"How new is ‘new’? Fuzzy math in city’s Yanks parks plan" Metro NY 10/29/7
How new is ‘new’?
Fuzzy math in city’s Yanks parks plan
by patrick arden / metro new york
OCT 29, 2007
SOUTH BRONX. The Bloomberg administration has always claimed more parkland will be created by the new Yankee Stadium project, which swallowed the 102-year-old Macombs Dam Park.
In recent months, the city has upped the numbers, saying 27.6 acres of replacement parkland will be built here, a clear gain of several acres for the community.
Yet 45 percent of these new parks — or 12.5 acres — already exist, either as mapped parkland or, in one case, as a schoolyard. Two of the replacement fields will be more than a mile away.
The replacement plan’s reliance on existing park parcels was acknowledged by Parks Dept. spokesman Warner Johnston, but “just because property is mapped as parkland, or Parks property, does not mean that it is fully developed into a dedicated park,” he said.
“They’re passing off park land the public’s been using for at least 70 years,” said Geoffrey Croft of NYC Park Advocates.
As a boy, Croft played punch ball on an asphalt parcel at 161st Street. It was used for parking during Yankee games, but always had a chain-link backstop and painted bases. The lot now has an interim artificial turf field and track, but will eventually be lost to a five-story garage.
Johnston explained the city’s plan will “transform” similar park property surrounding Yankee Stadium. “The replacement parks will reconstruct the parkland with new amenities and landscaping,” he said. A new artificial turf field at the West Bronx Recreation Center, for example, will go down on what was an “empty lot.”
That lot is 1.2 miles uphill from the former Macombs Dam Park. A mile southeast of the old park, another acre of artificial turf is being installed on the asphalt playground of P.S. 29, built 45 years ago.
“They’re putting in artificial turf — that’s not replacing anything,” Croft said.
Two tiny parking lots on River Avenue, both owned by the Parks Dept., will become the closest replacement parks. The smaller one shares its 0.24 acres with elevated train tracks.
Last Saturday, little league teams were still playing in what remains of Macombs Dam Park. Soon this 7.3 acres will become a construction site for a massive underground garage. The park is slated to return with its grass fields replaced by artificial turf on top of that garage. This won’t help coach Gabriel Barcacel, whose teams must move four miles north to play next year.
“The new fields are far away, and these are neighborhood kids,” Barcacel said, nodding at the cranes looming above the new stadium. “But what can we do? The giant wanted our park.”
Three easy pieces
The biggest chunk of replacement parkland will be the 8.9 acres under the current stadium. A 1.1-acre sidewalk plaza to the west is being counted as a new park, and a 5.4-acre parcel by the Major Deegan Expressway will be turned into a tennis concession.
The city and the state are spending $14 million to clean up this last spot, a polluted site on the Harlem River. When asked about the size of this parcel, a Parks Dept. spokesperson said it had now grown to 9.7 acres, because the city is including parkland the Related Companies promised to create as part of the government-subsidized Gateway Mall at the Bronx Terminal Market.