Tuesday, September 23, 2008

"City's field of schemes in Bronx?" Daily News 9/22/8

City's field of schemes in Bronx?
Monday, September 22nd 2008, 8:46 PM

A newly rediscovered photo of former grass field near Yankee Stadium has stirred activists. A parking lot since the 1970s, it has often been used as an off-season ballfield.

A recently discovered photograph of a baseball diamond just west of the old Yankee Stadium has reignited questions about whether the city is actually replacing all of the recreational parkland taken for the Bombers' new arena.

The 2.89-acre parcel between 161st St. and the Macombs Dam Bridge approach was paved over in the 1970s, and served as extra stadium parking during the season, but was left open to the public for the rest of the year.

It will soon be the site of a parking garage for the new stadium. But the Parks Department did not include the asphalt ballfield in its calculation of the recreational park facilities the city must, by law, replace as part of the stadium project.

"The site was used for parking at the old stadium, and it will be used for parking at the new stadium," said Parks spokeswoman Jama Adams.

A chain-link backstop, along with painted bases and foul lines, are the only remnants of the ballfield's glory days as the well-maintained natural-grass baseball diamond shown in the undated archival photograph. Parks recently supplied the photo to a filmmaker making a documentary about the stadium project.

Locals and activists say the asphalt field remained in off-season use, and should be counted as park space lost to the project.
"There's no other way to say it but that they lied about it," said Geoff Croft of NYC Park Advocates, who said he played ball at the site as a child. "They have ignored these facilities."

Parks denies the painted baselines and backstop indicate the parking lot was intended for off-season use as a ballfield.

"This parcel of parkland has been operated as a parking lot by a garage operator since at least the mid-1970s," said Adams.
"During the baseball season, the site was locked by the garage operator, and so it was not open for recreation. During the off season, the site was not locked."

Adams acknowledged locals may have used the site in the off season, but said that did not mean the city had to count it as a recreational facility.

"While it is entirely possible to use the parcel for some recreational purpose during the winter months and there were remnants of the parcel's former use as a multiuse play area," she said, "its primary purpose has been as a parking lot for Yankee Stadium."



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