The administration of Mayor Martin J. Walsh is criticizing a 2013 deal that gave the Boston Red Sox permanent rights on two city streets by Fenway Park for $7.3 million, calling it a bad deal for the taxpayers and implicitly criticizing Walsh’s predecessor, Thomas M. Menino.
Boston Redevelopment Authority documents show that the agreement giving the Red Sox permanent use of Yawkey Way on game days and air rights over Lansdowne Street was not provided to BRA board members until hours before their Sept. 26, 2013, meeting, limiting time for review before a vote.
Nonetheless, the board approved the no-bid agreement, 4 to 1, at that meeting, despite an appeal to wait from the state inspector general, who argued that the BRA had not done the necessary appraisals to determine the value of the rights to the two streets.
“The Walsh administration would not have recommended approval of this deal,” Kate Norton, administration spokeswoman, said in a statement.
Boston “should receive a greater revenue share for Yawkey Way than is provided in this current deal, and the public should have had the opportunity to examine the deal and weigh in on the impact for the city,” Norton said.
Telephone messages for Peter Meade, BRA director at the time of the deal, and James Tierney, his chief of staff, were not returned. But they have defended the deal in the past, saying it provides the city a predictable revenue stream over the next decade as the Red Sox make annual payments.
Red Sox officials have praised the agreement, which replaced a lower-price agreement with the city that expired last year.
“If you’re looking for a short answer to ‘what’s in this for the city?’ one answer is the preservation of Fenway Park, Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said last September. Red Sox principal owner John Henry owns The Boston Globe.
But former inspector general Gregory W. Sullivan said the deal with the Red Sox was “outrageous,” noting that it was rushed through over the current inspector general’s objections.
“It’s my understanding that this matter was handled in a manner completely at odds with the standard process by the BRA,” said Sullivan, research director at the Pioneer Institute, a policy think tank.
Walsh’s acting BRA director, Brian Golden, made it clear this week that he would not have approved it, though he was on the BRA staff at the time the deal was sealed.
“The BRA’s current senior staff would not recommend the deal that was approved and executed in 2013,” he said in a statement. “The agreement should not have been permanent. It should have provided the public with a share of the revenue generated on Yawkey Way” where the Red Sox run a street fair outside the gates of Fenway Park on game days.
Debate over the team’s right to use Yawkey Way as well as the air over Lansdowne Street, where the Monster seats behind left field are located, came to a head as the Sox were heading toward their third world championship in a decade. The deal also came just before Mayor Menino’s 20-year tenure was about to end.
Inspector General Glen Cunha sent a letter to the BRA on Sept. 26, 2013, urging a delay in the vote, noting that the public had never had an opportunity to comment. Cunha, who is still investigating the deal, also wondered why the BRA would negotiate a permanent arrangement with so little information.
“There is no reason to vote tonight on a new deal that the city will have to live with for decades,” Cunha wrote.
Meanwhile, BRA board member Timothy J. Burke, the lone vote against the deal, complained on the morning of the vote that he had not yet seen the seven-page agreement with the Red Sox.
“Did you get the Yawkey Way memo?” Burke wrote in an e-mail to the board’s administrative assistant at 10:59 a.m. “Please send it to me.” He finally received the document less than six hours before the meeting was called to order.
Burke said in an e-mail to the Globe Thursday that he initially requested the memo several days before the meeting. He said memos of this kind are normally provided to board member seven to 10 days in advance in a package of written materials covering items on the agenda of upcoming meetings.
“This memo was not included in the package, as is customary,” he said.
Even before his election last November, Walsh has criticized what he has termed a lack of transparency at the BRA, saying he wanted to abolish it as a standalone agency
In March, Walsh fired 14 BRA employees, which included the elimination of the entire division of business development. Walsh also ordered a wide-ranging audit of the BRA, a possible step toward fulfilling his campaign promise to restructure the agency. That audit is still pending.
On Thursday, BRA spokesman Nick Martin pointedly said that only former director Meade or his deputy Tierney could explain the Red Sox deal or why the terms changed over time to become even more favorable to the team.
“The deal was negotiated by two individuals that no longer work for the agency, and current staff members are not in a position to explain why the proposed terms changed over time,” Martin said in an e-mail.