"Bronx cheers for community pact" in MetroNY 03/23/06
Bronx cheers for community pact
by patrick arden / metro new york
MAR 23, 2006
CITY HALL — A crowd of South Bronx residents stood on the steps here yesterday and called out to Michael Bloomberg as he walked past with his eyes fixed firmly on the doors ahead of him. One shout went up: “Mayor Bloomberg, will you make a statement about the Yankees stealing Mullaly and Macombs Dam parks?”
Joscelyn Fuentes, 4, holds a drawing captioned, “George Steinbrenner kicking child out of Mullaly Park, Bronx, NY.” (Photo: Patrick Arden/Metro)
The mayor has been a supporter of the Yankees’ plan to build a new stadium and parking garages on 22 acres of parkland, calling the project a “spectacular centerpiece” of his strategy for the South Bronx, creating jobs and a “stronger quality of life for the families who live here.”
The families here were unconvinced. They taunted their Council members, who were discussing the plan with Joshua Laird, the Parks Dept.’s chief of planning, and Hector Aponte, the commissioner of Bronx parks.
“Hey, hey, ho, ho,” they chanted. “The Bronx delegation’s got to go.”
Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates, distributed copies of the “secret community benefits program” negotiated between the Yankees and Bronx elected officials, who were quick to note the document was a draft. The final deal is supposed to be sealed before the City Council votes on the project April 5.
“It is important to note, this is not a ‘community benefits agreement,’ as the community was excluded from participating,” Croft said. “This is only an agreement between supporters of the plan.”
The draft of the agreement lays out a “framework,” according to Borough President Adolfo Carrion. It sets aside a quarter of all construction jobs and contracts for Bronx residents and businesses, and it would set up a not-for-profit corporation to dole out $700,000 annually to borough nonprofits over the team’s 40-year stadium lease.
Croft complained that this money does not have to be spent in the neighborhood losing its parkland. On that point, Carrion said, “This is still a draft. I’m working very closely with my City Council delegation.”
Bronx elected officials would appoint a panel to oversee the fund, which would share staff and offices on 149th Street with the NYC Business Solutions Center, which was established through Carrion’s office. The agreement, Carrion said, would make the Yankees invest in the neighborhood.
“This is a model that I think makes sense,” he said. “I think it’s good community development.”
Lukas Herbert, a member of Community Board 4, complained the community was ignored in an earlier pact over the Bronx Terminal Market.
“We got — what? — foodstamps accepted at a BJ’s Wholesale Club,” Herbert said. “Should we be glad these guys are in charge? We’d rather keep our parks.”
A good deal?
Community benefits agreement specialist Roxana Tynan on the Yankees deal with Bronx officials:
• “If the community isn’t involved, the agreement is not real. The 25 percent of contracts could be significant if there are real penalties to insure it’s enforced, but the permanent jobs should be 50 percent. The $700,000 over 40 years is significant, but it’s not impressive when you look at the entire cost. The larger issue is, do people want this project? The community benefits shouldn’t be used by the developer or the government to get around essential opposition.”