Prepared by Lukas Herbert, AICP, member of Community Board 4, Bronx, in cooperation with New York City Park Advocates
Date of preparation: December 28, 2005INTRODUCTION
The proposed Yankee Stadium project, as described in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the project dated September 23, 2005, by law would require an approval from the United States Department of Interior (DOI) through the National Parks Service (NPS) for a parkland conversion associated with the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965 (LWCF). This report attempts to analyze this conversion from an urban planning and legal perspective.
The specific parkland concern in this matter involves the portion of Macomb’s Dam Park bounded by 161st Street to the south, River Avenue to the east, 162nd Street to the north and Jerome Avenue to the west. According to the DEIS, this parcel is 11.2 acres in size and was improved using LWCF funds in the early 1980’s. This park parcel (hereafter termed the “conversion parcel”) currently contains a 400-meter track with a soccer field and spectator stands, a softball field with a 60-foot infield and a baseball field with a 90-foot infield.
The New York Yankees and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) intend to remove this parcel of LWCF-funded parkland from public use for the purpose of constructing a new Yankee Stadium on the site. This new stadium would be comprised of approximately 1.3 million square feet of floor area and would contain seating for 54,000 spectators plus 1,000 standing spaces. The stadium would reach a proposed building height of 138 feet and would have floor plates that are approximately 45% larger in area than the existing stadium.
Per LWCF regulations, the applicants must find suitable replacement parkland that meets a range of criteria. In this case, the applicants are proposing to use three parcels in separate locations totaling 15.14 acres as the replacement parkland. These parcels (hereafter termed the “replacement parcels”) are as follows:* Former stadium site – 8.9 acres.
While the DEIS describes the proposed parkland use on this site to be a partially demolished version of the existing stadium for use as a baseball field, DPR has since revised the plans at subsequent public meetings to better address community concern and outrage. The latest iteration of this discussion has provided three playing fields on the site in place of the current stadium, which would be totally demolished. While this plan was presented to the public at a public hearing, it has not been placed into any revised environmental review documents at this time and therefore is not part of any official public record beyond the presentations that were made.* Rupert Plaza – 1.13 acres.
This park parcel would involve the conversion of an existing city street into a “pedestrian promenade” which would run alongside a proposed new parking structure and the former stadium site.* Waterfront parcel – 5.11 acres.
This is a parcel currently occupied by vacant warehouse buildings associated with the Bronx Terminal Market. It would be converted to some type of recreational use – ballfields, handball courts, basketball courts, etc. as part of the proposal. As with the former stadium site, DPR has revised the proposed use of this site in response to community concerns and outrage and no final alternative has been agreed upon as of yet. It is also noted that until recently, this parcel was intended to be used for a retail building as part of the Gateway at Bronx Terminal Market retail development project.
The Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund has a long history of stewardship responsibility. According to literature made available from NPS regarding this program (Note 1) “The Fund’s most important tool for ensuring long-term stewardship is its ‘conversion protection’ requirement. Administered by the National Park Service in cooperation with states, this requirement, Section 6(f)(3) of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act, strongly discourages casual discards and conversions of state and local park and recreation facilities to other uses.”
Specifically, Section 6(f)(3) states that the Secretary of the Interior shall only approve a LWCF related park conversion only if:
* The substitution of other recreation properties are of at least equal fair market value
* The substitute recreation properties are of reasonably equivalent usefulness and location
* The parkland conversion is in accord with the relevant Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP), which in this case is the SCORP prepared by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (NYSOPRHP) dated November 20, 2002.
Title 36, Part 59 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, provides additional information on the requirements for LWCF related parkland conversion. In addition to the three criteria above, this law requires that “All practical alternatives to the proposed conversion (be) evaluated.”
The LWCF Stewardship brochure (Note 1) also explains that “when conversions are approved, the goal is always a ‘win-win’ solution, balancing the needs of recreation and open space with other community needs.”
