Thursday, August 31, 2006

"Feds advised city, state, Yanks on stadium plan, documents show" MetroNY 08/31/06

Feds advised city, state, Yanks on stadium plan, documents show

by patrick arden / metro new york

AUG 31, 2006

SOUTH BRONX — More than a year before ground was broken for a new Yankee Stadium on Bronx parkland, a red flag was raised at the National Park Service.

The federal agency had paid $422,650 for improvements to an 11.2-acre portion of Macombs Dam Park in 1979, giving it a final say over the project’s use of parkland. By law, any park receiving money under the Land and Water Conservation Fund must remain a park, unless it is replaced with parkland of equal or greater value, “usefulness and location.” Proposed projects must also consider “all practical alternatives” before parks are seized.

Quoting a letter from the city, NPS agent Jean Sokolowski shot off an e-mail to state officials.

“I’m a little concerned,” she wrote in the May 9, 2005, note, which was obtained by Metro through a Freedom of Information Act request. “‘Develop recreational facilities atop two of the garages’ is a questionable LWCF option.”

Team players

But whatever concerns the NPS may have had about the replacement park plan soon evaporated, and it waved a white flag instead.

A month later, before the public had learned of the Yankees’ plan, Sokolowski and two other NPS executives traveled to Macombs Dam Park, where they met with representatives from the city, the state and the Yankees. A June 7, 2005, e-mail from the city’s Parks Dept. thanks the NPS officials not only for coming but for their “willingness to work together.” The memo — and most subsequent correspondence — is copied to an attorney for the Yankees.

In an internal e-mail following that meeting, LWCF manager Jack Howard writes the three NPS agents walked away “confident that they will be able to work with the city and the state to ensure that the [federal park-replacement approval] process has been satisfied without it preventing the proposed project from being developed.”

A done deal

As early as March, 18, 2005, NPS official Pat Gillespie appeared to drop all pretense of independent analysis. In an e-mail to colleagues, she suggested, “Maybe they can sell pieces of [the old stadium] to build the replacement park!” Three months before the Bronx neighborhood found out about the plan, she added, “There seems to be community support for this project.”

But a July 19, 2005, memo from state parks official Thomas Lyons painted a different picture, with details of the first public meeting at the Bronx Museum of Arts. “Most of the comments centered around community concerns,” he wrote, noting the “particular interests represented by Community Board 4,” which would overwhelmingly reject the plan four months later.

By that time, though, the NPS had already become an active partner in pushing the plan forward, though it had not seen any environmental reviews or land appraisals. After consulting with Gillespie, Lyons advised the city to include “a specific section within the EIS entitled Conversion of Parkland.” Later the coaching gets more specific, such as when the city is told to jazz up the use of Rupert Plaza as park acreage rather than describing its utilitarian function as a walkway: “Replace ‘pedestrian promenade’ with ‘passive park.’”

Taking their word

Early on the NPS decided to forego its own assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act, relying instead on the city’s Environmental Impact Statement. After that, the NPS agreed to an April 2006 Memorandum of Agreement with the state, the city, the Yankees and Bronx County.

But at that time, Howard had told Metro the city’s plan to break ground in the coming months was unrealistic. He was still waiting to see the state’s proposal, he said, noting that “public controversy” could “adversely impact that proposed action.”

“Some conversions are simple, others can take a year to garner final approval,” he said. “We are aware of what’s going on, but there are no shortcuts. We have a responsibility to follow the law.”

The state’s parkland conversion proposal was finally received by Howard on June 7, but he “would be out of the office,” he wrote in an e-mail. He approved the conversion 10 days later.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Arguments Against the Expansion of Yankee Stadium

A reader of the blog and supporter of SaveOurParks has sent us the comments they submitted to the government agencies regarding the theft of our parks:

Arguments Against the Expansion of Yankee Stadium

The baseball Yankees are such an integral part of New York City that, since 1958 it has been hard to imagine any other sport franchise representing the City. There are those individuals that feel "as go the Yankees, so goes New York City".

That is why the pending expansion of the Yankee Stadium must be rejected. There are too many aspects of this plan that make the expansion detrimental to the immediate area of the Bronx. It will disrupt the economic and transportation infrastructure such that the communities adjacent to the stadium will be adversely impacted. More importantly, the
residents of the area will be permanently denied a major facility of recreational and environmental open space that has strong tie-ins with the public and private schools of Bronx County.

Open Space and Recreational Area

The loss of Macomb's Dam Park and John Mullaly Park account for a loss of 84 acres of recreational open space that includes the destruction of over 400 mature trees of >12" caliper; the loss of an outdoor community swimming pool, tennis courts, benches and walking lanes, and the famous 1/4 mile oval track. Since its construction in the 1930's the track at
Macomb's Dam Park has been the venue of both public schools' and sectarian schools' track and field meets, pre-Olympic qualifying meets, civilian league football games, soccer games and the like. There is currently no other venue in Bronx County or southern Westchester that is more utilized or recognized than Macomb's Dam Park.

The claim that the new Yankee stadium will include a similar venue is false. There are no plans for the general public to have access to any of the grounds of the new stadium, nor was it the intent of the Yankee Organization to yield access to any part of the new facility without a fee. The alleged baseball diamonds to be included in the new stadium are not new! There are currently four, (4) baseball fields in the Macomb's Dam Park that are heavily used for baseball and other sports all
year round.

The loss of these 84 acres of heavily used park space is compounded by the loss of over 200 acres of Van Courtland Park in the Woodlawn area of the Bronx, about 2.5 miles north of Yankee Stadium. This acreage was lost by eminent domain to the NYSDEC and NYCDEP water treatment project that NYCDEP claimed could not locate anywhere else in the right-of-way
of the City's water supply network.

Economic Impacts

The economic impacts of the new stadium do not offer any new employment opportunities for the community. The proposed shopping mall to be part of the Yankee Walk will include exclusive high-end boutiques like FENDI, Hugo Boss, Tourneau, etc., much like the stores in the Mall at Short Hills,[NJ] or the Westchester Mall in White Plains, NY. The job opportunities for residents of Highbridge, Melrose and Concourse areas would be at minimum wage, and be more geared to grounds maintenance services at best. These types of jobs are seasonal, with few positions available. There will be no career path jobs available to anyone seeking such through the Yankee Organization. Career path jobs are screened and recommended through the offices of MLB in Manhattan. Thus the impact on the South Bronx would be the same as opening a

'Big Box' store in the area; minimal job potential but net resources drain from the community. The community is already taking a net negative impact with the development of the Bronx Terminal Market by private developers.

Transportation Impacts

The promise of this new stadium has given the MTA the incentive to build a new station on the Hudson River division of the Metro-North Railroad. This is a curious chain of events, considering the Railroad had to be threatened with litigation to maintain a station already in the area; Melrose Station. In the 1990's the Bronx Borough President, community groups led by Nos Quedamos, and several State Assembly persons implored the MTA to rehab and schedule trains at the Melrose station to
accommodate Bronx residents reverse commute to their jobs in Westchester and southern Connecticut. The station as reluctantly rehabbed, and the standing offer by the Bronx Borough President to incorporate a circulator bus service for the stadium and the Bronx Civic Center was ignored. This new station will skew service along the entire Hudson Division line,
and the Amtrak service that uses the same tracks north of Spuyten Duyvil station.

The most compelling impact of this new stadium is on the air quality in the immediate vicinity and the Ambient Air Quality for the entire NY Metro area in general. The primary purpose of this expanded stadium is to attract more customers with a higher disposable income. One critical aspect of such clientele is some type of exclusivity; in this instance, access by automobile. That especially includes limousines, excursion buses, and private cars. This means more vehicles in an area already saturated with vehicles of the working population of the Bronx Civic Center. During games, it is commonplace to witness limousines parked on the sidewalks, idling; excursion buses double parked and idling; and scores of more vehicles circling the streets for free spaces into the third inning. The Yankee Organization already has a monopoly on the parking
facilities in the area. Established parking lots or buildings do not open until a game, thus excluding the residents who own cars, and need parking space.

For example, an excursion bus idling during a game so that the driver can remain comfortably air conditioned. Let us assume that the first have of the game is before sunset, so it's hot outside; the bus sits idling for 90 minutes. The following is the results of that idling for air conditioning the driver:
CO = 0.132 Kg
NOx = 0.148 Kg
VOC = 0.018 Kg
PM2.5 = 0.0106 Kg
PM10 = 0.0097 Kg
Total Pollutants generated by Idling Bus *0.314 Kg

That's about 0.7 lbs per bus per game. Now multiply that value by about 15 buses per game, 0.7 x 15 x 82 = 861 lbs of pollutants per summer in the area! Note that the number of limousines were not included, nor the scores of cars cruising for that free parking space.

These are the most detrimental of aspects because this immediately impacts the health and well-being of the citizens who live and work in this area. The effects of asthma, chronic respiratory diseases, heart attacks and the like, are not conditions that should be considered 'normal' in any community; and it should not be so in the South Bronx.

In closing, the Yankee Organization may deserve a new stadium, and it may deserve all the amenities on the wish list of making their stadium a world class venue. But it should not be done at the expense of those who are it's neighbors! The owner, George Steinbrenner, spent several million dollars on design proposals and the media to make this seem like
a wonderful scheme for all the Yankee fans of the world.

What was left out was the true cost to the people who live and work in Bronx County all year 'round. There are alternative plans and methodologies for building a stadium that will give the Yankee Organization all of it's wish list items without sacrificing the general population. That is the option that should be used.

"South Bronx deserves more than new stadium, Gateway" NY Daily News 08/29/06

South Bronx deserves more than new stadium, Gateway

reprint from NY Daily News, Bronx edition, August 29, 2006 page BW 6

BE OUR GUEST: DAN STEINBERG, economic policy analyst

Two mega-project groundbreakings were held earlier this month in the South Bronx: the new Yankee Stadium and the Gateway Center at Bronx Terminal Market.

Heralded by elected officials as economic jumpstarts for an are plagued by persistently high unemployment, the projects will actually cost taxpayers more than half a billion dollars while scattering hundreds of good wholesale jobs and costing residents heavily used public parkland.

