Wednesday, April 05, 2006

"Stadium squeeze play" in MetroNY, 4/5/6

Stadium squeeze play
Speaker, Council members keep mum on eve of vote on Yanks’ park plan

by patrick arden / metro new york

APR 5, 2006
CITY HALL — A vocal opponent of the West Side stadium project, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has been silent on the proposed new Yankee Stadium.

“She’s in a different position now, and she has citywide ambitions, so that probably plays into it,” speculated Anita Antonetty, a resident of Highbridge for 38 years and a member of Community Board 4, which rejected the stadium plan in November.

“But why is our quality of life any less important than for people who live on the West Side? The only thing I can think of is that our income is less and we speak different languages and we’re different shades of brown.”

Community opposition

Both stadium plans met with intense resistance from the surrounding neighborhoods. Yet when asked about her position on the new Bronx ballpark three days before today’s full Council vote, Quinn, a former community activist, was noncommittal.

“The subcommittee had their hearing last week,” she said. “It was a very lengthy and thorough hearing. I think it focused a lot on the positives of the project but also on some of the concerns that folks in the local area have. On Wednesday, I think what we’ll see is the Council having done everything we can to move forward with whatever we think is in the best interest of the city and in the neighborhood.”

Say what?

Few Council members have been as forthcoming. Metro discovered only six who would state their unqualified support or opposition. Most said they’d make their decision today on the land-use plan, which seeks 22 acres of parkland. The Council’s finance committee will take up the plan’s use of $866 million in tax-exempt bonds on Monday.

“I am voting against it, but the Council will probably pass it,” said Charles Barron, D-Brooklyn.

“Most people stick their finger up in the air and see which way it’s going to wave,” he said. “The mayor’s office is going to twist arms, the Speaker and the county leaders are going to weigh in, and Council members need to be strong to stand up to all of that power and weight to make the right decision for the people in that area.”

In a letter last weekend to Mayor Michael Bloomberg — a stadium backer — Councilman Tony Avella, D-Queens, said he had decided to switch positions and vote against the project. “Individual Council members may have concerns, but no one wants to raise them for fear of retribution,” Avella told Metro.

“There’s always a desire with a big project to have less discussion, because the powers-that-be want to move it ahead — they do not like people putting roadblocks in their way,” he explained.

Asked about the reluctance of Council members to state their positions, Avella said, “I guess they’re all afraid.”

How much will it cost?

• The $800 million stadium is supposed to be financed with $930 million in mostly tax-exempt city bonds.

• The state is giving $70 million for four parking garages, but the total cost is $320 million, according to the city’s Industrial Development Agency. The balance is supposed to be picked up by a private developer, but one has not been found yet, so the city may be on the hook for that money.

• The city has promised $101 million for replacement parks, $24 million to tear down the current ballpark, and $9 million for infrastructure and to clean up an area near the Harlem River for a new tennis concession. But last Tuesday, parks officials said the costs have gone up from that estimate.

• The state and the city are also each giving $5 million grants to the Yankees.

Replacement parks?

• The Yankees will take 22.4 acres of parkland, and the city will return 24.5 acres, 6 acres of that in different locations. Park advocates claim the community will lose 4 acres.

• In 1979 Macombs Dam Park received $422,650 from the National Park Service, giving the agency a final say over whether the Yankees can use the park. So far, the NPS has not received an application for the project.


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