It is clear from all of the documentation with regards to the Land & Water Conservation Fund Act, that the conversion of any parkland that received funding under the LWCF program is not to be taken lightly. The text of the legislation itself under Title I, Section 1(b) – Purposes, states “The purposes of this Act are to assist in preserving, developing and assuring accessibility to all citizens of the United States of America of present and future generations....such quality and quantity of outdoor recreation resources as may be available and are necessary and desirable...to strengthen the health and vitality of the citizens of the United States.” It is clear from this language, that LWCF funded parkland is intended for the benefit of the citizens who use the parks. Any action which would lessen that benefit, would be in violation of the spirit of this funding program and of the letter of the law which has put it into place.
This report aims to make the case that the proposed Yankee Stadium project does not comply with the regulations established with regards to the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965. The proposed project, as described in the DEIS, and as subsequently described at various public meetings, does not meet the specific criteria that is spelled out in Section 6(f)(3) of the legislation – nor does it meet the criteria stated in Title 36, Part 59 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations. Furthermore, the project, as described will result in a “win-lose” which does not balance the needs of the community with other needs. While the project would present a big “win” for the New York Yankees, since they would receive a new stadium, the project would present a substantial “loss” for the community since it would see its access to available parkland diminished.EVALUATION OF PARKLAND CONVERSION CRITERIA Practical alternatives to the proposed conversion.
With respect to the parkland conversion criteria, the DEIS examines five alternatives for the proposed Yankee Stadium, including relocating the stadium to either Van Cortlandt and Pelham Bay Parks in the Bronx as well as the West Side Rail Yard in Midtown Manhattan. However the analysis of practical alternatives, as required under Title 36, Part 59 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, is woefully inadequate. The proposed plan was predicated not on the park and open space requirements of the community, but instead on being able to alienate the parkland to accommodate the Yankees. All of these alternative locations were dismissed due to a wide arrange of factors including traffic, access, parkland takings and other economic development initiatives already being pursued by the City. The DEIS also included an all too brief discussion of additional alternatives: the renovation of the current stadium and the construction of a new stadium on the current stadium site.
A sixth alternative, using land just South/West of the current stadium site must also be considered. This should be done in addition to exploring a seventh alternative which would utilize a portion of the Bronx Terminal Market (BTM) which is adjacent to the current stadium site. This last option was most likely not considered by the DEIS due to the fact that the BTM site is being considered for a large regional retail mall development under a separate EIS. However, if the two projects had been reviewed together as part of one larger development scheme under the same EIS, several other alternative stadium location schemes could have been examined. It is the consensus of the community that the two projects (BTM and Yankee Stadium) are related since they are adjacent to each other, will share parking, and will be developed at approximately the same time under the umbrella of “economic development.” The fact that the City is treating them as “separate unrelated projects” is not only inappropriate, but it has prevented the examination of additional alternatives for the stadium relocation, and thus additional alternatives for LWCF parkland analysis. Therefore, for a true examination of practical alternatives to the proposed parkland conversion, both projects need to be combined into one EIS analysis as part of a comprehensive development plan for these two adjacent sites. In all seven alternative cases, the conversion of LWCF funded parkland would be avoided or substantially minimized.
Of the five alternatives that were presented in the DEIS, both the renovation and the reconstruction alternatives at the current stadium site would allow the Yankees to meet a particular condition of their development plan – that the stadium remain in the Bronx, preferably near its current location. (the same is also true of building on the adjacent land West/South) Despite this critical advantage, the DEIS is quick to dismiss both of these alternatives due to the fact that they might require the team to play in an alternate stadium during the construction period, and may result in a loss of revenue for the team. While these reasons amount to an inconvenience to the Yankees (we note that the Yankees played two seasons at Shea Stadium during the stadium’s last renovation in the 1970’s) they do not represent appropriate reasons for converting LWCF funded parkland to a privately-owned baseball stadium use. The loss of this parkland will affect everyone in the community greatly. The parkland is heavily used and, if the project goes forward as planned, will be unavailable throughout the proposed construction period (close to five years). The replacement parkland, as will be described later, will also not meet the community’s needs in the same way that the current parkland does. It is important to note, that the community considers the last four alternatives as the only viable solutions.