The South Bronx needs and deserves public resources to stimulate private investment. But these two projects exemplify how ineffective the city’s economic development efforts can be.

Each project involves the lavish expenditure of public funds and tax breaks for developments that did not require subsidizes. Tragically, the city failed to ensure that the stadium and retail jobs pay better-than-poverty wages.

The stadium plan to replace large parks with a patchwork of turf fields, some far away or above parking garages, is obviously not a fair swap for local residents who must endure years of “interim parks” while the new stadium is constructed.

That’s why the project was rejected by the local community board despite pressure from the Bronx borough president.

Once the MTA announced its intentions to build a new Metro-North station in front of the ballpark, an obvious compromise would have been to scale back the plan for 4,700 new parking spaces, which would have saved portions of the parkland and reduced auto air pollution in a neighborhood dubbed “asthma alley.”

For decades, the Bronx Terminal Market has functioned as a wholesale food market serving immigrant communities.

But in the name of big-box retail, the city is facilitating the destruction of a cluster of small businesses that relied on their closeness to transportation and each other. Despite the merchants’ sensible relocation proposals, the city scattered them throughout the region.

We estimate the two projects will cost city taxpayers over $400 million (not including state and federal subsidies) in funds and lost taxes.

That’s a huge price tag considering the limited economic benefits of a new stadium and the likelihood that both projects would have been pursued with private financing.

Would the Yankees actually consider leaving the largest sports and media market in the Unites States a year after breaking the American League attendance record? Meanwhile, down the street at Bronx Terminal Market, Gateway Center developer Related Companies is capitalizing on a surging national trend: big-box stores thriving in urban markets.

It is tragic that public officials did not leverage taxpayer investments to ensure that good jobs are created. Increasingly, other states and localities are requiring that, as a condition of receiving a subsidy, a company must pay a decent wage with full-time hours and health care. Generating jobs at living wages should be a priority for the mayor’s new Commission for Economic Opportunity.

Despite these lost opportunities, the city has a chance to get it right in the upcoming proposal to transform the massive Kingsbridge Armory into an entertainment and recreational complex.

Will the city finally respect Bronx residents and get as good bang for the taxpayer buck?

Dan Steinberg is a research analyst with Good Jobs New York, a joint project of Good Jobs First and The Fiscal Policy Institute which promotes polices that hold government officials and corporations accountable to the taxpayers.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

"Another Yankee Sweep" Village Voice 8/29/6

Another Yankee Sweep
How city officials snoozed while the Yanks burned public money for their new stadium

by Neil deMause
August 29th, 2006 10:26 AM

The bulldozers are only now getting in gear for construction on new stadiums for the Yankees and Mets—as of Monday, dozens of trees had been felled in and around Macombs Dam Park to make way for the Yankees' new playpen, while the Mets have started excavations in the Shea Stadium parking lot in advance of an official groundbreaking. But city taxpayers have already been paying for them for years, thanks to lease clauses that have allowed the two teams to deduct $46 million from their city rent payments for "stadium planning" expenses.

The true cost of the Yankee lease clause —and how far the team has been allowed to stretch the definition of "planning"—is only now becoming apparent. (A Freedom of Information request for Mets documents was still pending at press time.) But last month ("Yankee Lobbyists on Taxpayers' Tab," July 26–August 1), the Voice revealed that among the "planning expenses" the Yankees charged to city taxpayers were portions of the salaries of top team execs Randy Levine and Lonn Trost, as well as the cost of the lobbyists who pressured both Albany and the City Council to approve the stadium deal.

Now, further investigation by the Voice has revealed that:

Those having a portion of their salaries charged to taxpayers included George Steinbrenner's sons Hal and Hank, plus his son-in-law (and now designated successor) Steve Swindal.

In addition to lobbyists, the Yankees charged the city $56,967.46 for the services of Sive, Paget & Riesel, the outside law firm that drew up the new lease in the first place.

Not only did Mayor Michael Bloomberg fail to act to repeal the giveaway leases, handed out by predecessor Rudy Giuliani, but his own stadium negotiations with the two teams actually cost the city a chance to recoup millions of dollars of the lost rental revenue.

"I fault the city as much as, if not more so than, the Yankees," says Dick Dadey, director of the good-government group Citizens Union, who calls it "alarming" that the Yankees were allowed to bill taxpayers for their stadium lobbyists. "The Yankees tried to cut the very best deal for themselves, as is understandable. But the city should have pushed back and been more explicit about what would have been an allowable expense."

The cast of characters that convened to write the new leases in the waning days of the Giuliani administration was not exactly motivated to push back. In the Yankees' case, the new lease—technically the eighth amendment to the team's existing lease on Yankee Stadium—was drawn up in late 2001 by a team headed by Yankees president (and former Giuliani deputy mayor) Levine and COO Trost. Sitting across the table on the mayor's side, meanwhile, was longtime Giuliani aide Robert Harding, who had worked alongside Levine as city budget director, then stepped into his old job as deputy mayor for economic development when Levine left to be Steinbrenner's stadium point man.

The resulting agreements—announced on December 28, 2001, just days before Giuliani left office—promised new stadiums for both the Mets and Yanks, with the city bearing half the estimated $1.6 billion construction cost, and gave the teams five one-year lease extensions, during which they could deduct up to $5 million a year apiece from their city rent payments for "stadium planning costs."

Bloomberg immediately put the stadium plans on ice—but let the planning deductions stand. Giuliani, he insisted, had tied his hands by signing the new lease language—though the Yankees publicly offered to scrap the new lease language if the new mayor asked.

But if it was the Giuliani administration that opened the treasury door, it was to a large extent Bloomberg who shoveled out the cash. That's because under the Giuliani lease, the city was supposed to recoup the stadium planning money eventually, as a credit against the city's share of construction costs—which in the Giuliani plan would have amounted to about $800 million.

Once the stadium deal was reborn under Bloomberg, however, it had changed: Now, in exchange for not paying rent (the Yankees would have been on the hook for more than $100 million worth of rent payments under the Giuliani plan), having land and infrastructure costs provided for free by the city, and receiving numerous city and state tax breaks, the two teams agreed to take on 100 percent of the construction costs. In part, this was done to maximize the amount that the teams could deduct from MLB revenue sharing— construction costs can be deducted, but rent and tax payments can't. But it also effectively made the recoup clause worthless, since the city no longer had construction costs to apply the credit to—making for an additional $46 million that Bloomberg left on the table, in addition to the roughly $600 million in city and state subsidies he agreed to provide for the two teams.

"The more we learn about this project, the more it looks like a backdoor version of the much maligned Giuliani proposal," says Good Jobs New York research analyst Dan Steinberg, who has been studying Bloomberg's stadium finance package since last year. "The city went so far out of its way to make this project appear to be privately financed that it was willing to shoulder additional costs."

Comptroller William Thompson harshly criticized Bloomberg's acceptance of the Giuliani leases at the time, and called on the mayor to renegotiate the leases. "Although the teams have to submit to the City 'invoices and other evidence of the Planning Costs in reasonable and customary detail,' " wrote Thompson in a January 14, 2002, letter to Bloomberg, "the City is left with very little input in how and when these funds are expended." The only oversight left to the city, noted the comptroller, was auditing the money trail once the cash had already been spent.

Yet once the mayor refused to revisit the lease, the comptroller apparently threw up his hands when it came to playing watchdog. Contrary to claims by Thompson's office last month that it hadn't audited the teams' "stadium planning" rent deductions, the comptroller's office now says its auditors did look at planning costs as part of its regular review of the Yanks and Mets rent payments—but only to disallow invoices for costs before 2001, when the planning deductions kicked in. (Among the handful of receipts that got the ax: an April 2000 hotel bill for George Steinbrenner himself.) As for the rest of the teams' questionable claims, Thompson— the only government official to have examined how the Yanks and Mets were spending city money—apparently never mentioned them to anyone.

The logic, presumably, was that under the incredibly broad lease language drawn up by Giuliani—acceptable deductions are defined as "the preparation of studies, surveys, tests, analyses, estimates and designs, [and] architectural, engineering, design, financing, accounting, consulting, planning, surveying, environmental, land use, and legal services, and any other similar or related costs customarily incurred in planning new sports stadium facilities"—pretty much anything was fair game for the teams to claim as a legit expense. But lobbyists and the hired-gun lawyers who drew up the 2001 lease for the existing stadium? Even John Tepper Marlin, a business ethics professor at NYU who until earlier this year served as Thompson's chief economist, wonders about that: "One could stretch the word, but there must be a boundary. At some point, the definition of 'planning' must mean something."

Henry Stern, who as Giuliani's parks commissioner was the one to actually sign the Yanks and Mets lease extensions, says he "never heard any conversation relating to legal and lobbying costs," though he quickly adds, "I didn't handle negotiations." But he's not exactly surprised that things turned out as they did.

"I have found that very often, just in the course of business, when the city signs an agreement with another party, and city officials change and the private party remains the same, things don't come out the way they were intended by the city," says Stern, who has served on and off in city government since 1973 and now runs his own think tank. "Particularly in economic development matters, the reality on the ground often ends up different from what the parties intended when they signed the lease." This was particularly true, he says, at the end of 2001, as Giuliani's staffers cleared out their desks to make way for Bloomberg's team: "The city was not rich in institutional memory."

"I'm not sure if the city ever did imagine that the Yankees would include lobbying expenses as part of their project planning expenses," muses the Citizens Union's Dadey. "But now that the city knows full well what charges are being deducted from the rent, the city owes it to the taxpayers to go back and clarify what are legitimately accepted expenses. This is like padding the expense account, but the people who pay are the taxpayers."

Friday, August 25, 2006

"Fans of the Game" NY Times $elect 8/24/6

Fans of the Game
By Kevin Baker

I got a chance to feel like a classic, ugly New Yorker this week. I was attending a Yankees game with my close friend, Chris; one in which we succeeded in horrifying an entire family of fans — Mom, Dad and grown daughter — with the sheer lunatic vehemence of our rooting. The fifth inning hadn’t even ended before the father, sitting in the row ahead of us, stood up, turned around and asked in a voice dripping with exasperation, “Have either of you ever played any baseball beyond the Little League level? How can you be so critical?”

