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Crowley, NY Democrats defend Citi Field naming

After two congressmen from Ohio and Texas joined calls for financial giant Citigroup to nullify its $400 million naming rights contract for the Mets’ new stadium, House representatives from Queens and the rest of the metropolitan area criticized the idea.

U.S. Reps. Joseph Crowley (D−Jackson Heights), Anthony Weiner (D−Forest Hills), Gregory Meeks (D−Jamaica), Yvette Clark (D−Brooklyn), Eliot Engel (D−Bronx) and Steve Israel (D−Hauppauge) all signed a Feb. 10 letter calling on U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to ignore the request made by U.S. Reps. Dennis Kucinich (D−Ohio) and Ted Poe (R−Texas) to either force Citigroup to dissolve the deal or give back the billions in federal bailout funds it received last year.

“We believe the principle of the sanctity of a contract, once it has been signed, is very important,” the congressmen wrote, noting the Citi Field contract was signed years before the corporation sought federal relief. “Any attempt to cancel the deal would have broader implications on the local communities’ economic development, which is tied to the naming rights deal.”

Engel said there are numerous other stadiums in the country licensed by corporations that received bailout money, including JP Morgan Chase Field in Phoenix, Ariz., Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. and Citizens Bank Park and the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia.

The calls to rename Citi Field began in November, when state Assemblymen Vincent Ignizio (R−Staten Island) and City Council Minority Leader James Oddo (R−Staten Island) suggested it to Mets General Manager Omar Minaya, Chief of Operations Jeff Wilpon, Citigroup Chairman Win Bischoff and city Economic Development Corp. Chairman John Chalsty.

Citigroup and the Mets have indicated they intend to uphold the contract, which pays $20 million a year for 20 years.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.

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