Damn Yankees

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As the New York Yankees move forward with plans to break ground on a new state-of-the-art stadium in May, environmental advocates and neighborhood residents are raising a host of concerns. Many say the new stadium, to be built adjacent to the current one, will burden a community already hit hard by traffic, unemployment and health problems.

Residents’ demands vary widely. Some want inclusion in the planning process and the promise of community benefits; others are pushing for a complete abandonment of the plan.

Though the Yankees have offered to pay for the cost of the new stadium itself, the project will still require a massive infusion of public funds. The city estimates that renovation of the areas around the new stadium, including new parking spaces, improvements on local infrastructure, and re-creation of lost parkland, will total roughly $70 million in state funds and $135 million in city funds, though some argue that the actual price tag will be far greater.

“We are looking at almost $400 million in combined city, state, federal money,” says Neil DeMause, co-author of the book Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money Into Private Profit. “They are thinking about the cost of replacing the parkland, but the city will not be charging the Yankees maintenance and rent during these years, so that will be additional lost funds.”

Bronx Voices For Equal Inclusion, a subcommittee of the Mid-Bronx Neighborhood Advisory Council—comprised of residents, business-owners, and local organizations–has also voiced frustration. Members say they want to see the neighborhood profit from the new stadium and have asked the Yankees to sign a community benefits agreement, similar to the one signed for the Nets Stadium in Brooklyn.

“We welcome economic development,” says Greg Bell, chair of Bronx Voices. “We want to talk about job creation, transparency and inclusion, not about stopping Yankee Stadium.” Members of his group have met with the Bronx Borough President, but they have not yet been invited to discuss community benefits with the Yankees.

Environmental consultants to Bronx Voices have also criticized the plan to build four new parking garages containing 5,254 spaces for a stadium with 1,500 fewer seats, saying this will be a source of extra traffic, congestion, and asthma. “The city is courting development but undermining itself by not making the area more transit-friendly,” says Teresa Toro, New York City coordinator of Tristate Transportation Campaign, a regional transportation policy watchdog group. “By building a smaller stadium, but adding parking, the city is inviting more fans to drive.” Instead, Toro supports the addition of a Metro North stop or other means of encouraging mass transit to the stadium.

Another environmental concern revolves around the removal of 22 acres of public parkland in an area that badly needs it. Though the Department of Parks and Recreation has agreed to replace the full acreage of lost parkland and sports facilities in Macomb’s Dam and John Mullaly Parks using property along the Harlem River, the full restoration will take years to complete.

“The community will be without parks while the work is underway,” says Jim Fairbanks, spokesperson for Bronx Councilwoman Helen Foster. “We would rather see them in place before the construction begins.”

Other groups simply want to stop the current plan in its tracks. J.J. Brennan, a Bronx resident and local contractor, is organizing a separate movement to call for an end to the proposed stadium. “They are using our money to buy a private space on public parkland. It boggles the mind,” says Brennan. Alongside the group Friends of Yankee Stadium—which calls for preservation of the original stadium as a historic site—Brennan’s group, Save Our Parks, is collecting signatures to show widespread disapproval of the plan.

Despite neighborhood complaints, Yankee president Randy Levine says the planned construction took into consideration community needs, and there will eventually be some kind of community benefits agreement.

“We have met with representatives of the community and politicians, and we will continue to meet with them,” says Levine, adding that he couldn’t provide details—until after the playoffs.

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