Chris and I were left speechless, not least because this had been one of our milder nights at the stadium. We had only been exercising our God-given right as fans to question a trade or two; the occasional move by the redoubtable Yankees’ manager, Joe Torre; and the intestinal fortitude of about half the lineup. We hadn’t even resorted to profanity yet, though Chris, under duress, has been known to string together more obscenities than the entire cast of “Deadwood” on a bad day.

We remained quiescent for the rest of the game, all the fun gone out of the constant, ragging discontent that characterizes the in-game chatter of the real fan. The outraged dad (who, for what it’s worth, bore an uncanny resemblance to Ken Starr) and his clan, sensing they had thrown a wet blanket on our passion, tried to make it up by joking with us in a patronizing manner for the rest of the night, referring to us fondly as “curmudgeons.”

Curmudgeons? We’re fans, I wanted to snarl at the Starr family. And critical? Just what city do you think you wandered into?

How to begin to explain to the uninitiated what it means to be a fan in this town — especially a Yankee fan? How to convey the feeling in the park back in 1977, when during the World Series, network TV cameras broke away to show the Bronx burning down in the not-so-far distance (arson was common in those days). And when, at the end of the last game, fans seated themselves over the edge of the outfield walls, ready for a mad sprint onto the field that turned into a bloody melee with the police? And that was when the Yanks were winning. How to tell of the disappointing seasons of the 1980’s, when chants of “Steinbrenner sucks!” regularly rocked the ballpark, and when Chris — a private-school classics teacher with a Ph.D., and one of the most intelligent people I know — once taught a Boy Scout troop to direct a similar chant at Yankee catcher Rick Cerone, much to the annoyance of the scoutmaster.

Critical? Of course we’re critical, and profane; corrupters of youth, and sweet suburban families. I was there in 2001, just weeks after Sept. 11, when the Seattle Mariners came to town for the American League championship. The Mariners had made all the right noises and gestures; visiting Ground Zero, talking about how courageous New Yorkers were, and how bad they felt for the city. Yankee fans responded with chants of “Overrated!” and “Sayonara!”, directed at Ichiro Suzuki, the Mariners’ great Japanese player, as their team pummeled the upstarts on the field.

We don’t like being patronized, not ever. And we reserve the right to be as critical as we please. We are a city full of demanding people, who like to tell ourselves that we have come here to test ourselves against the best there is. It’s a cliché, the competitiveness of New Yorkers, how the city never sleeps, and how if we can make it here we can make it anywhere, as the tired anthem that blares at the end of every Yankee game attests. But it’s also true, and we like it that way. Being critical is how we measure our success, how we sort out the real goods from mere dreck, in a country that is ever more given to glossing over both mediocrity and contention.

Over the past few years, a great deal has been written about the pressure New York imposes, as one athlete after another has stumbled trying to make his mark on the local sports scene. Most of it has focused of late on Alex Rodriguez, the Yankee third baseman, whose mental and physical struggles this season have become an ongoing soap opera in the sports pages. A-Rod, the commentators scold us, is booed “mercilessly” by his home fans.

Much of this is simply buck-passing by the writers who, in the course of the past couple seasons, have sought to ridicule Rodriguez for having a picnic in Central Park with his family, and even for donating millions of dollars to fund psychiatric counseling for underprivileged kids. But the press-box scribes are also laboring under a serious misconception about the town where they live and work. The athletes in question aren’t playing for the junior varsity, or the glory of dear old State. They are professionals — and very well-compensated ones at that — performing on the biggest stage in the country. We cheer them when they do well and we boo them when they do badly, with the rare exception of individuals like Derek Jeter, or the great Rivera, who through their past exploits have earned our indulgence at all times.

This is the way it has always been in New York. Crowds in the Bowery theaters a 160 years ago growled “Heist dat rag!” when the curtain didn’t rise on time, then bombarded the performers with chicken bones, and half-eaten fruit if they didn’t like what they saw. Favorites were strongly encouraged to interrupt the show and repeat scenes again and again.

A misplaced gentility has now made it nearly impossible for even the most treacly Broadway extravaganza to escape a standing ovation. It’s only at the ballpark that a New York performance is still an interactive experience, and only at Yankee Stadium that it is truly an urban one. The Mets play in their crumbling, Robert Moses amphitheater near the edge of the city — a baseball park built without bleachers, for crying out loud. The Giants and Jets are installed in an even more dismal stadium out in the Jersey swamps. The Knicks and Rangers are in an antiseptic midtown arena with as much character as the current Penn Station that swelters directly below it.

Yankee Stadium itself is no architectural wonder, a plasticized makeover of the original House That Ruth Built. But it is quintessentially a part of the city, with dense neighborhood blocks all around it, stretching up to the Grand Concourse. When the No. 4 train comes out of the tunnel, the white-and-blue colossus is suddenly before you, its playing field visible from the subway car. You descend through a maze of iron trellises to the dappled, pigeon-streaked world beneath the elevated — past a corner newsstand, a row of cheap restaurants and souvenir stands, a bowling alley and vendors hawking pretzels and hot dogs to the fans filing into the park through the early evening light.

Inside, the ramps are even grimier than the streets of the Bronx, littered with paper, beer cups and hot dog rolls. It is a long hike to the upper deck, but when you emerge, the air is ever-so-slightly cooler. I have spent more hours than I care to contemplate there, perched high above the field, watching as the daylight fades and the lights come on, electrifying the play below. At a sunny weekend day game, the feeling is subtly different, the organist pumping out a chorus of “New York on Sunday/ Big city, takin’ a nap …” The sense of stolen leisure is so pleasant and pervasive, you feel as if you might just flap your arms, and go for a float around the park.

This is one of the great remaining open forums in the city, the place where we come to sit in judgment on millionaires, mocking their foibles and cheering their brilliance. It reminds me of a ritual Chris told me about from the Roman republic, where once a year or so every citizen was forced to stand in front of the rest of the city and declare all of his wealth. His fellows would decide whether or not he deserved it.

That custom didn’t last, of course, and the democratic nature of life at the ballpark is likewise fading. Fan accommodations are increasingly stratified, with box-seat holders enjoying waiter service, cushions and other amenities unavailable to those of us in the upper deck. And just last week, the Yankees broke ground on a new stadium, one that George Steinbrenner promises will be for “you people,” but which will include ever-higher prices, and corporate luxury boxes where thousands of upper-deck seats might have been.

No doubt it will be a more genteel place, with so many of us plebes cut out of the picture. The Starr family will love it, provided they have the bucks. But another great, New York performance space — rowdy and dirty, and profane and critical as it was — will be diminished. To gain a sense of what is likely to be lost, I can only refer to the game where Chris and I became friends in the first place.

This was the Yankees’ home opener in 1978. It was also the second season in town for the inimitable Reggie Jackson, one of the few ballplayers to understand just how much the modern athlete is expected to be a performer. Jackson had long said that if he played in New York, someone would name a candy bar after him, and now they had — a basic patty of chocolate, nougat and peanuts sold in a flashy orange-and-blue square package, with REGGIE! emblazoned across a picture of Jackson on the front.

Thousands of these were handed out to the opening-day crowd, and Reggie the ballplayer did his part, driving a Wilbur Wood knuckleball over the right-centerfield fence for a three-run homer in the first inning. The crowd reacted with a spontaneous tribute. As Jackson made his majestic trot around the bases, first one, then a dozen, then thousands of little orange squares — REGGIE! bars — came pouring onto the field, like roses scattered at the feet of a bullfighter. I’ve never seen anything like it in a ballpark before or since. Chris and I flung our bars out on the field, and cheered until we were hoarse.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Ralph Nader's Letter to Yankees Owner George Steinbrenner on Plans to Tear Down Yankee Stadium

AUGUST 24, 2006
12:47 PM

CONTACT: Essential Information

Ralph Nader's Letter to Yankees Owner George Steinbrenner on Plans to Tear Down Yankee Stadium

WASHINGTON - August 24 -

George M. Steinbrenner III
Owner, New York Yankees

Dear Mr. Steinbrenner:

So you want to be the man who tears down "the House That Ruth Built." And for what? More profit.

Neither you, nor the city government you pressured, nor anyone else should ever do this to a place so rich in history and tradition as Yankee Stadium. Would the city ever tear down Carnegie Hall? Adding wasteful insult to senseless injury, you command hundreds of millions of dollars in public subsidies and primary neighborhood parkland to support a new impostor stadium.

At your invitation-only "groundbreaking" on August 16, you professed that "It's a pleasure to give this to you people," as if you were giving to south Bronx residents, the taxpayers and the fans, rather than taking from them.

Perhaps "you people" were the many compliant politicians who fell all over themselves to approve your plans, virtually skipping thorough public debate and process altogether. Or maybe "you people" were the well-connected developers eager to get their hands on another neighborhood. Either way, I'm sure they are all dreaming of securing further deals behind the closed doors of their luxury suites at a new stadium.

But what you are "giving" to south Bronx families and residents is less opportunity for their recreation, more pollution, and unease over developers' unknown intentions for their neighborhood. You have seized their centrally-located parkland and are reportedly in the process of cutting down nearly 400 mature trees to make way for a new stadium. In a dubious proposal to offset this loss of parkland, other park spaces are to be created in three years. But these are scattered farther away -- much of it across a highway -- with little value and utility to the same residents.

In addition, the plans call for parking garages and 4,000 more parking spaces that will result in further contamination of the already heavily polluted neighborhood while discouraging transit ridership.

What you are "giving" the taxpayers is a bill for $422 million or so in land giveaways, tax breaks, and supporting infrastructure and transit costs. In a new stadium -- owned by a development company, which is owned by the city -- your "rent" payments would no longer go to the city treasury, but instead toward paying off the taxable share of the construction bonds. Plus, you would no longer pay property taxes at a new stadium.

But the gravy train doesn't stop there. In a recent piece for the Village Voice, Neil deMause reported on a taxpayer-soaking lease clause cooked-up by former Mayor Rudy Giuliani during his final week in office in 2001. Your big-money lobbyists who pressured city and state officials to approve the stadium plan were actually paid for by city taxpayers. That lease clause allowed you to deduct up to $5 million a year in "stadium planning" costs from your current Yankee Stadium rent payments to the city. Apparently, lobbying elected officials for public money and approval of the stadium deal counts as "stadium planning."

