An open letter to our public servants
We have seen in the papers that the Yankee Stadium plan has the support of every elected official in the Bronx, and in fact the bill alienating the parkland that passed the General Assembly was sponsored by Carmen Arroyo and a delegation of Bronx Assemblypersons. But it isn't true that every elected official supports this plan, as evidenced by Helen Diane Foster's comments in amNewYork last week (you can find this article posted on the blog below). We welcome Ms Foster's support and pledge our support to her and any elected official who will change their position on this issue. Meanwhile, we would like to shed some light on those elected officials who do not have their constituent's best interests at heart.
Senator Serrano gave a report at a recent community board meeting that pointed out that he had just sponsored a bill to preserve parkland and open space in his district "because we live in asthma alley", but he voted to support this project. He gave this report to a room packed full of local residents who are so deeply concerned about this plan that they braved driving rain and flood warnings to attend that particular meeting to hear the Yankees and the Parks Department present the plan to the community for the very first time (the Yankees had missed a previous meeting they were scheduled to attend without offering the courtesy of an explanation). Unfortunately, neither the Yankees nor the Parks Department made it to this particular meeting either. It was raining, you see. And yet we were there, and laughed incredulously when Senator Serrano made his report about what he is doing to preserve greenspace in his district...except Macomb's Dam and John Mullaly parks, of course.
Congressman Serrano just co-sponsored a day-long seminar with NYU focusing on how the South Bronx has the highest asthma rate in the country, and how much of the disease is excacerbated by high-density traffic and pollutants. But he supports this project, a project which would add thousands of vehicular trips while at the same time destroying so many mature oaks that it would take the planting of more than 30,000 trees to replace the air-cleansing actions of these trees. This at a time when the Parks Department has said we already need to plant 40,000 trees in the South Bronx to mitigate against the pollution which is causing asthma in so many of our young.
We commend both Congressman Serrano and Senator Serrano for the wonderful things they have done for their constituents. We are lucky to have them representing us, but how can they square their support of the stadium being built on our parks and the addition of so many garages with their real efforts to improve the health of their constituents?
Councilwoman Arroyo, as reported in recent newspaper articles, has said she didn't know there was opposition to the plan when she voted for it, and that she would have handled it differently had she known. Well, we would like to point out that she has attended neighborhood rallies where the only goal was to express outrage at this proposal. She generally takes the opportunity to speak to the press and point out that she didn't know that the community opposes the plan. The first of these was back at the beginning of August, and yet as recently as last week she was broadcasting the idea that she just didn't know we oppose this plan. It is time for her to know.
Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión has been a supporter of building a new stadium on the park. The Yankee plan is "about bringing jobs to our residents, restoring our neighborhoods, building news (sic) parks, improving the infrastructure and creating opportunities," he was quoted as saying in amNewYork last week. To this we have to say: how the devil does building a stadium "restore our neighborhoods", especially when the DEIS points out that placing a stadium in the parks will blight Jerome Avenue? In what bizarro world does blight = restore? The only infrastucture which will be improved will be the addition of parking garages. And what are these "opportunities" that he speaks and for whom are they? He doesn't have an argument, and yet he continues to strongly support this plan. Why?
How can all these elected officials, and the Yankees as well, say that they are working with community groups when we, SaveOurParks, a group that was formed in opposition to this project and has garnered over 4,000 signatures on petitions since just the beginning of October, have yet to meet with one elected official besides Helen Diane Foster? The petitions are still running, and provide us with the opportunity of meeting our neighbors. Residents are outraged when they learn what this project really entails: replacement parkland more than a half mile away on the other side of the Major Deegan and the rail lines; the replacement of parkland with "park features" on top of garages; the addition of thousands of garage spaces; the lack of concrete plans for what will happen to the old stadium (at the town hall meeting last Thursday the Yankees were presenting a new alternative that they had come up with a few days before. At this point there are at least three in circulation). Et cetera.
You say families throughout the neighborhood will be able to benefit from the economic benefits associated with building the new stadium. We say stadiums have never provided economic benefits to a residential community. If they have, we welcome the proof. The Yankees have been here for 82 years and have not so far. They had record attendance this past season: 4,000,000 plus (in what you like to call an "outdated" stadium!). No one in the residential neighborhood benefited from that, but guess what? At about the time that our parks were being "signed over" to Steinbrenner, he was pledging $250,000.00 to Tampa Catholic High School. He makes his money here and spends it elsewhere. It was only 10 years ago that the Yankee organization was comparing our neighborhood kids to monkeys in an article in New York magazine. As was evidenced by Thursday night's meeting, they have the same disdain for this community as they always have.
But they don't have anywhere else to go.
We would like you to let us know how you could so casually further disenfranchise a community such as ours. Shame on our elected officials for giving away our parks. The fact that our parkland was alienated before the plan was presented to the community and Community Board 4 is proof that you want this to be a "done deal".
If this is really a "done deal", as you and the Yankees repeatedly say, we have you to blame.
And we won't forget.