Considering that the renovation or the reconstruction of the current stadium will eliminate or significantly reduce the negative impacts associated with the LWCF-funded parkland conversion, as would building on adjacent land West/South, these practical alternatives deserve a more in-depth analysis than they currently receive in the DEIS. The DEIS spends only a couple of pages detailing why these alternatives will not work for the Yankees, and with respect to the adjacent land, no mention at all is made. Instead, the DEIS should be required to be revised as part of the Section 6(f) application to address how these alternatives could be used to meet the criteria of the LWCF program and to reduce the negative impacts imposed on the community that the “preferred alternative” would contain. Furthermore, the DEIS for the Yankee Stadium project and the DEIS for the BTM project should be combined into a new analysis for the purpose of exploring additional stadium locations.Fair market value.
The DEIS for the project does not spend more than a paragraph detailing how the fair market value of the conversion and replacement park parcels would be established. It is expected that at some point in the future, the details of this appraisal will be made available for public review, since no details are given in the DEIS and no details have been given to the public as yet through other forums. Since this must be done to fulfill the legal requirements for the LWCF-funded parkland conversion, the community expects that the applicants will make every effort to inform the public and the community of this appraisal. If this is not done, then the public must assume that the analysis was not conducted properly. As of this writing, it is not clear what type of analysis has been conducted.
Equivalent usefulness and location. The proposed replacement parcels, while greater in combined acreage than the conversion parcel, would not provide the same level of usefulness and location as the conversion parcel.
The proposed conversion parcel contains a 400-meter track with a soccer field and spectator stands, a softball field with a 60-foot infield and a baseball field with a 90-foot infield. All of these items are heavily used by the community – both formally as part of organized, scheduled games and school team practices, and informally by community residents seeking to walk or run around the track or use the fields for a variety of activities. This conversion parcel has a number of advantages due to its location in the center of the local community. Numerous apartment buildings flank this parcel of parkland on both the east and west. To the north, this park parcel is adjacent to John Mullaly Park, which allows the park to be part of a continuous swath of parkland for the community. Since the conversion parcel is north of the existing Yankee Stadium, it also serves as a buffer between the stadium and the nearby residential buildings – providing open, green space between these homes and the crowds, noise and light associated with the stadium.
Because of the location of the conversion parcel and the nature of the amenities there, the conversion parcel is highly accessible to the community. For more than 100 years, local residents need only to cross a street and they are there. The proposed replacement parcels, however, will not have this degree of accessibility. Nor will they contribute to a “continuous swath of parkland” or serve as a buffer between residential buildings and the proposed stadium use in the same way that the conversion parcel does. While it is true that the replacement parcels will contain more park acreage than the conversion parcel, the fragmented locations of the replacement parcels spread out up to a over three-quarters of a mile away, coupled with their inability to replace the desirable parkland features of the conversion parcel, provides for a scenario that does not provide for an equivalent usefulness and location over the conversion parcel. The analysis below details how the criteria are not met for each of the replacement parcels:1. Former stadium site
– This 8.9 acre parcel would be located at the site of the current Yankee Stadium. According to the DEIS, the stadium would be partially demolished to create a “Heritage Field” which would contain a baseball field and some of the stands associated with the former stadium. In response to community concerns and outrage over this proposal, DPR revised its proposal at a public meeting to have the site include the complete demolition of the old stadium and the replacement of the stadium with three ballfields. While this plan was presented to the public at a public hearing, it has not been placed into any revised environmental review documents at this time and therefore is not part of any official public record beyond the presentations that were made.
This site would be of equivalent usefulness to the community in the sense that it provides new playing fields where playing fields are taken away. While the parcel would not contain a track, which is heavily used by the community, ballfields would be provided. However, the site would not be located next to John Mullaly Park, so it would not form the continuous swath of parkland that is currently available today. While it is true that it would be located adjacent to another portion of Macombs Dam Park, that portion of Macombs Dam Park will be eliminated by the construction of Parking Garage A. It would be replaced instead with “park features” – an important distinction – which will be built using artificial materials and constructed atop that garage. These replacement park features would be grade separated from the replacement parcel since Parking Garage A will be above ground where it would approach the replacement parcel. Therefore, a continuous swath of parkland would not be created in a true sense since one would not be able to travel from one park area to the other without ascending stairs or an elevator to get to the roof of Parking Garage A.
