Wednesday, March 29, 2006

"Critics, supporters of Yankee stadium proposal spar at hearing" Am-NY 03/29/06

Critics, supporters of Yankee stadium proposal spar at hearing
Newsday Staff Writer

March 29, 2006

One of the Yankees' all-time heaviest hitters faced a hostile home crowd at a public hearing Tuesday on the team's proposed new $800-million state-of-the-art stadium in the Bronx.

"When Randy asked me to do this, I didn't know we were 2 and 0," quipped Reggie Jackson, the Hall of Fame slugger who is a team adviser, referring to Randy Levine, president of the Yankees.

The Yankees have offered a trust of $28 million and $200,000 a year in givebacks -- which Levine described as the most generous private investment in a community in city history -- for the right to build the new stadium on existing parkland.

"Ask for help, and I do believe you will get it," Jackson, 60, told members of a City Council subcommittee in a speech that touched on his own experiences driving through Harlem and on Yankee owner George Steinbrenner's gruff exterior but soft heart. "I do look for you to become engaged, and I do look for the Yankees to respond to your request, if you look them in the eye and ask."

Though many Bronx leaders support the new stadium, others fault the Yankees for not giving enough, and for failing to give more in leaner years.

"I look around and I see the Yankee organization and the Yankee fans smiling as though you hit a home run, and from where I'm sitting it looks like a foul ball," said Councilwoman Helen Foster (D-Bronx) who represents the district where Yankee Stadium is located and said she plans to vote against the deal. "It is a very different Bronx County than when you were here, Mr. October. ... This is the richest team in baseball, and you should have been doing this generous package years ago."

The subcommittee will vote next week, followed by the full council. In a statement released late Tuesday, Councilwoman Maria Baez, head of the council's Bronx delegation, said "negotiations with the Yankees are progressing towards conclusion."

The deal's sticking points include the destruction of parkland -- the city will spend $130 million under the plan to create slightly more parkland nearby, but opponents counter that the parks are too far away and should not be built atop a parking garage -- and the addition of about 3,000 parking spots, which residents fear will increase traffic.

Tuesday's hearing drew a raucous standing-room-only crowd, with an audience full of hard hats and Yankees hats that was frequently admonished for cheers, boos and cries of "Keep it real, Reggie." It turned at times into a referendum on race as Jackson, who described himself as "a minority first," sparred with some council members.

Levine was grilled about how many minority executives the Yankees employ, sparking a shouting match, and Councilman Tom White (D-Queens) digressed briefly about differences between blacks, whites and Latinos.

"The Yankees have been in the Bronx for 83 years, and the South Bronx is designated as the most impoverished county in the nation," said Councilman Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn). "Why do we think that we're going to be treated right after they didn't treat us right for 83 years?"

"Councilman, I would say you're probably short on your years. Most of the people would think that we've been not treated well for an awfully long time," Jackson replied.


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