Flag on the Play: 106 Economists Denounce Jets Stadium Deal

(New York City, NY) -- As lawmakers prepared to vote this week on a proposed stadium financing scheme for the New York Jets, 106 economists, including a Nobel Laureate, issued a clear warning: the flawed plan would punt $1.3 billion in subsidy costs to taxpayers with little prospect for economic return. The non-partisan National Taxpayers Union (NTU), with 350,000 members nationwide and over 2,000 members in New York City, organized and delivered the joint statement today to Governor Pataki, Mayor Bloomberg, and the City Council.

"A vast body of economic research on the impact of sports stadiums suggests that the proposed Jets Stadium on Manhattan's West Side, now estimated to cost $1.925 billion -- more than three times the cost of any other NFL stadium -- will not generate significant net economic or fiscal benefits," the open letter stated. At least $1.295 billion of the project's price tag would be subsidized in some form by state or local taxpayers.

According to NTU President John Berthoud, who holds a Ph.D. in Political Economy from Yale, the philosophical and geographical diversity of the signatories is a powerful statement all by itself. Signers of the letter include Nobel Laureate Vernon Smith, and representatives of institutions in two dozen states (economists affiliated with Columbia, Princeton, and Rutgers are among those listed). Berthoud noted, "Supporters of the Jets' fiasco can't claim they have all the economic evidence on their side, when 106 respected voices from across the country and the economic spectrum are saying, 'we object.' This opposition only confirms that New Yorkers have every right to worry about their pockets being picked for the wrong economic play."

NTU has actively opposed taxpayer-financed sports stadiums for the better part of a decade. In May of 2004, NTU Director of Government Affairs Paul J. Gessing testified before the City Council against the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards redevelopment proposal that included a tax-backed facility for the New Jersey Nets. In late 2004 NTU teamed with other community groups to speak out against the $505 million subsidized ballpark for the Washington Nationals. Based on data from a study Gessing conducted, the Jets Stadium would receive the largest infusion of tax dollars for any pro ball facility so far, including a below-market-value land giveaway, $600 million in direct subsidies, and $96 million for pedestrian access and other improvements.

"These massive subsidies are both unnecessary for economic development and very inappropriate given that New York City and State already place heavy tax burdens upon their citizens," the signatories concluded. "Economically speaking, these subsidies, along with the additional tax burdens and/or opportunity costs they would place upon taxpayers, are unwise."

NTU is a citizen group founded in 1969 to work for lower taxes and smaller government. Note: The economists' statement, along with other studies and commentaries on taxpayer-financed stadiums, is available online at www.ntu.org.