This replacement parcel would also fail to serve as a buffer area for the proposed stadium in the same way that the conversion parcel functions as a buffer area for many of the residential buildings in the neighborhood. The replacement parcel would only act as a buffer for the residential buildings located east of River Avenue below 161st Street – a far lesser number of residential units than those which abut or are near the conversion parcel. Instead, if the proposal goes forward as envisioned, a new 14-story, 54,000-seat stadium structure would be constructed immediately adjacent to a number of large apartment buildings which currently have the conversion parcel as a buffer. This action will potentially serve to blight these buildings since they would, under the proposed scenario, have to contend with a large, hulking street-wall across from them, as well as massive artificial lights, noise and crowds during game times. Besides these quality-of-life issues, immense shadowing from the proposed stadium building will also negatively affect the desirability of many of the residential units in these buildings as well. It is obvious that there is a strong reason to believe that property values will decrease in these buildings as a result of this action (as noted in the DEIS). Since at least one of these buildings is a New York City Landmark, if it were to be blighted, and perhaps abandoned, it could not be torn down due to the landmark status. Therefore if property values were to decline, where would the incentive be for the owners of these buildings to maintain them? This situation is most certainly not welcome, as the area already suffers from the distinction of being part of the poorest Congressional district in the nation.
Another item of note is that while the DEIS specifically states the Heritage Field on the existing Yankee Stadium site is “not currently parkland” (Chapter 4: Open Space and Recreation p.4-6), the stadium is owned and maintained by DPR. As such, the DPR/City already includes these 16.4 acres in their park acreage inventory. How can current land that the city already counts as DPR “parkland” be used as “replacement parkland” as part of the LWCF parkland conversion equation?2. Ruppert Plaza
– This 1.13-acre parcel is currently known as Ruppert Place and is an existing, mapped City-owned street. As part of the proposed project, this street would be de-mapped as a street and mapped as parkland. According to the proposal, it would become a “pedestrian promenade” and would presumably have amenities such as benches and lighting. While the full details of the promenade design were not disclosed by the DEIS, it is assumed that it will be designed to accommodate high levels of pedestrian traffic, since it is planned to be a main form of pedestrian ingress and egress between several parking garages and the new stadium. Therefore, to handle this level of pedestrian traffic, it is assumed that it will be mostly paved and contain amenities geared towards high volumes of people.
Since the proposed plaza's purpose is to accommodate a high-volume pedestrian thoroughfare, it will not replace the active recreation space in the existing conversion parcel. Therefore, in terms of community use, this will not make up for the loss of grassy ballfields and a track, since Ruppert Plaza will not contain similar amenities. In terms of passive or active recreation, Ruppert Plaza will not achieve the same level of use as an existing green open space since it will have to be designed for high-level pedestrian volumes (i.e. paved surfaces) and it will be immediately adjacent to Parking Garage A along its entire length. Parking Garage A in this location, will be above ground, with “park features” on top of it consisting mostly of artificial grass. It is hard to imagine the same number (or an increased number for that matter) of park users choosing to walk, sit, relax or picnic on a paved walkway next to a parking garage as opposed to an open green area, such as the conversion parcel. From an environmental and health perspective, it is also important to note that this is not an appropriate exchange of park area given the fact that the existing green space on the conversion parcel (featuring real vegetation) is a far superior alternative in terms of cleaning polluted air, and mitigating the "Heat Island" affect than a paved walkway next to a parking structure with artificial grass on top. This is especially important to this community which suffers from an rate of asthma 2.5 times the City average and has the highest incidents of asthma hospitalization in the City.
In terms of location, Ruppert Plaza will be further away from most residential dwellings than the conversion parcel. To get there, most neighborhood residents will have to walk around the proposed new stadium and past at least one parking garage to get there. This is not the locational equivalent of the conversion parcel which is immediately across the street for many neighborhood residents.3. Waterfront parcel
– This 5.11-acre parcel is currently occupied by vacant warehouse buildings associated with the Bronx Terminal Market. As proposed, it would be converted to some type of recreational use – ballfields, handball courts, basketball courts, etc. As with the former stadium site, DPR has revised the proposed use of this site in response to community concerns and outrage and no final alternative has been agreed upon as of yet.
