Tuesday, March 31, 2009

"Fund's gift strikes out with school: Students lost playing field but got a pitching machine" Daily News 3/31/9

Fund's gift strikes out with school: Students lost playing field but got a pitching machine

Tuesday, March 31st 2009, 9:05 AM

The All Hallows High School baseball team may have lost its field of dreams, but at least it has a pitching machine. Problem is, the players can't use it.

Too powerful for the school's tiny gym and too heavy to lug to practice sessions elsewhere, the 600-pound gift from the New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund is gathering dust in a crowded storage room.

"It took six men and a flatbed truck for them to drag it in here. If the Yankees had only given us a bus instead," said Sean Sullivan, the school's principal and assistant baseball coach.

The construction of the new stadium has left the school scrambling for a plot of grass since the loss of roughly 22 acres of local public parkland, including four ballfields.

All Hallows, ranked one of the top 50 Catholic high schools in the U.S. academically for five consecutive years, has had to take drastic measures to compensate for the long delay in replacing its field.

"We're like gypsies, running around the city trying to find a field to play in," said Sullivan.

Home games are played on visitors' fields.

Sullivan said it has been difficult persuading people to trek long distances to cheer the team, which occasionally has to practice at Rodman's Neck near City Island, next to the Police Department firing range.

"It's somewhat nerve-racking coaching and practicing with the kids while the sounds of bullets are flying in an adjacent park."
The school may have to get accustomed to the unsettling conditions. All eight replacement parks, originally set to open before the new stadium, won't be available until 2011.

The Yankee benefit fund just last week denied a request for $40,000 to offset the $60,000 the school had to spend to replace two broken-down buses needed to transport teams to alternate playing fields.

All Hallows President Paul Krebbs said the school was told the fund does not pay for the purchase of vehicles. He said the fund also recently pared donations to schools down from $50,000 to $5,000.

"It seemed that a grant request to assist the closest school to the new stadium, that would benefit 630 students on both an educational and recreational perspective, was a legitimate proposal," Krebbs said. "The fact that the need was created by the construction only strengthened the proposal."

Despite it all, Sullivan remains a die-hard Yankees fan, with signed baseballs and statuettes of team greats lining his office shelves.

"I love the team," he sighed, "but they really took from my kids."

"Sparks fly over lawsuit in Yankee charity row" Daily News 3/31/9

Sparks fly over lawsuit in Yankee charity row
Tuesday, March 31st 2009, 4:00 AM

A bench-clearing brawl is brewing behind the scenes at the charity set up by the Yankees for the community affected by construction of the new Yankee Stadium.

Michael Drezin, the lawyer hired by the team to incorporate and administer the New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund, is suing the fund’s chairman, banker Serafin Mariel, over a litany of alleged conflicts of interest.

“I want this fund to succeed,” said Drezin, who was to file a lawsuit today at the Bronx Supreme Court to remove Mariel as chairman, “and to do that, it has to be run properly and transparently.”

Central to Drezin’s complaint is that Mariel shortchanged the fund by depositing the $800,000 provided by the Yankees last year in a non-interest-bearing account at New York National Bank, which Mariel founded.

In addition to being an alleged conflict of interest — amounting to an interest-free loan to Mariel’s bank — a source said only one-third of the charity’s money was protected by federal deposit insurance during the most serious banking crisis since the Great Depression.

Drezin also cited no-bid contracts issued without board approval — including setting up the fund’s Web site at www.bronxyankeefund.org — as examples of the chairman asserting undue personal control over the fund.

Mariel did not respond to repeated calls for comment.

Last week, Drezin said Mariel’s attorney, Irwin Underweiser, informed him that Drezin had been fired by the board, and — according to Drezin — the attorney made him an offer. “He said, ‘Look, we can undo this if you want,’ ” said Drezin.

Underweiser offered Drezin his job back, plus back pay, provided he drop the dispute, according to Drezin, who didn't take the deal.

"It's not about the money," he said. "I filed the papers to create this charity. I wrote the bylaws. If this fund is mismanaged, my reputation as a lawyer will get dragged through the mud."

According to a source close to the fund, Mariel called an emergency board meeting at the close of a grant award ceremony last November, and a quorum of the board voted to remove Drezin, though he was not told of the action until last week.

The same source confirmed that Mariel deposited the cash at NYNB without the board's knowledge.

"We didn't know until Drezin brought it to our attention," said the source, adding that the foundation's cash is now held in separate, interest-bearing accounts and is fully insured.

Drezin said that when he first raised his concerns with the chairman last year, Mariel responded by refusing to pay him for his work with the fund, despite having secured $35,000 outside the fund from the Yankees to pay the administrator's salary.

In addition to seeking his back pay as administrator, Drezin's lawsuit asks the court to remove Mariel from the fund's board, force him to reimburse the fund for the lost interest on the money, and impose punitive damages on Mariel for harming the fund's reputation with his actions.

The suit also seeks to bar the charity from depositing any Yankee funds in New York National Bank.

