Sunday, September 03, 2006

"New Yankee Stadium Benefits Yankees, But Not Bronx" Blogcritics.Org website 08/18/06

New Yankee Stadium Benefits Yankees, But Not Bronx
August 18, 2006
B.C. Lorio

Today is a sad day in the Bronx.

True, the New York Yankees did win — and that result alone brought many smiles to the Boogie Down. But today, the true losers are those who live in the Concourse Village area. They are the ones who are going to be displaced by one of the richest professional sports organizations in the world, the New York Yankees

In a ceremony production that "television voice of the Yankees" (and ESPN 1050 radio host) Michael Kay estimated to cost over one billion dollars, Thursday morning the Bronx Bombers broke ground for their new stadium. Planned for 2009, the new Yankee Stadium is projected to be a first class facility that will seat 51,000 fans. The development calls for lucrative sky boxes to line the new edifice, making even more money for an organization noted for their excesses. And don't be fooled, Yankee fans: With the capacity reduced, tickets will be at a premium, making ducats for a game even more expensive when tied into the amenities of a new ballpark.

As usual, the Yankees trotted out the obligatory Hall of Famers, broadcasters, local politicians wanting their face on television, a governor with presidential aspirations, and a Hollywood actor who reminisced about going to Yankee games while wearing a Mets cap (Billy Crystal).

Just another day in the Bronx.

It appears that the local Bronx politicians (including borough president and aspiring mayoral candidate Aldolfo Carrion) literally sold his constituents out for the almighty dollar. Instead of being a leader and making demands from the Yankees to provide for one of the nation's poorest counties, he allowed the organization to run roughshod over the people. You want to take away the vital park space? Sure. Want to make traffic congestion and air quality even worse for those who live in the area. Not a problem. Want to erect a billion dollar edifice that your neighbors will have little chance to attend? Do what you have to do. And when the people who live in the Concourse Village area attempted to assert their power, they were beaten back by not obtaining the right legal counsel and by the Yankees playing politics - "helping" the politicians who would "help" them.

Those who defend the stadium being built will be quick to cite that Yankees are "giving back" to area through the redevelopment of park spaces and how Bronxites will have the first opportunity at employment in the stadium construction. And these are the same people who either called the Bronx home 40 years ago or merely visit for the borough for a game.

The Bronx is my home. While I may not live in the immediate area, two of my very close friends live within walking distance of the ballpark. I'm well aware of what they go through 81 days a year. In a community that desperately needs improvements in education, housing, medicine, and quality of life, I am certain that these same politicians could do a little more to make the residents feel better about their home than to toss millions in tax subsidies towards a major league baseball franchise.

As evident from census projections released two days ago, Gotham is quickly becoming a city of haves and have-nots. The projects discussed the "Manhattanization" of Brooklyn. Don't be too fooled that with lack of affordable housing — those who "have" will be looking near the stadium with its upgraded transportation facilities, proximity to downtown, and spacious apartments. Concourse Village will undergo the same gentrification faced by those who live in Williamsburg, Harlem, and Washington Heights. It may not be immediate, but it looks like that it won't be inevitable. Yet as long as a few politicians were able to attach their name to the project, I guess it was worth it for them.

I am a baseball fan and a lover of sports. I understand the value of a new stadium to a team (and their community's) psyche. In fact, the creation of such stadiums has lead to a rebirth of neighborhoods in Cleveland, Philadelphia, San Diego, and Pittsburgh. But those areas were different. Most of them were warehouse districts where the number of people displaced and lives interrupted was minimal. It wasn't Concourse Village, where green space is at a minimum in the greenest borough in New York City, the rate of HIV is a dangerously high level, and the median income at a standstill. It wasn't where a shining new stadium will stand against declining schools.

I guess these issues are of little consequence for an organization that claims that it's proud to call the Bronx home.

These issues are also of little consequence to leaders who can't find enough money to pay its civil servants, maintain decent subway service, keep taxes low, and improve the quality of lives for Bronxites. If you don't believe me, listen to organization officials who discuss the stadium in interviews. Listen how often they cite the economic benefits to the immediate Bronx community. And make that their contributions are genuine. I bet it never happens!

George Steinbrenner claimed that the stadium was built for the fans. In reality it was built to boost his ego and his fortunes.

As the insufferable radio voice of the Yankees John Sterling would bellow, "Tha-a-a-a Yankees win!"

But the Bronx loses.


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