"Bloomberg's empty promises are tradeoff for parkland lost to Yankees" Daily News 1/29/8
Bloomberg's empty promises are tradeoff for parkland lost to Yankees
By Geoffrey Croft, NYC Park Advocate
Tuesday, January 29th 2008, 4:00 AM
Be our guest
Even before it seized a large swath of historic South Bronx parkland for a new Yankee Stadium, the Bloomberg administration had promised the community it would not only replace what it was taking away, but would provide even more parkland in return.
Yet a close examination reveals that only 21.3 acres are actually being replaced - a net loss of nearly 4 acres.
The deal claimed 25.1 acres of parkland heavily used for active recreation, including baseball and soccer fields, and tennis, basketball and handball courts.
In return, the city has tried to pass off a disparate collection of "replacements," including Ruppert Place, the existing concrete walkway next to Yankee Stadium, and many acres of already existing, mapped parkland.
To get its replacement scheme to add up, the city actually omitted a 2.9-acre asphalt ballfield from the project's environmental impact statement. Now an "interim" track and field, it will ultimately become a permanent multistory garage.
Soon after my organization, NYC Park Advocates, brought the acreage shortfall to light, the Parks Department began to alter its numbers. (A breakdown of the acreage can be seen online at the Web site NYCParkAdvocates.org)
It eventually claimed "replacement" ballfields at West Bronx Recreation Center - existing parkland 1.4 miles away - and Public School 29, a schoolyard built in 1962 1 mile away.
For more than a year the city's official tally included these two fields, which add up to 3.14 acres.
Within hours of my appearing on television to criticize the use of these projects as Yankee Stadium replacements, all references were removed from a media advisory on the Parks Department's Web site. The city is no longer calling these two fields replacement parks.
Of course, for the tens of thousands of poor people who depended on Macombs Dam and Mullaly parks, none of this comes as a surprise.
Before the City Council vote, I accompanied neighborhood residents to many meetings with elected officials, where we laid out these issues very clearly.
One by one, the Council members repeated the same thing: "They're telling us you're getting more parkland than they're taking away." Everyone said it would be better.
For the elected officials who supported this deal, better meant destroying 400 trees, splitting a neighborhood by building a 54,000-seat stadium, replacing lost parkland with inferior features spread miles apart, and - to add injury to insult - installing artificial turf on top of a parking garage.
All of this in a community that suffers from an asthma hospitalization rate 2.5 times greater than the city average.
Natural grass and trees, on the other hand, convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, absorb airborne pollutants like soot and dust and help cool down the earth.
The lesson is painfully obvious: Our public parks have few real protections if a developer is powerful enough. This is especially true when the parks are located in poor communities that lack the resources to fight irresponsible plans that have been imposed on them.
Being right doesn't help.