Wednesday, March 29, 2006

"Jackson Testifies for New Yankee Stadium" NY Times 03/29/06

Jackson Testifies for New Yankee Stadium

Filed at 9:37 p.m. ET

NEW YORK (AP) -- Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson testified Tuesday when the New York Yankees pushed their proposal for a new $800 million ballpark before a City Council subcommittee.

Jackson, who acts as an adviser to the Yankees, said he'd had his share of fights with owner George Steinbrenner. And he said he knew the relationship between the Yankees and the neighborhood wasn't always great.

''You can't change the past,'' he said. ''I do think there's an opportunity to engage with people who are trying to help.''

Jackson's testimony added drama to a packed hearing that had plenty of emotion but wasn't even expected to result in a vote. Various committee and full council votes on the 53,000-seat stadium plans are expected on April 5.

Jackson's entreaties that city leaders ''engage'' with Yankees officials pushing for a new South Bronx stadium across from their current one caused some council members to bristle.

''It's an uneven relationship, and it's almost abusive,'' said Councilwoman Helen Foster, who represents the Bronx neighborhood.

She cited longtime stresses on the impoverished neighborhood -- traffic among them -- resulting from the Yankees' presence. She questioned whether the current plans were taking Yankees fans' concerns more seriously than those of Bronx residents.

Linda Florence, who lives near the stadium, said she didn't mind the Yankees getting a new ballpark. But she's worried about the loss of green space in a neighborhood where it's scarce.

''Don't take away the parks that are central to our neighborhood,'' she told the council.

Adam Arce, who works in security for the Yankees, said a new ballpark would be a boost for the team and nearby businesses.

''This is a trigger,'' he said. ''This is a starting point.''

Councilman Charles Barron, questioning the Yankees' commitment to the largely minority neighborhood, asked team president Randy Levine how many upper echelon ballclub officials were minorities. Levine said he found the question ''offensive.''

Jackson, who is black, said repeatedly that he was ''first, a minority,'' and that he sympathized with the concerns about the impact on the neighborhood.

The stadium plans have catapulted through the usual political and bureaucratic channels since being introduced last June, getting support from the mayor, the Bronx borough president and the city's planning commission. The city and the state are pitching in $215 million to improve infrastructure and assist with bonds.

The biggest issue involves the loss of parkland to the new stadium. Critics say that proposed replacement parks are inconvenient and too scattered.


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