And while you claim to be paying for the vast majority of the $1.3 billion stadium project, it turns out your share really comes to about $492 million according to deMause. In addition to the $422 million public cost, about $136 million would come from subtracting stadium construction debt from your gross revenues -- money that you are allowed to withhold from your revenue-sharing responsibility to Major League Baseball. And private developers are paying $250 million toward parking garages.

And finally, what you are "giving" the fans of the Yankees is 4,000 fewer seats per game, higher ticket prices and a wrecking ball to history. What's left of affordable seats would be placed much farther away from the field, above and behind the luxury suites and club seats that would become the priority. Average fans would long for the days of the wonderfully intimate upper deck at Yankee Stadium.

From the days of Ruppert and Huston to present, fans have watched historic games at Yankee Stadium, and collected memories that will stay with them forever. They watched the likes of my own childhood hero, Lou Gehrig, along with Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Reggie Jackson and Don Mattingly. They witnessed the month of October like no other fans have.

Instead of destroying a national treasure like Yankee Stadium to build yet another replica of everyone else's new stadium/"mallpark", you should use those private funds that you've been publicizing and make the needed updates and improvements on Yankee Stadium to fulfill contemporary requirements and deepen historic roots. Nothing can compare to the real thing, and there is nothing that a new stadium can provide that Yankee Stadium cannot. You have the opportunity to make a great shrine of the national pastime even better, as was done for Fenway Park in Boston.

If you truly believe in the extraordinary relationship between the Yankees and the community that has made the franchise so special, then you can surely respect the virtues of historic preservation and its benefits to society. Preservation is good business and contributes much to the quality of peoples' lives. Yankee Stadium is a perfect example, as it maintains a link with New York's past and connects the citizens with the experiences of the people who came before them, in turn giving us a better understanding of our connectedness. When such an amazing part of Americana as Yankee Stadium is destroyed, all the lessons that it has offered are mostly forgotten and lost over time.

Would your conscience be clear as you repay this peerless ballpark by leveling it? It's not too late. You still have the chance to do the right thing.


Ralph Nader
Washington, DC

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

"Signing Up For Team Carrion" The Bronx Beat 11/8/4

Signing Up For Team Carrion
Rahwa Asmerom

On the night of May 7, 2003, the SkyClub on Manhattan's Park Avenue threw a lavish dinner party where invited guests and affluent ticket- holders could mingle with some of the most influential figures in New York baseball. The organizers and major sponsors of the evening included Yankees president Randy Levine, New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon, YES (Yankees Entertainment and Sports) Network chairman Leo Hindery, Jr. and Howard Rubenstein, the public relations executive whose many clients include Yankees' owner George Steinbrenner.

Those who expected an evening dominated by baseball talk went home disappointed. The party was actually a fundraising event for the 2005 re-election campaign of Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion. By night's end, organizers gathered up donations and pledges amounting to $400,000. This single party had managed to raise almost half the entire budget of Mr. Carrion 2001 campaign in one night.

The event offered dramatic proof of the close relationship between the baseball elite and the head politician in the borough that is home to the most historic and contested stadium in the city. And it came at a time when Carrion was devising plans to keep the Yankees in the borough, partly with the infusion of millions of taxpayer dollars.

In December 2001, less than a month before Michael Bloomberg assumed office as mayor and announced that the city's deflated budget could not accommodate paying for new stadiums, the newly-elected Carrion formally announced his Yankee Village Plan. At an estimated cost of $1.5 billion, the plan proposed the city subsidize construction of a stadium for the team and also develop parkland, tourist attractions, and new infrastructure. The proposal was favored by the Yankees but viewed suspiciously by public policy scholars.

Nick DeMause, author of "Field of Dreams," a book about stadium financing, researched the plan and came away dubious. "You have to be generally suspicious of using taxpayer funds for private business," he said. "And you can argue whether that money could have been better spent for something else."

Many other major American cities are currently embroiled in debates over public financing for sports stadiums. Supporters of public financing look to cities like Indianapolis and Cleveland who have successfully used sports stadiums to revitalize specific areas. But opponents say that the Yankees, a team that earns more money than any other sports franchise in the country, should pay for its own stadium.

Carrion insisted that the plan would help revitalize the South Bronx, but the New York Independent Budget Office presented a report which concluded, "Research consistently finds that new stadiums do not produce economic growth in metropolitan areas."

More recently, in October 2004, the city struck a provisional deal with the baseball team in which both parties would essentially split the cost of the total expenses. The Yankees would pay the cost of building the actual stadium -- $700 million to $800 million -- and taxpayers would bear the burden of the cost for construction of nearby facilities such as a new parking lot, a new subway stop and a ferry terminal.

The SkyClub party was held in the midst of the negotiations between the Yankees and the city and the organizers did more than assemble the guest list. In addition to putting the party together, the prominent hosts and their their respective companies gave generous donations to the Carrion campaign. For example, according to filings for that date with the state's campaign finance board, six YES Network executives each wrote out $1,000 checks to Mr. Carrion. YES chairman Leo Hindery gave $3,850; the maximum individual contribution allowed by the state. Richard Friedman also wrote a $3,850 check that day. He is a managing director at Goldman Sachs - the financier for the new Yankee stadium. Additionally, the Goldman Sachs New York PAC separately gave $3,160 to the campaign.

"This is not how public policy should be reached," said Andrew Wolf, editor and publisher of the Bronx Press Review, a weekly newspaper in the borough. "The original stadium was built without a nickel going into politician's pockets."

Six months after the party, the state lobbying commission found that the YES Network failed to disclose that it had given free game tickets to Carrion and other public officials. Three parties were reprimanded for the violation: the YES Network agreed to pay a $150,000 fine, the Yankees paid $75,000 and their lobbying firm, Global Strategy Group, was fined $50,000.

Global Strategy Group founder and CEO, Jonathan Silvan, was another guest at the SkyClub, and he gave Mr. Carrion a $3,290 check. Although his firm ranked number 10 in the 2002 assessment of the New York City's top lobbyists, it made city lobbying history that year for registering the largest single fee of $637,500 when it represented the YES Network. During that venture, Global Strategy Group teamed up with MirRam Group, a political consulting firm headed by Roberto Ramirez, a behemoth in Bronx politics.

Wolf of the Bronx Press Review says that the Bronx political machine is run by Ramirez who, among other things, was the former leader of the Bronx County Democrats. "The influence he has is unbelievable," he said.

The relationship between Ramirez and the borough president is professional and personal. Ramirez enthusiastically endorsed Carrion's campaign in 2001 and Carrion's wife was a partner at Mr. Ramirez's law firm. MirRam has so far racked up more than $60,000 in consulting fees from Carrion's 2005 re-election campaign, according to the state's campaign finance board.

When MirRam joined Global Strategy Group (temporarily renamed MirRam Global) to work for YES in 2002, the network was embroiled in litigation against Cablevision. The two companies could not agree on a price at which Cablevision was willing to carry YES programming. After months of tension, Carrion stepped in and urged both sides to come to an agreement.

Soon after this incident, a memo from MirRam Global to a potential client was published by the New York Sun. In it, the firm bragged about its success in the YES/Cablevision dispute and put in words the overall close-knit relationship between the companies, lobbyists and politicians. It read in part:

"Elected officials have entrusted their careers to us and we have delivered. In turn, we are now able to provide our clients with access and opportunity to an often impenetrable world. Our special relationship with key decision makers mean we can make the necessary introductions with the least amount of delays or confusion, while ensuring the greatest opportunity for successful intervention on our client's behalf."

The Yankees management, the lobbying groups and Bronx politicians make up an iron triangle that continues to frustrate critics like Wolf. "Its really sad that all this corruption is happening in the poorest county in the state," he said. "It's a terrible, terrible problem."

Help us fight!

They are tearing down the oaks that have lined Macomb's Dam and John Mullaly parks for all these years, but we will fight them still.

Please contribute to our legal fund!

To make a tax-deductible contribution please make your check payable to our fiscal agent, Bronx Council for Environmental Quality (or BCEQ for short), with “SaveOurParks” mentioned in the memo field.

Mail it to:

Post Office Box 435
Bronx, NY 10451

Or you can contribute via credit card or Paypal at BCEQ's website by clicking the title for this post. Click the Paypal button next to "Save Our Parks Campaign".

And thank you.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

"Council to hold hearings on Parks Dept. oversight" MetroNY 08/22/06

"Using public parks for private profit"...Hummm, doesn't that sound like the Yankees stealing our 22-acres of city parkland for their taxpayer-subsidized new stadium?

Council to hold hearings on Parks Dept. oversight

by patrick arden / metro new york

AUG 22, 2006

MANHATTAN — Plans for a water park on Randall’s Island and restaurants in Union and Stuyvesant squares are among the most recent controversies raising concerns about the use of public parks for private profit.

A series of City Council hearings will pick up the hot topic of park concessions this fall, said parks committee chair Helen Diane Foster, D-Bronx, yesterday.

“There are a number of issues with concessions that we’re going to look into,” Foster said. “There have been issues with how the contracts are granted and whether the discretion lies solely with the Parks Dept. There have been concerns about how much money a concessionaire is allowed to keep, and there are also concerns about the potential for the privatization of the parks.”

Foster said these hearings have been advocated by fellow Council members Alan Gerson and Dan Garodnick. Gerson is drafting legislation to give the City Council oversight into the Park Dept.’s awarding of concessions and its administration of the public-private partnerships known as conservancies.

Petition drive

Gerson was one of the 102 signers of a petition this month that called for public hearings and legislative oversight to address what it termed the Parks Dept.’s “increasing difficulty in reaching agreement” with communities. The petitioners asked for greater “transparency” in the awarding of concessions and the alienation of parkland.

The legislation is meant to be “helpful to the institution,” Gerson said. “There are a lot of financial pressures on the department to reach out to other sources for funding. That can be a good thing, as long as it’s done in such a way to maintain the open, public character of our parks.”

