In the Bronx, Paterson’s Troubles Highlight Sports and Politics

Reporting contributed by Derek Simons, Ian Thomson and Rania Zabaneh

The allegations that Gov. David Paterson lied about scoring free tickets to the 2009 World Series fueled the chatter of the day on Thursday, and in the borough where the Yankees earned the World Championship, some weighed in on the convergence of sports and politics, and the soaring price of Yankee tickets.

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, a Democrat, is a baseball fan who said that he had attended one of the World Series games and that he had paid his way to attend. But Dinowitz, who says that “everybody should pay for tickets,”  agreed with countless Yankees fans who complain that the price of tickets puts the Bronx Bombers’ games out of reach for many.

Yankee Stadium -AP

Yankee Stadium -AP

“That’s another reason why I don’t go to too many games anymore,” he said. “When I was a kid you could get tickets at the bleacher for $1.”

Former Yankees public relations director, Marty Appel, said 30 years ago a box seat cost $3.50.

“The price jump has been enormous, but it really suggests that baseball does a better job of marketing itself and is more attractive,” he said.

Paterson may face criminal charges after the State Commission on Public Integrity ruled that he lied under oath about soliciting five free tickets, which had a face value of $425 each, according to The New York Times. The case was turned over to the Albany County prosecutor’s office and the state attorney general for further investigation.

Dinowitz addressed the political firestorm currently surrounding Paterson.

“I think that the governor should do his job,” Dinowitz said. “He hasn’t been accused of any crimes or hasn’t been indicted. There’s a lot of talk, and I don’t think someone should be hounded from office simply because there are accusations out there.”

Twenty-five-year-old Yankees fan, John Stover, bartends at the Yankee Tavern and says Paterson’s actions were unfair.

“You see it time and time again,” Stover said. “People use their positions to get things for free. I don’t have anything against the guy — I don’t really follow his policies. It’s not the first time somebody’s done it.”

Several other local politicians said they didn’t go to the World Series games.  State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr., who is a Pentecostal minister, said: “I don’t like baseball. I go to church.” City Councilman James Vacca’s press officer told the Bronx Ink, Vacca “would not go if he was given tickets. He’s not a baseball fan.”

State Assemblyman Michael Benjamin said he had watched the games at home on television. Chuckling over the phone, Benjamin said his office sometimes gets calls from constituents hoping to get free tickets.

“We have to write back saying, ‘No, Assemblyman Benjamin is unable to procure tickets for the World Series Games,’ ” he said. To those really persistent fans, he said he is more direct: “Those are the sorts of things that get officials in trouble.”

The ticket scandal comes in the wake of a damaging report by The New York Times that revealed that the governor might have intervened in a domestic abuse case involving a top aide, David Johnson, who attended the World Series game with the governor.

On Thursday, Paterson’s communications director Peter Kauffmann, resigned. In a statement he said, “As recent developments have come to light, I cannot in good conscience continue in my current position.”

On Thursday night, the Rev. Al Sharpton was scheduled to meet at Sylvia’s restaurant in Harlem to discuss with other politicians the governor’s political future.

Paterson also got some support from a small group of African-American law enforcement officers who gathered in Harlem to defend him today.

Red Sox fan Joseph Palladino joked that the Yankees might be behind the mess surrounding the governor, but later took on a more serious tone about what Paterson’s latest problems say about ticket pricing in professional baseball.

“Is this another sign of pricing out the lower and middle classes?” he said. “Do you need to know someone to get a ticket?”

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