It is important to note that parkland on the Harlem River waterfront has been promised to the community for years, before any talk of parkland mitigation. In fact, about a month before Community Board 4 received the Yankee Stadium ULURP application, the Board was given a presentation by DPR about plans for a new esplanade along the Harlem River with various associated parkland areas. Therefore, it would seem inappropriate to use a park parcel, which was previously promised to the community in the first place, as a replacement parcel for parkland that is now going to be taken away.
Because the proposed types of recreational amenities have not been agreed upon, one cannot determine whether or not the proposed facilities would be of equivalent usefulness to the conversion parcel. However, the location of this parcel – far removed from residential areas and separated from them by an elevated expressway and commuter rail tracks – is grossly inadequate when compared to the conversion parcel. Regardless of what type of recreational amenity is put on this replacement parcel, the fact that access to the parcel by community residents will be difficult, will result in a greatly reduced utility. The parcel will also not serve as a buffer for the community between the stadium and residential buildings, since it will be located in an isolated location.
For over 100 years, neighborhood residents have very easy access to the recreational amenities that are part of the conversion parcel, since many people live directly across the street or within an easy walk. While this replacement parcel is more than three-quarters of a mile distance from the current park “as the crow flies”, it is separated from the community by more than just physical distance. For example, to get to this replacement parcel, access from the community can only be achieved two ways:
* Local residents could access the replacement parcel via an existing pedestrian bridge at 157th Street. This pedestrian bridge currently does not meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act since there is only stair access to get to the top of the bridge. It is not clear if the bridge can or will be modified as part of the proposal to bring it into compliance and the issue has not been properly addressed in the DEIS. This bridge would allow residents to cross over the commuter rail tracks. After crossing the bridge residents would then have to walk through a parking lot while crossing underneath an elevated expressway and several expressway ramps. After this journey, the park user would finally reach the replacement parcel, which would be wedged in between the elevated expressway and a freight railroad line on the waterfront. Getting to the park parcel in this manner would be more than three-quarters of a mile from the conversion parcel.
* Local residents could also access the replacement parcel via a longer and more circuitous route to the south. A park user could walk south to 149th Street and then walk west to Exterior Street, which runs below the elevated expressway. The park user could then walk north on Exterior Street to the replacement parcel. Under current conditions, Exterior Street is a dark, run-down industrial area associated with the Bronx Terminal Market. However, under future conditions, Exterior Street may be re-named Gateway Center Drive and be the main vehicular entryway for a large regional retail and hotel development. In this future scenario, the park user would have to contend with high traffic volumes and vehicular turning movements to get to the park parcel, which would still be wedged in between the elevated expressway and a freight railroad line on the waterfront.
Using either route of access, it will be much harder for the majority of neighborhood residents to access this replacement parkland. Barriers to persons with disabilities as well as the barriers of increased walking distances will likely mean that this park parcel will not see the same level of usage as the carefully planned conversion parcel. The fact that it will be located three-quarters of a mile away and directly adjacent to one of the most heavily traveled interstate highways in the region, will also serve as a deterrent for usage. This new location will also put the public in harms way. This is particularly alarming considering the community is already known as “Asthma Alley” and has one of the highest occurrences of asthma in the nation, in large part due to emissions from vehicular traffic. The conversion parcel, which is located several blocks away from the highway, has only the rumbling of the elevated subway to contend with – a noise that comes only intermittently and causes no air pollution. This replacement parcel however, will have the constant rumble of cars and trucks overhead, with all of the pollution that these types of vehicles bring. It will also be adjacent to surface parking for the stadium as well as a regional shopping center. Although this new parkland would be a welcome addition to this park-starved area of the South Bronx, for the above referenced reasons, it should not be considered appropriate replacement parkland.Timing of replacement.
Another factor affecting the ability of the replacement parcels to provide equivalent usefulness to the conversion parcel is the timing of the replacement parkland’s availability. According to the DEIS, the conversion parcel would no longer be available for public use as soon as the construction begins on the new stadium – the second quarter of 2006. However, because of the phasing and timing of the various stages of construction, the replacement parcels would not be ready for public use until substantially later. The waterfront parcel would not be ready until at least 18 months later – the fourth quarter of 2007. Whatever replaces the old stadium would not be ready until at least the first quarter of 2011, since the old stadium would need to be demolished first. The timeframe for the new Ruppert Plaza is not even listed in the DEIS.