The New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund was established in 2006 in an agreement between the Yankees, then-Borough President Adolfo Carrión and other local elected officials to smooth over community opposition to the new stadium project, which plowed under many of the public parks in the neighborhood.

Under the agreement, the Yankees will provide the fund with $800,000 in cash and $100,000 in sports equipment, plus hundreds of home-game tickets annually for the next 40 years.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"Yankees near deal with city on sale of Yankee Stadium pieces" Daily News 3/25/9

Yankees near deal with city on sale of Yankee Stadium pieces

Wednesday, March 25th 2009, 4:00 AM
The Yankees could pocket millions selling pieces of the House that Ruth Built under a tentative agreement with the city, sources say.

Under an "agreement in principle," the Yankees would pay the city $10 million for the sale of what is salvaged from the soon-to-be demolished city-owned building.

Profits from sales above $10 million go to the Yankees, with the team paying the city 5% of whatever it makes once sales reach $15.9 million, 10% above $17 million and so on.

Pieces of the old Stadium are a potential gold mine, with fanatics willing to pay for everything from bathroom fixtures to the letters that spell YANKEES on the building's facade.

The deal - haggled over for more than a year - may yet collapse. City Controller William Thompson recently gave it tentative approval, but officials said the Yankees have balked.

"There is no signed contract," Yankee spokeswoman Alice McGillion said. "Until there is, we aren't going to comment."

The city owns the Stadium and leases it to the Yankees. Nearly everything inside belongs to the city, including 56,928 seats, foul poles, toilets, sinks and even the giant "bat" outside the stadium.

The Yankees own lockers, bases, the dirt and the turf.

The city is sponsoring $1.2 billion in tax exempt bonds for the new stadium, as well as spending $400 million on parks and other improvements nearby.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

"New Stadium park in on-deck circle" Daily News 3/23/9

New Stadium park in on-deck circle
Monday, March 23rd 2009, 11:48 PM

The first of the long-awaited replacement parks for the Yankee Stadium neighborhood will finally open next month - sort of.

A portion of the new Macombs Dam Park soccer field that is being built atop a stadium parking garage is set to open to the public in April, according to the city Parks Department, which is responsible for the project.

The remainder of the 7-acre field, however, will remain fenced off as a construction site for another year.

For three years, the neighborhood has waited impatiently for replacement of the 22 acres of green space and recreational facilities plowed under to make way for construction of the new Yankee Stadium complex just north of 161st St. and the House that Ruth Built.

The wait has been long, and local residents are frustrated at the lack of recreational space, said Jose Rodriguez, district manager for local Community Board 4.

The board also had concerns about the safety of the pedestrian plaza being constructed along Rupert Plaza, since it would be open around the clock.

But Rodriguez said that, at a recent meeting with the Parks Department, he became convinced the situation could be addressed with better lighting and perhaps a closed circuit TV monitor connected to the local 44th Precinct.

Overall, Rodriguez said the replacement park designs look like they may be worth the wait.

“If the parks are going to look like what Parks presented to us,” he said, “it’s going to be beautiful.”

The new Macombs Dam Park will have flowering trees and grassy slopes linking the rooftop park to 11-acre Heritage Field, a three-ballfield park to be built on the site of the old stadium. Heritage Field will be surrounded by slopes and low hills with more greenery and seasonal plantings interwoven with a walking path.

In addition, two parking lots across River Ave. from the old stadium will also be remade into pocket parks, featuring a skateboarding area and a spray shower triggered by vibrations from trains passing on the overhead tracks.

Work on Heritage Field can't begin, however, until the old stadium comes down. Though the ballpark's last season ended six months ago, the city has yet to issue permits for the demolition.

"The Mets started demolition of Shea Stadium the day after their season ended," said Geoff Croft of New York Park Advocates, a longtime critic of the replacement park plan.

Andrew Brent, spokesman for the city Office of Capital Project Development, had an explanation for why the contract and permits for the Yankee Stadium demolition have yet to be finalized.

"Contractor solicitation cannot begin too far in advance of an estimated work start date because contractors don't hold prices indefinitely and you run the risk of having to rebid the contract," Brent said. He added that the process began "well before the team moved out."

Croft also complained that artificial turf fields on top of parking garages should not be seen as adequate replacements for the natural grass and old-growth trees of the old Macombs Dam Park.

But Parks counters that it is shifting to lower-maintenance artificial turf fields citywide.

Bronx Parks Commissioner Hector Aponte said that the agency has addressed the community's main concern about the synthetic turf - the extreme heat created by traditional infill made of recycled tires - by instead using a new, tan-colored rubber powder.

"It's 20 degrees cooler than the recycled infill," Aponte said.

The partially complete athletic field at the new Macombs Dam Park opening next month will also be marked off to provide an interim running track until the new track is ready next year.

The track will be named for Joe Yancey, the famed Bronx track coach, just as the track at the old Macombs Dam park was named.

The finished park will eventually include four handball courts, four basketball courts, grandstand seating, a new comfort station and picnic table terrace.


