Testimony from last week's town hall meeting
Since only around eight community residents were allowed to speak at last week's town hall meeting, is it any surprise that there were plenty of people who were not able to speak? Follows is the testimony from one such person, who emailed it to the blog and asked to have it posted. If you would like to have your statements included in the blog, by all means send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
My name is David Gratt. I’m a local resident and Yankee season ticket holder. I have masters degree in Urban Planning from Columbia University and I am a former employee of the New York City Department of City Planning. I represent Friends of Yankee Stadium, a Bronx based group comprised of residents, baseball fans, planners and preservationists.
We oppose the proposal to build a new Yankee Stadium for the following reasons:
The deal behind this proposal was pulled together over a weekend in June as a way to salvage New York City’s Olympic Bid. This proposal was not created with the community in mind, but rather as a way to leverage development elsewhere in the city. This is such a bad proposal that the non-stadium elements of this plan, such as the replacement parkland, are still in flux, even as the proposal moves through the public approval process.
There was no due diligence for the parks alienation. Instead, alienation legislation was introduced during the pile-up at the end of the legislative session and passed on a day when hundreds of other bills were passed. While this may be legal, it is not ethical. Furthermore, Parks Alienation is for public goods or pressing needs. While a courthouse is a public good, and a federally mandated water treatment plant is a pressing need, stadium for a private enterprise is neither.
Much of the relocated or additional park space is substandard to the existing space. The Jerome Avenue Elevated line bisects one area of new proposed park space; another area of proposed park space, advertised as “waterfront” park space, is hemmed in on one side by the Major Deegan and on another side by a rail line that runs on pylons in the Harlem River. In both cases, these are “left over” scraps of land being pressed into service as park space.
In the discussion of renovation, the Yankees have never stated approximate costs or issues to renovation; they have merely said that it is not practical without any supporting statements. Meanwhile, the Red Sox, playing in a stadium eleven years older and with 20,000 fewer seats have committed to renovating Fenway Park, and the previous Boro President released a plan stating that Yankee Stadium could be renovated for $176 million, considerably less than the $800 million that it would cost to build a new stadium. If the Yankees are adamant that renovation is not an option, they must explain, in detail, why this is the case.
Despite the Boro President's statements to the contrary, the Yankees have nowhere else to go. Threats to move the Yankees have been straw men since 1998, when traffic analysis at City Planning determined that it was infeasible to place a ballpark on the West Side of Manhattan. New Jersey has never been an option due to Turnpike traffic, lack of mass transit, and funding issues. To say that this deal is necessary to keep the Yankees in the Bronx is disingenuous.
The Yankees are already the wealthiest team in baseball with the current facility, and their location in the nation’s center of media, advertising and corporate headquarters insures that they will retain this title, whether they move into a new stadium or not. Financially, the Yankees only compete against themselves. While the Yankees continue to state that there will be no city money used in the construction of the new stadium, the project requires an outlay in excess $450 million in public funds for related costs. The Public, for instance, will bear the costs of destroying and moving park space, will no loner receive rent money from the Yankees, and will not receive tax money from the team.
The city is expected to run budget deficits of $4.5 and $4 billion dollars over the next two years. With cops, firemen, and teachers all underpaid, with potholes to fill and schools to build, we, the tax payers don’t have the money to spend moving parks, tearing down stadia and building parking lots to further a rich man’s toy. Finally, the vast majority of improvements proposed by this plan, such as high schools, a hotel, improved park space, new trees, use of stadium parking lots by the community and rail access do not require they development of a new facility. They can all be accomplished independently of the proposed plan.
The Yankees are essentially a colonial enterprise. They take resources from the Bronx, in the form of money, space, light and air, and who benefits? The people of Tampa, where George Steinbrenner proudly donates money to support educational causes.
4,200 new parking spaces, a park with plastic grass and “waterfront park space” a half-mile away squeezed between a highway and a rail line do not serve the best interests of the community; and a benefits agreement which hasn’t even been discussed yet will not suddenly make things all better.
Those of us not running for higher office or looking to take advantage of a poor, minority community can clearly see that this is a bad plan for the people who matter most: the residents of Highbridge, Concourse, and the Bronx.
We do not oppose development in the Bronx, but we do oppose the senseless wasting of our precious budgetary resources and our park space.