Tuesday, July 18, 2006

"Park Service Okays Yanks' Park Demolition" Village Voice, 6/18/6

Park Service Okays Yanks' Park Demolition
By Neil deMause | July 18, 2006

One of the slim threads of red tape holding back the Yankees' plan to build a new stadium atop Macombs Dam Park has been snipped, as the National Park Service has okayed the use of federally funded parkland for the project. Though no official announcement has been made, Micaela Birmingham of New Yorkers for Parks stumbled upon news of the vote through a chance contact through a Park Service employee, posting it to NY4P's blog last night. "He assured me that the vote had happened at the end of last week," she told the Voice this morning. "I'm still waiting to get written confirmation."

Park Service approval had been considered uncertain, given that the agency's regulations require that replacement parkland be of "at least equal fair market value" and "reasonably equivalent usefulness and location" to the parks being paved over, and that "all practical alternatives" have been explored. Bronx residents have complained bitterly that building scattered-site parks, including a string of tennis courts on the far side of the Major Deegan, is no substitute for a centrally located neighborhood park.

Now the last agency standing between George Steinbrenner and Fred Wilpon and their stadium dreams is the Internal Revenue Service, which must sign off on the city's complex tax-exempt bond financing scheme before the money can actually be raised to pay for construction. (The IRS, like the Park Service, doesn't tell mere mortals when rulings will be forthcoming, but later this summer is a good guess.) The Mets in recent weeks have already created a staging area of construction equipment in the Shea Stadium parking lot, to be ready to put shovels in the ground the moment the feds give the word.

In the Bronx, matters could be a bit stickier, as the Bronx group Save Our Parks readies a lawsuit to challenge the Park Service ruling. Grand Concourse resident Joyce Hogi says her group will be meeting with lawyers from the Urban Environmental Law Center tomorrow, with a request for a court order to forestall construction likely in the coming weeks.


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