The petitioners also called for the Council to commit “monies collected from activities in the parks to the maintenance and operations of city parks.” Currently most proceeds from park concessions go into the city’s general fund.

A bill last year would have sent these funds directly to Parks Dept. coffers. “While there were many members who signed on, it didn’t go anywhere,” Foster said. “[The bill] hasn’t been reintroduced because the current Speaker has concerns.”

Former Parks Commissioner Henry Stern recalled a brief period under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani when the department collected a sliver of concession proceeds.

“There was approximately $50 million in concession revenue, and [Giuliani] promised if we got an additional $5 million we could keep it” Stern said. “It lasted for one or two years, and then [the Office of Management and Budget] said, ‘We were going to cut your budget by $10 million, but now we’ll cut it by $5 million.’ We stopped counting, because we gained nothing.”

Secret deals?

Stern worried that City Council involvement would “politicize” the awarding of concession contracts, but the petitioners charge the process is already too political — and secretive.

“Not all of the concession money is going to the city,” said Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates. “The city is allowing some conservancies to divert funds to take care of certain parks.”

Petition organizer and former City Council member Carol Greitzer wondered, “What happens in the poor neighborhoods, where there aren’t any rich people to form a conservancy and put private money into the parks?”

‘Dog haters’

Former Parks Commissioner Henry Stern slammed the petitioners as “busy bodies who don’t recognize an honest Parks Dept. when they see one.” He cited them by name, calling some “dog haters” and others “those people against the coffee shop in Stuyvesant Square.”

“We’re lucky to have conservancies,” he said. “Parks is the most underfunded of city agencies.”

Thursday, August 17, 2006

"A Stadium Is in, and a Park Is Out" NY Times ($elect) 8/17/6

A Stadium Is in, and a Park Is Out

Published: August 17, 2006

ON Tuesday morning, a Bronx man went for a jog on the red track, just to the north of Yankee Stadium — “but we were stopped by security,” noted the runner, Representative José E. Serrano, a Democrat from the Bronx.

Serrano was not surprised that Macombs Dam Park was shut down forever, since he and virtually all the power structure of New York have been cheerleading for the construction of a new Yankee Stadium in its place. He just happened to miss his last ceremonial run on the track that has served his family for decades.

With the exception of the so-called dignitaries wielding shovels at the official groundbreaking for the new stadium, Macombs Dam Park lay empty yesterday. Nobody was playing ball on the diamond and nobody was running on the synthetic track. Police and metal stanchions blocked off the land from the public. The next people to run on this particular plot of ground will be named Jeter and Rodriguez, presumably in 2009.

•Instead, residents jogged on the sidewalk of River Avenue, past the ubiquitous baseball bars and souvenir shops. The neighbors were getting their exercise any way they could, until the Yankees and the city fill in the leftover bits of real estate with playgrounds for the locals.

“This may be fine for the super-limo and Hummer crowd,” said Michael Levy Trotter, who was protesting at the corner of 161st Street and River Avenue under the elevated train behind center field at Yankee Stadium. “But I use a MetroCard, and the parks have always been sacred to people like me.”

Trotter, who said he “works in education,” is the vice president of Save Our Parks, a group that has been litigiously unable to stop the construction of the new Yankee Stadium on existing parkland. The polite little protest yesterday was drowned out by the rumble of the elevated train. At the groundbreaking, there was no sound of discord, only the vague acknowledgment that not everybody loves this kind of progress.

Nobody was quite sure what a slow-moving George Steinbrenner meant in his brief speech when he said the Yankees were building this new pleasure palace for “you people.” Was the Boss referring to the upwardly mobile Yankee fans from New Jersey and Westchester who can afford the baseball tickets of today? Was he addressing the youths of the Bronx who were paraded into the ceremony as charming props, and who may be given a few thousand tickets here and there? Who, exactly, are “you people”? But George does not elaborate much these days.

On the other hand, Serrano, a baseball fan and a runner, was not exactly throwing himself in front of the shovels, nor were any other elected officials in attendance. The building of a new Yankee Stadium, with the Yankees chipping in at least $800 million, was labeled “win-win-win” by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg — “unless you just don’t like anything,” added the mayor, who was turned down last year on a foolish bid to build an impractical sports complex for the 2012 Summer Games.

There may indeed be good reasons to build a new baseball stadium in the Bronx, particularly because the political process over recent decades has shamed the Yankees into paying for a chunk of it themselves — a development that seems to be catching on around the United States. Make rich people pay to upgrade their businesses? How revolutionary.

It is also true that the current Yankee Stadium, opened in 1923 and rebuilt in 1974-75, is an outmoded dump. It does not work on any level, except to inspire awe. The physical plant does not handle contemporary XL hips — or egos. On chilly October nights (playing in October is the whole point of Yankee-ness), with fans lurching down narrow corridors, wearing layers of clothing and fueled on alcohol and Yankee triumphalism, the joint is an absolute horror show.

With all due respect to museum pieces like Wrigley Field and Fenway Park (and I cannot wait to go back to quaint, refurbished Fenway this weekend), the Yankees need a new stadium. So do the Mets, who are also getting one, Shea Stadium being worse than a dump — a nondescript dump. But these enterprises take money and energy and land and priorities. And sometimes the people wind up jogging on the sidewalk instead of on a track.

All the politicians yesterday harped on the promise of jobs (building hospitals and schools and even parks presumably creates jobs). But baseball does stage 81 home games a season, far more than any other sport. There is much to be said for any town that can hang out a sign, from April through September, that says Ballgame Tonight.

And it could have been worse. At one stage, years ago, Steinbrenner was dithering about moving the team to a state to the west or perhaps to the West Side of Manhattan.

“The Jersey or the West Side Bombers just doesn’t sound right,” Serrano said yesterday in his speech. “The Bronx Bombers — that’s the sweetest sound you’ll ever here.”

•So the Yankees are staying in the Bronx. Good for them. They are even paying for some of it. The city is providing the infrastructure, which, as Bloomberg correctly noted yesterday, is what cities do. The state is even promising a railroad station to alleviate traffic — but we have heard that song before. The builders are promising all kinds of cute and nostalgic touches in the new stadium, behind walls, like a fortress.

Until all this Yankee progress gets done, the folks who live near old or future Yankee Stadium can go play in the street, and try not to get hit by the visiting limos and Hummers.


"Yanks break ground in Bronx" Metro NY 8/17/6

Yanks break ground in Bronx
by patrick arden / metro new york

AUG 17, 2006
SOUTH BRONX — An hour before yesterday’s groundbreaking ceremony for the new Yankee Stadium, about 50 people from the neighborhood gathered for a protest in front of the McDonald’s at the corner of 161st Street and River Avenue.

Lawrence Brandwein lives just off the Grand Concourse. A retired math teacher, he’s used Macombs Dam and Mullaly parks “all my life — that’s more than 60 years.”

Though he hated to see the community lose the parks, he didn’t intend to come for the protest. He wanted to attend the Yankees’ groundbreaking, but he didn’t have an invitation.

“They won’t let me in there,” Brandwein said. “Go see who’s walking in there: white men with expensive suits who have no regard for this neighborhood. They can go out to the Hamptons. Where do the people here go? Those men don’t care.”

He recalled a town hall meeting in the Bronx County Courthouse in December 2005. One month before, the community board had rejected the stadium plan, but the area’s elected officials remained unmoved. The hearing was supposed to give residents themselves a chance to weigh in.

“They filled up the hall with construction workers, and hundreds of people who actually live here were stuck outside in the cold,” he said. “It’s the same thing here. Look at the arrogance.”

Across the street in Macombs Dam Park, a calliope played “God Bless America,” while dignitaries lined up under the white tents around a green carpet emblazoned with the Yankees’ insignia. On the dais politicians exchanged pleasantries with baseball executives, former players and a TV comedian. They hailed the 3,600 construction jobs and the 900 “permanent” jobs that will be created by the project — 25 percent of which will be reserved for Bronx residents.

Moments before their shovels hit the dirt, the area’s assemblywoman, Carmen E. Arroyo, stepped up to the podium.
In the summer of 2005, Arroyo sponsored legislation that handed over the parkland to the Yankees without one public hearing or notice.

“It’s true there are people, some people that were not happy with what’s going on,” she said. “The children that are here are going to see, from 2009 on, a new Yankee Stadium. They are going to participate, they’re going to be there, and the Yankees are going to go all the way. The emotion I have today is not only for myself. I thank God, respectfully, that he gave me the opportunity that being in the South Bronx, and raising my children in the shadows of the Yankee Stadium, that today I have been part of this team.”

Low cost?

SOUTH BRONX — In defending government subsidies to pay for the new Yankee Stadium, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “If you take a look here, the city and the state are putting in very small amounts of money.”

That depends on what you consider small: The state is contributing $70 million for parking garages, while the city’s costs are considerably higher.

The Parks Dept. claims $160 million will replace lost parkland, but $87 million of that will actually fund “park improvements.”

Another $15 million is paying for new trees, and at least $58 million will fund “site infrastructure,” unspecified or “miscellaneous” costs, and the demolition of the current ballpark.

Then the city and the state are each giving the Yankees $4.7 million to fund maintenance costs. In 30 years, the city will give another $8.5 million.

The Yankees are also exempt from property taxes, mortgage recording taxes and sales taxes on construction materials. The city is helping the team to finance the stadium by issuing $955 million in bonds, which the Yankees will pay off. The Yankees have also been deducting “planning costs” for the new stadium from rent to the city.

Dan Steinberg, of the watchdog group Good Jobs New York, puts the value of government subsidies at more than $400 million.

"Groundbreaking for new Yankee Stadium a step back for history" USA Today 8/16/6

Groundbreaking for new Yankee Stadium a step back for history

by Ian O'Conner
Posted 8/16/2006 10:06 PM ET

NEW YORK — Beyond the oversized tents stuffed with bloated functionaries, in the shadow of a billion-dollar exercise in corporate and political might, Yankee Stadium looked as elegant as ever under a mid-morning sun. The marquee told of a night game with the Orioles, but it would have better served the public by announcing the question of the day.


