Why is Burns giving MAC freebies?

To the Editor:

The most interesting agenda item at the Feb. 18 53rd Street TIF Advisory Council meeting was not even on the agenda. I refer to the proposal, supported by Ald. Will Burns (4th), to allow MAC Properties to use two parking spaces (36 feet of curb space) on Kenwood just north of 53rd Street for valet parking between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. I find this problematic for two reasons: it gives away public goods for private use, and whatever logic the alderman applies in making these decisions is known only to him.

The market value of two parking spaces at that corner is easily calculated, as there is paid parking right there on 53rd Street for $2 an hour per space, which works out to about $12,000 a year for two spaces. Presumably MAC Properties could make an arrangement to use two spaces on 53rd Street by covering the lost revenue. If Burns wants to give MAC free access to two public parking spaces instead, then I would like at the very least to see him provide $12,000 in benefit to the neighborhood from his own funds.

And why does MAC in particular deserve this favor?  What policy is the alderman applying here? What if other business owners on 53rd Street ask for similar concessions? MAC seems to be protecting itself against anticipated future parking problems. I really want to believe that Burns’s decision is not capricious, but that would require more transparency than I have seen so far.

I would like to say that I was shocked, but unfortunately the giving away of public goods for private benefit is kind of the point of a TIF. This gift of two parking spaces pales in comparison to the $11.3 million subsidy for MAC’s City Hyde Park or the $23.4 million for Harper Court, but that does not make it right. Because it’s good for MAC doesn’t mean it’s good for the community.

Michael Scott