Wednesday, August 16, 2006

"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


At 12:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if Ernesto Brito still has a job. Prolly not! But kudos to you, man, for speaking truth to power!


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