Monday, March 23, 2009

"Yanks Tear Up Outfield -- and Not Just By Releasing Bobby Abre" Village Voice 3/18/9

Yanks Tear Up Outfield -- and Not Just By Releasing Bobby Abreu
Posted by Neil deMause at 3:31 PM, March 18, 2009

The long wait in the Bronx may be close to an ending: A WCBS radio news helicopter flew over Yankee Stadium (the real one) yesterday and snapped photos of the outfield turf starting to be peeled off and removed. Will an actual wrecking ball be soon to follow?

If so, it will be sad news for fans of baseball history — Yankee Stadium currently ranks as the 3rd oldest ballpark in existence, and is 7th oldest even if you count from its 1976 reconstruction — but good news for Bronx residents, who have been waiting impatiently for the new parks that are supposed to replace the stadium once it comes down.

Not that Bronx neighborhood activists are holding their breath just yet. "If the stadium was truly being dismantled, one would think scaffolding would be built," says Joyce Hogi, a stadium critic who serves on the parks committee of Community Board 4. "There's a lot of attention being given to the fact that that stadium is still up. Maybe they're trying to deflect criticism."

If Hogi and her neighbors sound bitter, it's no doubt because the timetable for the new parks has continually slipped: The stadium demolition was originally supposed to be complete this year, but has since been pushed back to late 2010, meaning new ballfields on the site — to replace those in Macombs Dam Park, now buried underneath a mountain of video screens and martini bars — wouldn't open until 2011 at the earliest. A temporary running track and soccer field is supposed to open atop one of the Yanks' new parking garages next month, but Hogi isn't hopeful: "We were told at the last parks committee meeting that I attended that it did not look good for summer activities but we should have something definitive in a couple of months. The budget, you know." (The Parks Department tells the Voice the garage-top park is slated to open in "late April.")

Mayor's office spokesperson Andrew Brent says he expects stadium demolition to begin in a "matter of weeks," but says that a demolition contract hasn't yet been finalized. There's also the little matter of who actually owns all the stadium pieces: While the Mets and the city have long since started selling off all the discarded bits of Shea Stadium (though plenty of good circuit boards are still available), the Yanks have yet to come to an agreement with the city on memorabilia sales — leading to rampant rumors that the demolition is being delayed while Bloomberg and the Steinbrenners haggle over who owns what.

Brent acknowledges that demolition can't begin until an agreement is reached on salvage rights. "Part of the demolition process involves removing the seats," he says. "And obviously if you're going to sell the seats, you're going to remove them in a different way than if you're demolishing them."

As for the Turf That Ruth Trod On, it's undisputedly Yankees property, and is being excavated by team workers. Once it's removed from its formerly hallowed ground, its ultimate destination is unknown — maybe Adolfo Carrion needs a new lawn.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

"Lack Of Parks Surround New Stadium, For Now" NY1 3/18/9

03/18/2009 10:16 PM
Lack Of Parks Surround New Stadium, For Now
By: Shazia Khan

When the Yankees take the field in their new stadium, city residents who live in the surrounding neighborhood say they will still be waiting for theirs. NY1's Shazia Kahn filed the following report.
The Bronx Bombers' new stadium is ready for opening day, but it's coming at a cost to its neighbors. The stadium was built on parts of two parks, and local residents are waiting for that green space to be replaced. On Wednesday, the Parks Department showed NY1 the steps it's taking to do that, by creating several replacement parks in the area.

"The whole thing will be a park and then two stories of parking," said Stadia Program Manager Frank McCue.

The rooftop park will include a track and multipurpose athletic field, but it won't be completed until next year. In the meantime, a temporary track and field will open next month, to give residents a place to play.

The redevelopment also includes tennis courts and parkland overlooking the Harlem River, which are scheduled for completion in December, but residents will have to travel farther to get there.

Other renovations include a new interactive playground in Mullaly Park, north of the new stadium. It's due to open next month.

The old Yankee Stadium will be transformed into Heritage Field Park. Demolition is slated to start next month and construction of the park is expected to be completed by spring 2011.

Critics, however, say that's not soon enough.

"It's completely outrageous that elected officials and this administration have allowed this Yankee Stadium to still stand," said New York City Park Advocates President Geoffrey Croft. "The New York Mets, the day after demolition, started taking down their field. This community deserves much better than that and this community is desperate for recreation."

The city says it wants to take every precaution before tearing the stadium down and adds that putting in early bids was not an option.

"You can't put bids out too far before you're actually ready to do the work because the construction market is very dynamic. If we bid this job six month ago the price would been significantly different than what it is now," said Andrew Winters, Mayor's Office of Capital Development Projects.

Opponents also cite environment concerns over the redevelopment.

"This is the asthma capital of the United States and we are removing parkland from communities surrounded by trees and also building parkland on top of parking garages and putting artificial turf down," said Croft.

The Parks Department says trees are definitely part of the picture, once that picture is fully developed.