Friday, August 04, 2006

"Yanks threaten to walk if court rules against ballpark" MetroNY 08/04/06

Yanks threaten to walk if court rules against ballpark

by patrick arden / metro new york

AUG 4, 2006

LOWER MANHATTAN — As the attorney for the South Bronx community group Save Our Parks, Jeffrey Baker filed a lawsuit against the city and the New York Yankees late Wednesday to stop the building of a new stadium on 22 acres of parkland.

The lawsuit had long been expected, but time was running out for the Highbridge residents to make their case. Two weeks ago the stadium plan secured its last approvals from the Internal Revenue Service and the National Park Service. Yesterday Baker asked for a temporary restraining order to prevent construction crews from breaking ground in the parks on Aug. 17.

Baker sat alone in the hallway of the Manhattan Supreme Court late in the afternoon, waiting to enter the courtroom of Judge Rosalyn Richter. At 4:10 p.m., he was joined by a group of nine men and one woman, all in black suits, who represented the Yankees, the city, a construction firm and bond underwriters.

Once in the courtroom, the judge had no problem picking out the two sides.

“I assume this side of the table is here to oppose the injunction,” she said, smiling.

Bench warmer

Richter explained she wouldn’t consider the merits of the case — she was leaving that to Judge Herman Kahn, who would hear arguments on Aug. 14. Kahn had sided with the MTA in its decision to accept the low bid when the Jets wanted to build a stadium over the West Side rail yards.

The plaintiffs claimed the city had violated the State Environmental Quality Review Act, which required it to consider the social impact of the new stadium in equal measure to its economic effect. Now they just wanted the judge to stop the Yankees from chopping down 377 trees before their suit could be heard. “The harm would be irrevocable,” Baker said.

“There is no need for a TRO,” replied the Yankees’ lawyer, Jonathan D. Schiller, who noted the next court date fell three days before construction was set to begin. Schiller complained about the “ripple effect” of delays and the threat of increased costs. The new stadium had to be ready by opening day 2009, he said, and the current ballpark could not be used for part of one season. With yet another postponement, he added, “The Yankees will have to consider leaving the city.”

“The problem is we don’t have the same resources,” said Baker. His co-counsel, Antonia Bryson, was out of the country until Aug. 13, and state and federal agencies had not yet handed over documents.

Last resort

“Is it your contention that none of the agencies considered the impact on the community?” Richter asked, before denying the TRO request, citing the adverse impact it could have on the Yankees’ sale of nearly $1 billion in bonds.

“All the powers that be lined up behind the project,” Baker acknowledged. “Now the residents have to rely on the courts.”


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