"New Stadium park in on-deck circle" Daily News 3/23/9
New Stadium park in on-deck circle
BY BILL EGBERT
DIALY NEWS STAFF WRITER
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.