Why are the Yankees tearing down one of the last great temples of American sport? Why are they leaving a perfectly functional ballpark, only the world's most famous ballpark, for a monument to big-business greed next door?

You don't just level Yankee Stadium, the same way you don't just level Fenway Park or Wrigley Field. You paint them, renovate them, equip them with new bathrooms and modern, fan-friendlier ways of watching the game.

But you don't reduce them to dust and ash for an extra 40 luxury boxes and a happier bottom line.

This truth was lost on the two Georges, Steinbrenner and Pataki, and the mayor, Michael Bloomberg, as they lorded over an extra-large dais of lesser officials and team mascots (Yogi Berra, Billy Crystal) assembled for the groundbreaking of the team's 2009 home, a ceremony held in the echoes of community protesters raging against this spiked-up trampling of Macombs Dam and Mullaly Parks.

CHANGES IN THE BRONX: Yankees break ground on new $1 billion stadium

Those who stepped to the podium ignored the distant chants and swore the new, retro-charged stadium would better match the stadium of Babe Ruth's prime than the renovated one now standing. Who cares? You can't pack the traditions and memories with the tobacco chew and sunflower seeds. You can't slide mystique and aura into a limo and drive them across the street.

On the anniversary of Babe Ruth's death, too many people were too willing to celebrate the scheduled demise of Ruth's 84-year-old house. Steve Swindal, Steinbrenner's eventual successor, said, "We promise to deliver to you, the fan, the finest baseball facility in the world."

That facility already exists, Steve. Your team plays there 81 times a year. There's a reason why you clear 50,000 customers for every game — Yankee fans love to feel a part of history as much as they love to see Boston reverting to second-place form.

Shea Stadium is a charm-free dump, a place that deserved a date with the wrecking ball a year after it was built. Yankee Stadium is an artifact, a museum, a city treasure that needed to be preserved.

Steinbrenner was never leaving the Bronx despite years of empty threats to the contrary, so the city and state didn't have to commit hundreds of millions of dollars to build him parking garages and a train station, to grant him tax relief, and to give him an out with community leaders by creating recreation areas to replace the gobbled-up parks.

Those leaders don't want their new parks scattered here and there, with some fields plastered on the roofs of garages, of all places.

"What's wrong with the current stadium?" said Delmas Vernon Cole, a 59-year-old resident and member of the protesting group, Save Our Parks. "This is all about greed. They're cutting down 400 trees for a 14-story monstrosity that will take from us 22 acres of contiguous parkland, a place where we played and our kids play.

"We don't want this, and yet it's being rammed down our throats because we're a predominantly poor, black and Hispanic neighborhood."

Lawrence Brandwein, a 64-year-old resident and a white member of the group, shouted at various officials as they entered the invitation-only event. "Look who's going to this, white men in nice suits," Brandwein said. "They should go back to the Hamptons. They wouldn't do this in a white neighborhood."

Four dozen protesters chanted, "Save our parks, save our community," as they marched north on River Avenue. On the other side of the barricades, elected officials and assorted project backers spoke of how the new stadium would improve traffic and parking in the area and provide an overall quality-of-life boost. Jobs for Bronx residents were promised, lavish lockers for Bronx Bombers were assured.

"We're just happy that we're able to do this for the Yankees," Steinbrenner said, "and happy to do it for you people. Enjoy the new stadium. I hope it's wonderful."

After following an endless series of long-winded, say-nothing speeches, Steinbrenner had wobbled out of the sun toward the mike and spoke for a half minute. He got the only standing ovation of the day, a day he coveted long before his team drew four million fans a year.

Steinbrenner would be among 17 officials to grab the ceremonial shovels and dig into the ceremonial dirt, and he would be the only one to refuse to wear a silly Yankee hardhat to mark the occasion. The owner was surrounded by politicians who kept saying the new stadium signified a South Bronx resurgence, and by posted corporate logos that said something else.

The new Yankee Stadium will come with a surrounding-area subtitle paid for with Fortune 500 cash. The additional luxury boxes will more than compensate for the 5,000 fewer seats, and the stadium construction costs will be lopped from the revenue-sharing fees paid to the small-market clubs.

So baseball's richest team will get richer, at least in the pocketbook. But tearing down Yankee Stadium makes the world's most celebrated ballclub poorer in every other way.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Where will he go?

Please contribute to our legal fund!

To make a tax-deductible contribution please make your check payable to our fiscal agent, Bronx Council for Environmental Quality (of BCEQ for short), with “SaveOurParks” mentioned in the memo field.

Mail it to:

Bronx Council for Environmental Quality (BCEQ)
Post Office Box 265
Bronx, NY 10464-0265

Or you can contribute via credit card or Paypal at BCEQ's website by clicking the title for this post. Click the Paypal button next to "Save Our Parks Campaign".

And thank you.

"House that Greed will build" Newsday 8/16/6

House that Greed will build

by Wallace Matthews
August 16, 2006

The Boss says his new ballpark will be "better for the fans."

This is not the biggest lie he has told concerning Yankee Stadium, his cash machine on the banks of the Harlem River, only the latest.

This morning, George Steinbrenner and a motley collection of as many politicians as he can fit into his bottomless pockets will wield shovels across the street from what they like to call "The Cathedral of Baseball" around here in a groundbreaking ceremony to kick off their latest scam, "Cathedral II."

Believe me, they will be shoveling more than just dirt.

The new Yankee Stadium, or whatever it winds up being called, will be better for George M. Steinbrenner III, former shipbuilder from Cleveland who 33 years ago pulled off the biggest heist in this town since Peter Minuit stole Manhattan from the Lenapes for a handful of beads.

But better for the fans?

Do you like the idea of paying even more for your seat than the already league-high ticket prices at Yankee Stadium? Do you not mind the prospect of being shut out of a game because the new park will have between 5,000 and 7,000 fewer seats? Are you OK with the idea of cozying up on the couch in front of the TV set because that is now the only seat for a Yankees game you can afford? Have you grown accustomed to seeing one precious bit of New York history after another fall to the wrecker's ball?

If you answered yes to any or all of those questions, then The Boss is right. The new Yankee Stadium will be better for you.

For the rest of us, the ones who live not on planet Earth but New York City, this deal is as dirty as anything ever found in a puddle of black water in the subway.

Forget that it got railroaded through the City Council without a public hearing, or that the project will cost New York taxpayers some $400 million. Forget that the Yankees will no longer pay rent nor real estate tax, that they will not pay to tear down the old ballpark, or that they will be able to deduct the construction cost from the revenue-sharing pool, thereby weakening their competition as they strengthen themselves.

What really makes this deal so distasteful is that it has been built on 15 years of ever-changing lies, each with the same purpose: to enrich the Yankees and rip off their fans.

First, the South Bronx was unsafe. That didn't work. Then there wasn't enough parking. That failed, too. Then, in 1998, an expansion bolt fell out of the upper deck while the Stadium was empty, which was great news for Steinbrenner. The Roman Colosseum has been standing more than 2,000 years but he and his toady, Rudy Giuliani, insisted that Yankee Stadium, reborn in 1976, could topple at any moment.

Now, the spin is that this is not the "real" Yankee Stadium anyway, that one having vanished in the reconstruction, and to demolish it would have no more historical significance than razing a 7-Eleven.

All of this, of course, was designed to obscure the real reason: The old House That Ruth Built doesn't drive enough revenue, in the current vernacular, or at least not as much as it should.

Never mind that last night, for an essentially meaningless game between the Yankees and Orioles, more than 52,000 jammed their way into the park, or that this year they will top 4 million in attendance for the second year running. At an average ticket price of $50 a game - the high is $115 - the live gate alone generates some $2.5 million a night, times 81 nights. Throw in concessions, merchandising and the $60-million rights fee from the YES network, and you've got quite a haul.

Ah, but the new Stadium will have 57 luxury boxes, costing upwards of $500,000 each, where the well-heeled can attend a cocktail party with their backs to the game. There will be a gourmet restaurant that will make you long for a $7 hot dog. There will be amenities you cannot imagine and only the most privileged will be able to afford.

And oh yeah, there will be naming rights. Which corporation will earn the privilege of paying $20 million a year or so to place its name alongside that of "the most celebrated franchise in sports history?"

Yet to be determined, but try this one on: Fort Knox at Yankee Stadium.

Bad faith

Read the articles below, from NY1 and the Daily News, and discover that promised interim parkland will not be in place till the summer of '07.

Why haven't the City and the Yankees lifted a finger to provide what they promise in their own documents?

Then ask yourself if they have any intention at all of providing the community with this interim parkland. Monday arrived and entire sports teams of children were locked out into the street without any warning so the props, bleachers, and tents could be set up for the Yankees' lovefest.

Truckloads of mulch were brought in to be spread at the base of the oaks that surround the fancy ground-wrecking ceremony. These same oaks have been neglected for years, even though there has been millions allocated for the care of these trees and parks. Maybe that is why a tree service worked all Monday pruning these same trees.

Oh, yeah. These are the oaks slated for destruction.

It is all a spectacle of bad faith.

"Groundbreaking Ceremony For New Yankee Stadium Could Mean End Of Era" NY1 8/16/6

Groundbreaking Ceremony For New Yankee Stadium Could Mean End Of Era

August 16, 2006

The New York Yankees are set to celebrate a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday for their new ballpark after playing in their current home since 1923.

Governor George Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg are among those expected to be there.

The stadium will be built at Macombs Dam Park, right across the street from the current stadium. The city and state will kick in more than $200 million for recreational facilities and improved infrastructure. The Yankees will pay the rest, financed through taxable and tax-exempt bonds.

However, the plan has met with some opposition from residents and parks advocates who tried to get a temporary restraining order. But a State Supreme Court judge ruled Tuesday the team was never required to consider practical alternatives to the taking of parkland.

Parts of the park will be closed during construction, including the running track and tennis courts.

"It's a tremendous loss for the community and there is so many of us that work in the area that live in the area that have been using this track for years and years and years," said one area reasident. "And we knew this day was coming and I came out here today and I'm just devastated."

"Yeah, I'll miss it," added another. "There should be some place where they compensate the people who live in the neighborhood, you know?"

