"Turf Wars" Village Voice 9/25/7
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"Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión, asked whether he's satisfied with the temporary park, says that "bumps in the road and inconveniences" are inevitable with every construction project, and points to the $160 million in new athletic fields slated to open in the area by 2011. (In fact, only $87 million of that city money will go to build parks; the rest will be used for such items as moving a water main and demolishing the existing stadium.) Parks Department spokeswoman Jesslyn Tiao says the city has received no complaints about either smells or flying baseballs, though she admits there may be problems if people play pickup baseball on fields designed for softball. The padlocked gates were a mistake, she adds, possibly the result of a contractor who unwittingly locked them, and will be remedied.
"Despite the problems, in fact, the new park is heavily used—so much so that some neighborhood residents say they avoid it on weekends because it's too crowded. "Nobody expected it to be so utilized," says Robert Garmendiz, Board 4's current parks-committee chair. He is blunt in his assessment of the already battered turf field: "That thing's not going to last."
"How long it needs to depends on when the permanent field is ready, and that's anyone's guess. A new track and soccer field—this time with FieldTurf—is slated to be built atop a parking garage on the site of the current ballfield just north of the existing stadium. After first insisting that a private developer would build this and two other planned garages—with the help of a $70 million state "capital subsidy"—the Bloomberg administration has since turned to a complicated arrangement involving a nonprofit shell company that would use city bonds for the project, then share parking fees with the city. (The addition of city-backed bonds is one reason that the total taxpayer cost of the stadium project is now an estimated $799 million.) The city Industrial Development Agency, which was set to issue the garage bonds earlier this month, delayed the vote after Carrión un expectedly raised questions about the deal, and has yet to reschedule it.
"Many locals were already skeptical that the new park would be ready by the spring 2009 target date, noting that the temporary park only opened this May—after promises that it would be in place before the demolition of the old park began last summer. Even Garmendiz, who is generally positive about the parks department's efforts in his neighborhood, says there's "no way" the new track will be ready by spring 2009.
"Given the trade-off between rushing the garages through and waiting longer for a permanent park, Hogi knows which option she prefers. "Frankly, I would like to see the garages not be built," she says. "I don't want to see anything else come into the community that is of no benefit to the community."