This timing means that the community would have to wait almost 5 years from the day the conversion parcel is taken away from them until they would have full use of the replacement facilities. This is an unacceptably long wait for a community where parkland is already scarce, where asthma is a devastating problem and where childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions. The DEIS offers no mitigation for this five year net loss of parkland, and it is unclear what facilities the community will use during that time frame for recreation purposes.Compliance with Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP).
In order for the proposed parkland conversion to be approved, it must be in accord with the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP), which in this case is the SCORP prepared by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (NYSOPRHP) dated November 20, 2002. This document is a lengthy document describing a range of policies and plans for outdoor recreation and parkland for the entire State. Because of New York State’s diversity, a document such as this can only touch on general principles concerning urban areas or the downstate region. Nevertheless, there are stated principles of the SCORP that the proposed conversion does not comply with. Below are some examples of this non-compliance:Opportunities for the future.
On page 2-19, the SCORP talks about how “parks can serve as community centers” and references a study that suggests that “parks be integrated into the community in which they are located. The means to accomplish this include community involvement (and) linking buildings to the park around it.”
The proposed replacement parcels clearly do not accomplish these aims since the parcels would be further away from residential buildings than the conversion parcel, and in one case, far removed from residential buildings. While the conversion parcel is surrounded more closely by residential buildings, the replacement parcels would abut above ground parking garages, surface parking and an expressway. Thus the conversion parcel has a better sense of “linkage” to local buildings than the replacement parcels.
As for community involvement, important land use questions and decisions deserve the benefit of full public participation and review. However, the local community has not been properly informed of these plans and their ramifications. Members of the Community Board (including myself) have watched with dismay at the lack of community involvement on the planning and participation of this important project. One example: in June 2005, without meaningful community notification or input, the New York State Legislature quietly alienated the historic parks which include the conversion parcel. It wasn't until six months later that the Community Board voted on it. The public is finally becoming aware of the full details of the Yankees plans. Since that time, the community has come out in great numbers to oppose to the proposed park conversion at all of the recent public hearings on the matter. The residents of the area are united in their opposition, while the few supporters of the project have been members of organizations who receive financial support from the Yankees, and from non-residents, who also stand to benefit financially from the proposed conversion (i.e. representatives of the building trades).Relative Index of Needs.
Section 2 of the SCORP contains a quantitative analysis of recreational needs broken down by county. According to this chart, Bronx County is one of the neediest counties in the state, with heavily used sites that that must be shared amongst a large population. Given that this is the case, it goes against reason to substitute a contiguous parcel of parkland that is immediately adjacent to the local community with three separate parcels that are further away, and in one case, separated by substantial distance and physical barriers.
Also, as noted earlier, the proposed park conversion will leave the community without a park replacement for almost five years, with inadequate mitigation proposed during that period. This is not an appropriate action given that Bronx County is one of the neediest counties in the state in terms of recreational facilities.Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Accessibility Guidelines.
Section 3 of the SCORP details how ADA guidelines play a role in the development of park and recreational facilities. Specifically, the following goal is stated: “Improve the level of access to parks, historic sites and open space areas to persons with disabilities”.
By locating one of the replacement parcels on the waterfront, where it can only be accessed by a pedestrian bridge that is not compliant with ADA or by a highly circuitous route along high-traffic streets, the proposed park conversion will effectively reduce the level of access for persons with disabilities, not improve it. The DEIS does not adequately address this issue and provide an appropriate level of explanation as to how persons with disabilities will have “improved” access to the replacement parcels – one of which is three-quarters of a mile away from the conversion parcel, separated by several physical barriers. Thus, this park conversion is inconsistent with this part of the SCORP.Quality of Life.
Page 3-102 of the SCORP contains a section on how recreation and open space are “important elements in maintaining and improving the quality of life an area can offer....This is also the case for areas that have maintained the historic integrity of their communities. Property values increase in areas that possess these values.”