The new stadium will have the same dimensions as the current one. It will have fewer seats, but more luxury boxes. The design also borrows some features from the current stadium. It's scheduled to open in time for the 2009 season.

Without a doubt, Yankee Stadium is one the most historic places in New York. It was built on ten acres of Bronx farmland, purchased for $675,000 in 1921 and opening in 1923. It has played host to the most World Series – 37.

In addition to the Yankees, the Giants called the Stadium home until the early ‘70s, playing in the famed '58 championship game there against the Colts.

The old Stadium also hosted a number of other events, ncluding the Joe Louis/Max Schmeling rematch in front of 70,000 fans in 1938. It was closed following the '73 baseball season for a city-funded renovation, reopening in '76 just as the Yanks had once-again become one of the top teams in baseball.

For many fans, the Stadium is hallowed ground, but with the groundbreaking on the new site Wednesday, its days are numbered.

"Locals hurt as Yanks break ground" NY Daily News 8/16/6

Locals hurt as Yanks break ground


Macombs Dam Park is closed, and kids must find a new site for their baseball league games. Neighborhood activist Ernesto Gonzalez (below) protests at River Ave. and 161st St.

Danny Torres is used to slamming dingers in the afternoon at Macombs Dam Park, but on Monday, it was the park gates that were slammed. In his face.

"It's so sad," said the 20-year-old ballplayer who, by day, attends school at a local college.

Like 200 others in the Bronx-based International Baseball League, he's being kicked off his home field, which is slated to be razed to make room for the new Yankee Stadium.

"I don't know where we're going to play now," he said.

Residents of Highbridge, the easily ignored neighborhood surrounding the park, are feeling the pinch.

While the Yankees are gearing up for their new play-space with a groundbreaking ceremony this morning, locals are seeing the reality of losing ground. Macombs Dam Park, a 16-acre oasis of hard-to-find green space, is now closed.

In the wee hours of Monday morning, the park was sealed off for good with a Cyclone fence and yellow tape, and a mammoth stage was erected on top of the running track.

"It upsets everybody," said tennis player Ernesto Brito, 46, a construction worker who moonlights as a Yankee Stadium parking attendant. "How much are they going to invest in the community? [Yankees owner George] Steinbrenner, he doesn't care about it."

Along River Ave., a group of young boys wearing football pads did pushups on the sidewalk. The Bronx Colts teammates arrived for practice to find police officers blocking the park entrance.

"It's taking one of our monuments away from our children," said Rosa Sims, 30, a mother of two who barked orders during the warmups.

"This whole area is low-income families. And this is basically all we can afford right now."

The Colts' 30 members are local residents. Last year they asked the Yankees to sponsor them and provide funding for uniforms - or help them relocate to another park - but never received a response.

"All I can say is, it's real," added coach Anthony, 24, who didn't want his last name used. "The Yankees get everything. Now they're kicking out the kids. My team is homeless because they want to move the field over here."

The Caribe Baseball League, a children's league with 600 players, said they knew the park shutdown was coming, but it still hurts.

"We need a field to play in; the children's season hasn't ended yet," said Sonia Hernandez, the league's treasurer.

According to the Parks Department, interim baseball fields will be ready by spring 2007. Meantime, teams with permits will be able to use existing parks, including the northernmost part of nearby Mullaly Park.

Originally published on August 16, 2006

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Where will he go?

Please contribute to our legal fund:

To make a tax-deductible contribution please make your check payable out to our fiscal agent BCEQ with “SaveOurParks” mentioned in the memo field.
Mail it to: Bronx Council for Environmental Quality (BCEQ), Post Office Box 265,Bronx, NY 10464-0265

Or you can contribute via credit card or Paypal at BCEQ's website for the SaveOurParks campaign.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

"New Life for ‘ol Macombs Park”" NY Post 11/19/78

New Life for ‘ol Macombs Park” NY Post 11/19/78

By Jerry Izenberg in New York Post, November 19, 1978

More than one Yankee management tried to swallow it whole and spit it out as a fully macadamized parking lot. Down at the Department of Parks, the red-tape spinners give it all the attention you’d expect to find lavished on a mad eldest child locked away in the attic in a gothic novel. The “beautiful people” in this town find it more rewarding to focus their short attention spans on renovating caves for oriental bats up at the Bronx Zoo.

But the park endures. It survives neglect and contempt. It survives political promises and a layer of scarred surface-dirt which is concrete in the summer and mud in the winter. The grandstand is rotted and the bolts which hold it together are pitted with rust. The water fountains don’t work. Just across the street, the splendid outlines of Xanadu ’78 (The House Which John Lindsay Rebuilt) fills the Bronx skyline with New York Yankee splendour.

This is Macombs Dam Park. Within book-end reach of Yankee Stadium, it symbolizes the contempt of a city for its children and adults at play…the contempt of a city for many of the same people who were blackjacked into underwriting two massive ball parks for private interests and for whom there is not time or money when it comes to their own recreation.

It symbolizes all of this and now it symbolizes much more. It is the focal point around which a new and long overdue revolution is being fought. It is a revolution without steamy rhetoric, abusive language or “you-owe-me” type of threats. It is the rallying point for new thinking in a new day.

It is here that the Macombs-New York Sports association plans to light up not only the Bronx but all of this town as well with a prototype “people’s park” which can stand as an object lesion to the cities of all America that, yes, it can be done.

It is a concept born of more than simple need. It was born out of the ultimate realization that recreation deferred in favor of the twin rip-offs of Shea and Yankee Stadia, is more than recreation denied. It is a challenge to the real people of the city…whether they speak English or Spanish or French.

On the morning of January 23 at Lowenstein Auditorium at Lincoln Center, the group which has nurtured this dream will lay it before some of the most influential people in this town…a $6 million all-purpose track and field, football and baseball, softball and senior-citizens complex which light up the sky with its 24-hour presence but turn the key to open the renaissance of a once proud neighborhood.

Like all revolutions this one is steeped in one gesture of contempt too many. The city did not tell the people who live, work and play near Macombs Dam to eat cake. Rather, it suggested that they swallow their pride and their local concrete in one gulp.

At leadt that was the way it looked to Mel Halperin, the president of the local merchant’s association whom was one of the group’s founders. The day he felt he’d had enough was the day he went to work and found them ripping up the sidewalk on Jerome Avenue.

There, even as the costs of the new Yankee Stadium had risen to five times the price tag promised by John Lindsay’s sooth-sayers, workmen were replacing the sidewalk on Jerome Avenue in the very shadow of this supercalafragilistic rip-off and repainting every other one Yankee blue and white.

“Nothing could have shown their contempt better.” Says Halperin, who remembers what the neighborhood was when his father first opened a liquor store here and the Yankee players would drop by to chat. “You can’t help anyone here by painting the elevated Subway Yankee blue for a few blocks. I think now we have found a way to bring people and safety back to the streets and start a chain reaction which can bring this neighborhood back to life.”

Carl Nesfield sees the proposal differently. Of all the community people who have swung behind this incredible plan – from the people of Community Planning Board No. 4 on down through the neighborhood joggers and people elsewhere in this city who care, Carl is the most realistic.

He has to be.

Each fall weekend he sends 900 kids out to play football in
Macombs Dam Park. He knows what city promises mean – nothing. That’s why he believes in the concept of these people doing it themselves. He is also realist enough to know that it is going to be very difficult.

“As this idea caught hold,” he said the other day from the small office where he runs his football league, “I thought maybe I could get some help elsewhere. I heard there was a New York State Sports Authority and I heard that the City had created something like that, too. New York State doesn’t care about us and when I called City Hall I found the other people don’t even have an office.


“That’s not surprising. You’re lucky if you can get the field lined. Recreation handles supplies. Maintenance does the work. God forbid you should askl the wrong guy for help. I worry about sending those kids out there. The dust is so bad you have to count the kids after every play. I’m not kidding.”

"Is the board a rubber stamp?" Highbridge Horizon June 2006

Is the board a rubber stamp?

Op-Ed Letter By John Rozankowski

From clandestine park alienation votes, to a lockout from a public hearing, the new Yankee Stadium project has proceeded, pulverizing community rights in its path. The latest chapter is the purge of Bronx Community Board 4, the ramifications of which should alarm and disturb every civic-minded citizen.

The Borough President appoints community board members for two-year terms beginning in April. Although appointed by the Borough President, Community Board appointees are not the borough president's representatives to the community but representatives of the community to the borough president. They are not required to vote as the borough president might wish but to advise the borough president on what they feel is best for their community. This is supported by the City Charter and is emphasized in the borough president's orientation for new board members.

So why is it that of the 19 members up for re-appointment, five who supported the new stadium received another term while three who opposed it were ousted? (The fate of the others is uncertain at this writing.)

The case of former Board Chairman, Ade Rasul, is particularly interesting. Here is a gentleman who voted for the Project and yet, was removed. The prevailing opinion in the community is that he was expelled because he failed to deliver the Board vote. If this is the case, just what was he expected to do?

He reportedly did lobby his fellow board members for the Project and conducted an extremely fair public hearing on Nov. 22 after which the Board voted against the Project. Should he have manipulated the hearing as was done in the Nov. 17 Town Hall meeting? Or should be have locked the community out as was done in the Public Hearing of Dec. 12? It seems that fairness is no longer a virtue in certain quarters since rumors abound that Gary Axelbank's show on Bronx Net was axed because he gave air time to Project opponents!

Responding to questions about the purge, Bronx Borough President Carrion said: "My very clear expectation is that these appointees are there to carry out a vision for the borough president and the leadership of this borough, and that's simply what I expect." No statement could be more clear: Mr. Carrion evidently wants the community boards to rubber stamp his decisions and presumably those of the Bronx Democratic Machine.

This is contrary to the spirit of the City Charter guaranteeing the integrity and independence of Community Boards. Members of Bronx Community Board #4 must ask for a full investigation by the Community Assistance Unit, which governs all community boards in NYC.

This is no longer about the Yankee Stadium project. It is an attack on democracy in the Bronx.

John Rozankowski is a Bronx resident and member of Friends of Poe Park.

