 to 2015, only 30 percent was given to charities in Yankee Stadium’s ZIP code or four bordering ones. Those neighborhoods are some of the poorest in the country.
A six-person board of directors makes the fund’s decisions on grants. Michael Drezin, a former administrator of the fund who unsuccessfully sued it for mismanagement in 2009, said the members were chosen because of their ties to elected officials.
At least $300,000 in grants was awarded to groups that shared common board members with the stadium fund, the Times reported.
“You could tell right away it was basically a slush fund,” Lukas Herbert, a former member of the local community board who voted against the stadium, told the newspaper. “The Bronx delegation got to choose who to administer the fund they created. No person who cared about good governance would come up with a system like that.”
Joyce Hogi, who is on the board of the Bronx Museum, said the fund does little to spread the word in the community about available grants, adding it’s “like a deep, dark secret.”
And despite the Yankees providing $35,000 annually for operating expenses, the fund has been allocating 10 percent of its grant money to cover its own “additional administrative costs” since 2011.
A community benefits agreement mandated that the Yankee Stadium fund “shall distribute a complete annual report of its activities, including contributions and impacts.” But it has never made an annual report publicly available, the Times reported.
Fund officials did not respond to numerous requests for comment from the Times over a four-month period. A Yankees spokeswoman said the team would not comment on the fund’s activities.
Ten years after the stadium’s groundbreaking, 84 percent of the park space has been restored.