Wednesday, March 29, 2006

"Yanks call up Jackson to pitch stadium, meet vocal opposition" MetroNY 03/29/06

Yanks call up Jackson to pitch stadium, meet vocal opposition

by patrick arden / metro new york

MAR 29, 2006

CITY HALL — The Yankees called on Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson yesterday to dazzle a City Council subcommittee considering the team’s proposed $1.2 billion stadium project. But instead of pitching soft balls, Council members hurled heat.

Jackson and Yankees president Randy Levine were peppered with hard questions regarding the proposed stadium’s use of parkland and tax-exempt city financing, the lack of community outreach, the four new garages and the resulting traffic in an area known for its high asthma rate.

Subcommittee chairman Daniel Garodnick asked why the team couldn’t play in Shea Stadium while a new ballpark was built on the site of the current one, and the Council’s economic development chair Thomas White bluntly wondered, “What benefit will come from this stadium?”

Jackson, who works for the Yankees and does “what I’m told,” professed to share the serious concerns of the largely black and Latino community that lives near the stadium.

“I am first a minority,” he said sincerely, before joking, “When Randy asked me to come a couple of days ago, I didn’t know I’d signed up for an 0-and-2 count.”

The stadium plan has been depicted as a done deal, with the support of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Gov. George Pataki and most Bronx elected officials. But the project has met with bitter opposition from residents who live near the parks that will be taken away. At a protest before the Council hearing, resident Geneva Causey accused Bronx politicians of playing “plantation overseer” for the team.

“The Yankees weren’t always a good partner in the Bronx,” admitted Jackson, who said community members now had a chance to “create a new template” to “get what you want” and “share in the revenue.”

Jackson claimed George Steinbrenner was now trying to make amends. “There is some embarrassment in the Yankees,” he said. “The Steinbrenner family has financial wherewithal to make things happen. I see an opportunity now to get engaged, and to ask the Yankees to help you.”

“We understand what it takes to be a member of the community,” said Levine. “All we can do is commit to trying to do more.”

“It’s an uneven relationship, and it’s almost abusive,” said the neighborhood’s Council member, Helen Foster, who opposes the project. “You’re asking the one who has been abused to ‘trust me one more time.’

“This project and whether it goes through or not is going to set a tone for development throughout this city. And right now, while it looks like it’s a Bronx issue, it’s soon to be a Brooklyn and Manhattan issue.”


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