"Carrion's 'politricks' outrage residents" Highbridge Horizon June 2006

Carrion's 'politricks' outrage residents

BP acts against stadium opponents
By Joe Lamport
Managing Editor

Community residents staged a silent protest outside of a special meeting of Community Board 4 June 27, but there was a lot of noise inside after Borough President Adolfo Carrion removed members of the board who had voted against the plan to build a new Yankee Stadium.

Community Board 4 voted overwhelmingly against the plan to build a new stadium for the Yankees in November and at the June 27 meeting, Carrion got his revenge, board members said. And residents were furious.

"Borough President Carrion's blatant removal of community board members is a disgrace, an embarrassment, un-American," said Beverly Beja, who has worked for years on community issues in the neighborhoods of Community Board 4. "The military is in Iraq to help that country establish a democracy. Maybe the National Guard should be activated to serve in the Bronx."

Beja singled out Aurea Mangual, the borough president's representative to the community board. At the June 6 meeting of the board, Mangual had asked for Beja's name after Beja had expressed her anger at news Carrion would not reappoint certain board members because they had voted against the stadium plan.

"I am an American," she said in response at the meeting, "born to immigrant parents who toiled to give me a better life in a free society."

Beja's comments brought thunderous applause from the packed auditorium at Bronx Lebanon Hospital. Many other residents echoed her remarks and some called for an investigation of the process used to decide the membership of the board.

"We've got a new word in our vocabulary up here - 'politricks,'" said Maria Simmons of Highbridge, another active community resident. Simmons and other residents have collected "several hundred" signatures on petitions expressing outrage at Carrion's decisions on the board's membership. She asked a representative of the mayor's Community Assistance Unit to investigate the appointment process.

The representative was non-committal and, paradoxically, told Simmons to express her concerns first to the borough president's office.

Carrion named nine new members to the community board and they all voted 'Yes' on the slate of members nominated to serve as the board's executive members. D. Lee Ezell was named the new chair of the board and her fervent support of the plan for a new Yankee Stadium was the reason, residents said at the meeting.

Board members said they felt Carrion had violated ethical rules in how he named people to the board.

"What happened here truly is illegal," said Mariano Laboy, who was removed as treasurer of the board.

Although Laboy was not reappointed as treasurer, his term is not up. But he said he was certain he would not be reappointed after he spoke at the meeting.

"I know with what I will say tonight, I'll be gone," Laboy said. "This community cannot keep silent anymore. Because (Ezell) said 'Yes' to Yankee Stadium she's been promoted and the others who said 'No' have been demoted."

Politicians helped the Yankees "steal our parks because they thought they would get some money in return," said Anthony Curry, a local resident. "They have gotten to the point where they think they don't need us anymore."

Louise Williams, one of the board's members who Carrion chose not to reappoint, said she was "appalled" at the borough president's action. "I've worked for 30-some odd years for this community," Williams said. "We voted unanimously against the stadium plan because we had surveyed and analyzed the plan carefully. (The Yankees) want to take people's lives."

Residents said their anger would not end with their loud comments at the community board meeting. Several vowed that Carrion would pay for his vengeance on Election Day.

"I voted Adolfo Carrion in and I will vote him out," Williams said.

"What's happening to our board is a travesty," said Michael Trotter, another community resident active on local issues. "I hope you new members will remain independent thinkers. For their vote, (former members) had to take a political hit.

Carrion and other local politicians "can change chairs and political positions, but you can't change the will of this community," Trotter added.

Board Member Mary Blassingame summed up the feelings of many at the meeting.

"It was a sad day for community input," she said, having been forced from her position as chair of the housing and land use committee. "And it's going to come back to haunt Carrion."

"The Post ‘Drops the Ball’ on Yankee Stadium Story" Streetsblog 8/12/6

Streetsblog gives Save Our Parks a little love:

The Post ‘Drops the Ball’ on Yankee Stadium Story

The Post had a story yesterday reporting on the last ditch effort to stop the Yankee's bad plan to build a new stadium with fewer seats for us Yankee fans but dump more traffic and emissions on the already suffering low-income neighborhoods of the south Bronx. Here's how the Post characterizes opponents of the plan:

"Stadium opponents, led by the group Save Our Parks, complained in court that the project will cost its Bronx neighborhood 377 trees and leave children in the area without a park for five years."

The paragraph successfully trivializes the opposition's points. Trees can grow back, and the loss of the park will be only "for five years." By characterizing the opposition as concerned with temporary results of the plan, the post paints them as opposing progress over nothing. I can just imagine Post readers scoffing at the opponents after reading this story: "377 trees? Wah wah wah."

The Post missed or ignored mentioning the permanent problems with the Yankees' plan:

* The new stadium would have 4,000 fewer seats (so you'll have to pay more to spectate)

* Despite the loss of seats, the Yankees want to build 4,000 more parking spaces that will discourage transit ridership, wreck the neighborhood with garages that will nearly always be empty, and pour traffic and pollution into the already suffering south Bronx

* The waste of $1.2 billion to build a new stadium when there's a perfectly fine stadium already sitting right there

This Post story will shape public opinion to favor the construction of the new stadium and garages. Anyone looking for more information on the proposal should see OnNYTurf's great information page on the Yankee Stadium proposal and Save Our Parks website.

Friday, August 11, 2006

"Yanks battle lawsuit; city starts pouring concrete" Field of Schemes, 8/11/6

Yanks battle lawsuit; city starts pouring concrete

Bronx opponents of the New York Yankees stadium plan had their day in court before state judge Herman Kahn yesterday, demanding that demolition of Macombs Dam Park be stayed until a lawsuit against the project is resolved. The Yankees' lawyer, Jonathan Schiller, fired back that an injunction would be unacceptable, as it would "bust the budget" for the stadium and "imperil the structure of the project," arguing that a year's delay would cost the team $33 million in added rent, and $80 million in additional construction costs.

As Patrick Arden of NY Metro reports, though, the latter figure assumes a 12%-per-year hike in construction costs, and a leading industry expert says a more reasonable figure would be 7%, if that. And as for the $33 million in extra rent:

The city's own figures show the team has never come close to paying that much in rent. Last year the Yankees were supposed to hand over $14.5 million. But after the team took deductions, the city received just $1.8 million in rent.

Schiller also reiterated last week's threats to move the team if construction were delayed by even one day, though he refused to tell Judge Kahn where the Bronx Bombers might go. Kahn took the bait, asking how many jobs and how much economic activity the city would lose if the team were to leave - though he didn't appear to notice that those extra rent payments Schiller was griping about for an additional season at Yankee Stadium would be an added benefit to city coffers.

Up in the Bronx, meanwhile, the city and the team have begun preparations for the demolition of Macombs Dam Park and the southern portion of Mullaly Park. Though the official groundbreaking is not until 9:30 am next Wednesday, August 16th (to be broadcast live on the Yanks' cable YES Network), neighborhood locals report that today cement trucks began paving over the handball courts at the corner of 164th St. and River Avenue for use as temporary parking, while the tennis clubhouse at the opposite corner of the block (see map) is expected to be demolished starting on Monday, and the southern half of the tennis courts will be closed effective immediately - this being slated as the site for those $235 million parking garages that state taxpayers are helping to foot the bill for.

As for the Wednesday groundbreaking, reports are that it will begin at the southwest corner of Macombs Dam Park at Jerome Avenue and 161st St., where chainsaws will go to work on the trees behind the baseball diamond there. That should make some darn fine TV.

"Yanks play money ball" MetroNY 08/11/06

Yanks play money ball

by patrick arden / metro new york

AUG 11, 2006

LOWER MANHATTAN — New York Yankees’ attorney Jonathan Schiller told a judge yesterday that any delay in starting construction on the team’s new $1.3 billion stadium project would “bust the budget” and mean the Bombers would have to leave the Bronx.

“Where will you go?” asked Manhattan State Supreme Court Judge Herman Kahn, who is considering a request to stay next week’s construction plans for the team’s new stadium on 22 acres of parkland in the South Bronx. The Highbridge community group Save Our Parks is suing the Yankees and the city to stop the project.

“This is not something I will debate here,” Schiller said, assuring the judge that the Yankees have “exhaustively explored” other options. The team plans to break ground next week, and then issue $955 million in bonds to finance the ballpark.

Any delay, Schiller said, would “imperil the structure of the project” by adding costs for the Yankees. If the new ballpark isn’t ready by Opening Day of the 2009 season, he claimed, the Yankees will have to cough up $33 million in rent for another year in the current stadium.

Yet the city’s own figures show the team has never come close to paying that much in rent. Last year the Yankees were supposed to hand over $14.5 million. But after the team took deductions, the city received just $1.8 million in rent.

The city comptroller’s office regularly finds the team overstating its deductions. Its last 2005 audit took back write-offs for a clubhouse Jacuzzi, Yankee offices and a “wives lounge.”

Schiller claimed another year on the schedule would add $80 million to the final pricetag. He cited figures by the team’s developer Tishman Speyer, saying costs rise by 12 percent a year.

That forecast seemed high to Peter Morris of the Davis Langdon Construction Industry Market Report. “And our projection is higher than people are generally looking at,” he said, putting construction cost raises at between 7 and 10 percent. “In New York City they’re probably seeing costs at the lower end of our range.”

Construction costs are rising, Morris said. But, according to an analysis of the Yankees bonds by Moody’s Investor Service, some costs have already been fixed by its contractor agreements. Standard & Poor’s says the bonds received a high rating because the Yankees are located in New York City, “the largest media market in the U.S. with sound demographics.”

Calls to the Yankees were not returned.

Kitty Cotter, who lives across from Macombs Dam Park, believes the Yankees would be foolish to leave. But she’s thinking about it.

“If that stadium gets built,” she said, “I’ll have to move.”

Ticket hike

• According to Standard & Poor’s, due to more luxury boxes, the average ticket price at the new stadium is going to be $74.11.

Meanwhile ...

• While Highbridge residents were in court yesterday, construction crews were taking down the fence in Mullaly Park. “They told me on Monday seven of the tennis courts will become a temporary parking lot to work on the stadium,” said Scott Daly, who’s run the free Junior Tennis League program since 1969. “Wherever we end up, it won’t be the same."