"$28 Million for the Bronx in the Yankees' Stadium Plan" in NY Times, 3/22/6
$28 Million for the Bronx in the Yankees' Stadium Plan
By TIMOTHY WILLIAMS
Published: March 22, 2006
As part of the Yankees' proposal to build a new stadium, the team will contribute $28 million to a trust fund and distribute 15,000 free tickets each season to Bronx groups, according to the draft plan of a community benefits program.
The proposal also calls for the team to pay $100,000 a year to maintain parks around the stadium and distribute $100,000 a year in "equipment and promotional merchandise" to schools and youth groups in New York City. There was no requirement, however, that the $28 million, which would be distributed over a 40-year period, be spent in the South Bronx, the site of the stadium and its replacement.
Stadium opponents observed yesterday that the proposal for a 53,000-seat stadium calls for the trust fund to be administered by "an individual of prominence" appointed by an advisory group that would be selected by elected Bronx officials — who are nearly unanimous in their support of the stadium despite intense neighborhood opposition.
"It would be like the fox guarding the henhouse," said City Councilwoman Helen Diane Foster, one of the few Bronx officials opposing the new stadium.
The proposals, which include a pledge that a quarter of stadium construction jobs would go to Bronx residents, are part of the draft benefits program negotiated between the Yankees and Bronx officials.
The agreement is expected to be completed in a few days and will be part of the stadium package presented to the City Council before it votes on the stadium on April 5.
"We are in the process of negotiating and hopefully finalizing a job training, contractor training and community partnership agreement," said Randy Levine, president of the Yankees. "We think it will be very significant, and it would be inappropriate for me to comment until an agreement is finalized."
Plans for an $800 million stadium on two public parks next to the present stadium have drawn antipathy in the neighborhoods around the stadium, where residents say the parks that will be paved over — Mullaly and Macombs Dam Parks — are vital to a community with a high rate of childhood asthma and a lack of green space.
The parks would be replaced by smaller parks scattered throughout the area, including some on the rooftops of garages that would be built for stadium parking.
The stadium's neighbors say the Yankees have done little outreach in the community, which is among the poorest in the nation. Many residents say they are particularly estranged from the team because they cannot afford tickets but have to put up with traffic and noise on game days.
The Yankees want to start construction on the stadium this summer and finish by opening day 2009. The project has been approved by the Department of City Planning.
Borough President Adolfo Carrión, a chief advocate for the stadium, said he had lobbied for a benefits agreement to ensure that residents get well-paying jobs.
"My goal has always been that any development that happens in the Bronx should have benefits, including job creation," he said.
But many of the people who live near the stadium and oppose the project say their elected officials have misled them about the plan and have ignored a nonbinding vote last year by the local community board, which rejected the new stadium.
While the community benefits agreement has been the subject of negotiations for more than six months, Lukas Herbert, a member of the community board and a county planner in Westchester, said the board has not been asked for its opinion.
After he read the eight-page draft yesterday, Mr. Herbert called the $28 million trust fund a "slush fund."
"This thing is disgraceful," he said. "It's going to be controlled by the Bronx political machine — the very people who sold out the community in the first place."
The draft plan calls for the trust fund to be endowed in annual increments of $700,000 over the 40-year life of the Yankees lease.
It also calls for the Yankees to reserve at least 25 percent of the construction contracts for Bronx-based companies, at least half of which would be run by women or members of minorities. At least 25 percent of the construction and post-construction jobs would also go to Bronx residents. An administrator hired by the Yankees will monitor the team to ensure it is compliant, according to the draft agreement.
In 2005, the Yankees donated $291,000 of the $1.5 million distributed nationally by the Yankee Foundation to Bronx groups, the team said.
Councilwoman Foster, who lives a few blocks from the stadium, said she would continue trying to negotiate a better deal for the community.
"Everything we hear is about how this is going to be a better thing for the Yankees and their fans. But I don't care about the Yankees, I care about my constituents," she said.