The New York Times put out a lengthy report today detailing the past 10 years of the “New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund,” a charity the team created after they caught heat for taking public park land to build its new coliseum in the South Bronx.
Essentially, after the Yankees vowed to distribute millions in grants, sports equipment, and tickets to local community organizations in the Bronx as penance for taking its land, the highly secretive fund’s lack of oversight has enabled its controllers to do what they wish with it. While the paper stops short of accusing anybody of outright corruption, the Times reports that the fund hasn’t been distributing money where it should be going:
(The fund) has operated with little oversight or public accountability, neglecting those who live near the stadium and instead sending money to other, often wealthier parts of the Bronx that were not affected by the construction.
The fund also regularly donates to organizations with which it shares common board members.
The money has been donated to various non-profits and scholarship funds, but the Times indicates that between 2008 and 2015, only 30 percent of the organization’s funding went to the Yankee Stadium ZIP code or its four bordering ZIP codes. This is a problem, because the neighborhoods right around the stadium are some of the city’s poorest, with 38.1 percent living below the poverty line. Funds spent there could do a lot of good, especially compared to some of the other donations made:
In 2014, the fund sent $8,500 to the New York City Cat Coalition, a group of women helping feral cats in Eastchester, seven miles from the stadium. It has also donated at least $18,000 to two private high schools in Throgs Neck, an affluent neighborhood nine miles from the stadium.
The Edgewater Athletic Association, a recreation center in a gated community in Throgs Neck, has received $29,000.
In 2011 the fund voted to award itself 10 percent of its grants to cover administrative expenses, though the Yankees already provide $35,000 a year for its operating expenses. One former community board member calls it “basically a slush fund.” At least $300,000, the Times notes, “has flowed to organizations that have shared common board members with the Yankee Stadium fund.”
The fund has been plagued by a lack of transparency. It’s unknown how its board of directors was selected, the fund’s annual reports aren’t made public, and audits the Times obtained from the State Attorney General’s office don’t clarify who receives tickets or how they’re distributed. These practices differ greatly from other charitable funds:
“All the other nonprofits that I know of who have grants for community organizations are very proactive in terms of alerting the community,” said Joyce Hogi, who is on the board of the Bronx Museum and has been involved in local nonprofits for decades. The Yankee Stadium fund, she said, is “like a deep, dark secret.”
A Yankees spokesperson said in the piece that the team has no involvement in the distribution of the fund’s money, and frankly, that’s believable, given that the fund is simply a legal obligation and its spending seems to lack clear direction. With the Yankees keeping their distance, however, their own neighborhood is missing out.