By taking the conversion parcel, which is a contiguous parcel directly adjacent or near a large number of residential buildings, and substituting it for three separate parcels, none of which have the qualities of the conversion parcel – and one of which is located a sizable distance away, separated by a number of barriers, it is envisioned that the net quality of life in the immediate area would be reduced by the project, not increased. Furthermore, if the proposal goes forward as envisioned, a new 14-story stadium structure would be constructed immediately adjacent to a number of large apartment buildings which currently have the conversion parcel as a buffer between them and the stadium. This could effectively serve to blight these buildings since they would, under the proposed scenario, have to contend with a large, hulking street-wall across from them, as well as lights, noise and crowds during game times. It is obvious that this could negatively effect property values in these buildings. Since a number of these buildings are New York City Landmarks, if they were to be blighted, and perhaps abandoned, they could not be torn down due to their landmark status, further compounding quality of life issues.
The historic integrity of the local parks will also be destroyed by this action. The conversion parcel lies in the middle of one of the few linear parks of that size in the City, a continuous mall of parks that has been intact for over 100 years. This community was carefully planned around the park. The proposed parkland conversion will destroy that important relationship. This design functions as a “Central Park” for the entire local area. The loss would also take hundreds of large mature trees as well – most of which are older than the surrounding buildings themselves. The proposed conversion will destroy an important public work done by John Mullaly, the namesake of the park and also known as the "father" of Bronx parks. Mullaly, (1835 - 1911) was a pioneer in park development at a critical time in the city’s social and open space history. A visionary, he sought to bring such parks as the conversion parcel to changing neighborhoods as a way to ensure their sustainability for the future and provide an essential quality-of-life service.
Furthermore, the fact that the timing of parkland replacement will mean that the community will need to wait close to five years for use of their parkland facilities will also have a negative net effect on quality of life in the community.CONCLUSION
The above analysis makes it clear that the proposed parkland conversion does not meet the criteria as specified under Section 6(f)(3) of the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965 and Title 36, Part 59 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations. Therefore we respectfully request that the Secretary of the Interior deny this proposed parkland conversion action as it would have a highly detrimental effect on the community surrounding Yankee Stadium. LWCF funds were used for Macomb’s Dam Park in the 1980’s for the purpose of providing usable green space to meet the recreational needs of a community that needed it. The proposed parkland conversion threatens to negate that investment by allowing Macomb’s Dam Park to be used by a private entity (the New York Yankees) while the community would be left with inadequate parks that they must wait close to five years to fully receive.
To ensure full compliance, the applicants must first be required to provide a much more in-depth analysis of practical alternatives, including the renovation or reconstruction of the current stadium. This analysis must also include the building on available adjacent property South/West. Doing so would be a desirable alternative in that it would either avoid, or substantially reduce the impacts to the LWCF funded Macombs Dam Park. While it may incur a greater financial cost to the Yankees, that cost has not been detailed in full in the DEIS beyond a statement that it would be a loss of revenue for the Yankees as well as an inconvenience to that organization. It is important to note that this project belongs to the Yankees. Why should they not bear some of the project costs, instead of placing the costs disproportionately on the community through the sacrifice of their parks, increased health risks, and financial hardships? Until these issues are addressed, the parkland conversion should not be allowed to proceed.
In addition, it is imperative that the Yankee Stadium project and the Bronx Terminal Market (BTM) project be re-evaluated as one comprehensive re-development scheme to ensure that all potential stadium re-location alternatives are examined. By considering them as separate projects, a parcel that was discarded by the BTM project was later picked up by the Yankees project for parkland mitigation (the waterfront parcel). This is not an appropriate way to develop parkland – particularly replacement parkland for parkland conversions. Parks are a vital government service. Open space planning and parks planning should be done in response to community input and needs. In this case, as was done in the Robert Moses era, the parks planning is being done using scraps of land that have been discarded by large-scale development projects. Parkland replacement parcels need to have more consideration beyond their mere convenience to commercial developers.
The intent of the LWCF program is clear – to provide parkland for those who need it. However, this project would take away that Federal investment and give it a private organization for a period of almost five years. After the five years are over, the Federal investment will be diminished through a set of replacement park parcels that do not meet the needs of the community as competently as the conversion parcel did. This represents a “win-loss” scenario, which is not compatible with the stewardship goals of the LWCF program.NOTES
Literature quoted is from “Understanding the Land and Water Conservation Fund: Stewardship” which can be found athttp://www.nps.gov/ncrc/programs/lwcf/lwcf_stew_mechv2.pdf