Thursday, August 25, 2005

David Gratt's speech from yesterday's press conference

My name is David Gratt. I live around the corner and I represent a group called Friends of Yankee Stadium. We are a Bronx based group comprised of residents, baseball fans and preservationists. We have been asked to join this conference to express the following:

We believe that this neighborhood, the Bronx, and the rest of the City are all better off if Yankee Stadium is renovated, not demolished and rebuilt across the street.

While we do not oppose development in the South West Bronx, we do oppose insensitive development that favors developers and ignores local residents. The proposal for a New Yankee Stadium is just such an example of this development.

For 20 years, the Yankees have played up inadequacies of Yankee Stadium and the Bronx, and talked numerous times about moving to Manhattan or New Jersey.

Now, their lease is up and they have no place to go. They can't move to midtown. They can't move to New Jersey. But instead of working with them to insure the best deal for everyone, many of our legislators are giving the Yankees everything they want, to our detriment.

The Yankees say, "We need to build a new stadium."

So our state legislators, on a day at the end of the legislative session when hundreds of bills were passed, removed the protections insuring that Macombs Dam and Mullally Parks would remain undeveloped in perpetuity.

Our legislators decided that it was in our best interest to free for development a parcel of land 40% bigger than that of the World Trade Center. This was not done to promote a public good, but to enrich a private business.

Is there any chance that this would have happened in Manhattan below 96th Street or in Brownstone Brooklyn?

Of course not.

But why do the Yankees need a new stadium?

They say, "We need a new stadium to remain competitive." But the Yankees are the richest team in Major League Baseball and play in the largest and richest media market in the country.

They are the second richest sports franchise in the world.

They handle one of the most famous brands in the world.

They will come close to attracting 4 million people to the ballpark this year, a figure exceeded only 4 times in baseball's history.

They are among the league leaders in stadium revenues and made $67 million on concessions sales last year.

The Yankees say, "We need a new stadium because our rivals have them." But our evil arch enemies, the World Champion Boston Red Sox have decided to stay put, in their old, crowded, character filled 1912 stadium, which, when renovated, will still have 14,000 fewer seats than Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees say, "Yankee Stadium is so old." But the Statue of Liberty is old, and no-one says that we should tear that down and replace it with a new one. Grand Central Terminal is old, and that was just renovated and restored and looks beautiful. All over this city, and all over this country, important, historic, majestic buildings are renovated and restored and their communities are stronger because of it.

Is New York City a better place because Penn Station was torn down? No! And it will not be a better place if Yankee Stadium is torn down.

The Yankees say, "We'll pay for a new stadium." But the Yankees want the city, state and federal government, to pay for new parking garages, to move parks, and to forgo rent and taxes to the tune of more than $400 million dollars.

Simply put, the Yankees do not need a new stadium, and they don't need our money. Many of the improvements that they propose can either be incorporated into the existing facility, or can be developed independent of a new stadium.

Of course, there is another way.

The current stadium was renovated once into a 'state of the art facility' and it can be renovated into a state of the art facility once again.

Furthermore, a renovated stadium would not result in 5 years of construction dust and debris.

A renovated stadium would not require that park land be violated, taken out of circulation for 5 years and be reconstructed elsewhere.

A renovated stadium would not intrude on the more than 80 year old buffer space that separates it local residences.

A renovated stadium would also be much less expensive than a new stadium, possibly a third of the cost.

A renovated stadium would celebrate the traditions and history of the Bronx, instead of demolishing them. Yankee Stadium has seen the World Series, the Greatest Football Game ever played, Championship boxing matches and religious revivals, the Pope, Nelson Mandela and the World Trade Center Memorial.

Again: we do not oppose development. But we do oppose development that benefits a single interest, and this project only serves the Yankees.

So we look to our legislators to work with us to stop this project and help create a solution that works in everyone's best interest.

We all deserve the best and that's a beautiful, renovated Yankee Stadium, looking over the beautiful, renovated Macombs Dam and Mullally Parks.

But we won't get it if we just wait for it. The only way that we'll get it is by fighting for it.

On a personal note: I love the Yankees. I live around the corner so that I can walk to and from the games.

But it's embarrassing to me that not only are the Red Sox the world champs, but they're also the team that understands how important the ballpark is to their fans and their city. It's embarrassing to me, that our elected officials think that this is a good idea. It makes me embarrassed to be a Yankee fan, and embarrassed to be a New Yorker.


At 12:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an elitist bastard! "Preservationist" my ass! A stadium is a stadium, not a museum. Stadia can be replaced. Just because you don't like it doesn't make your opinions God!

At 9:59 PM, Blogger Joyce said...

Would you want a stadium and numerous parking garages built in your front yard?


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