Tuesday, February 19, 2008

"Talks over stadium fund gets heated" Daily News 2/19/8

Talks over stadium fund gets heated

Tuesday, February 19th 2008, 4:00 AM

After a nearly two-year delay, the board of the community benefit fund promised by the Yankees as part of the new stadium deal is stepping up to the plate.

But it's not without some rancor between the Yankees and local legislators.

"Our first priority will be to get money to Little Leagues across the Bronx before the season starts," said Michael Drezin, fund administrator and spokesman for the New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund Inc. "The goal is by April."

The new nonprofit, informally known as the New Yankee Stadium Foundation, expects to receive its first round of funding by the end of the month.

A recent meeting between Yankees President Randy Levine and local legislators turned into a shouting match when Levine responded with vague numbers about how many local residents have been hired to work on building the new stadium.

Then, Levine irked the lawmakers even more by referring them to Borough President Adolfo CarriĆ³n to answer questions about the long delay in getting the foundation organized and its funding distributed.

The community benefits agreement signed by the Yankees to blunt local opposition to the stadium construction plan promises the fund $800,000 in cash and $100,000 in baseball equipment - along with 15,000 home game tickets - annually for the next 40 years.

Drezin explained that the newly assembled all-volunteer board has only recently been able to get its legal paperwork together to receive and disburse the funds.

The board, headed by New York National Bank founder Serafin Mariel, also includes Ronald Bailey, pastor of the Love Gospel Assembly Church; Roberto Crespo, director of Knock for Freedom; Susan Goldy, a local Realtor; Ted Jefferson, executive director of Bronx Shepherds Restoration Corp.; Leo Martinez, executive director of Alliance for Community Services; and Harold Silverman, a former judge.

Once the fund takes care of the borough's Little League teams, the focus will turn to the area around the new stadium site.

"We know that a number of people in the community are unhappy about the pace so far and are concerned they're being forgotten," said Drezin. "And we intend to address those concerns in a dramatic way."

Grants will go to established nonprofit groups with experience working in the Bronx, he said, as well as to "fiscal conduits" - nonprofit entities that fund smaller community groups and programs.


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